United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DOUGLAS K. KARPF
MASSACHUSETTS MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, ET AL.
BARCLAY SURRICK, J.
before the Court is the Daubert Motion of Defendants, First
Financial Group and Harris Fishman, To Preclude the Testimony
Of Plaintiff's Expert, Linda Piotrowski (ECF No. 77).
following reasons, Defendants' Motion will be denied.
action arises from a business dispute that ensued when an
insurance agent with a substantial book of business
transferred from one insurance agency to another. Plaintiff
Douglas Karpf sold insurance policies for Massachusetts
Mutual Life Insurance Company (“MassMutual”) for
nearly three decades. (Karpf Dep. 46, Defs.' SJ Br. Ex.
2, ECF No. 76.) During the time period relevant to this
dispute, Plaintiff was a full-time agent with Defendant First
Financial Group (“First Financial”), a MassMutual
general agency operated by Defendant Harris S. Fishman
(“Fishman”), Mass. Mutual's general agent for
the territory comprising Pennsylvania, New Jersey and
Delaware. (Fishman Dep. 10, Defs.' SJ Br. Ex. 11.) In
2008, Karpf left Fishman and First Financial and went to a
new general agent, Howard Cowan, and his agency, Cowan
Financial Group. (Karpf Dep. 89-90.) In this lawsuit,
Plaintiff alleges that in connection with this transfer,
Defendants delayed the transfer of his clients to his new
agency, improperly re-assigned many of his clients to other
agents at First Financial, and took other steps to interfere
with and destroy his business. (See generally, Am.
Compl., ECF No. 58.) After disposing of the parties'
various dispositive motions, the claims that survive are
breach of contract (Count 1), tortious interference with
prospective contractual relations (Count 3), and unfair
competition (Count 8). With regard to the tortious interference
claim, Plaintiff seeks to recover emotional distress damages
in addition to the commissions and other compensation he
allegedly lost as a result of Defendants' actions. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 175; Defs.' Opp. Br. 26-27.)
Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of testimony
by experts. Fed.R.Evid. 702. As the Supreme Court noted in
Daubert, “[e]xpert evidence can be both
powerful and quite misleading because of the difficulty in
evaluating it.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm.,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 595 (1993). In order to address the
concerns raised by the Supreme Court in Daubert,
Rule 702 contains a “trilogy” of requirements:
“qualification, reliability and fit.” Estate
of Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003).
The trial judge serves as a gatekeeper who ensures that the
trilogy of requirements is satisfied-“that any and all
expert testimony or evidence is not only relevant, but also
reliable.” Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l,
Inc., 128 F.3d 802, 805 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing
Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589).
refers to the requirement that the witness possess
specialized expertise.” Estate of Schneider,
320 F.3d at 404. This requirement has been
interpreted liberally, and “a broad range of knowledge,
skills, and training” may qualify someone as an expert.
Id. The reliability element requires that the
testimony “be based on the methods and procedures of
science rather than on subjective belief or unsupported
speculation, ” and “the expert must have good
grounds for his or her opinion.” Id. (internal
quotations and citations omitted). To satisfy the fit
requirement, “testimony must be relevant for the
purposes of the case and must assist the trier of
fact.” Id. Federal Rule of Evidence 704
permits an expert's testimony to embrace an ultimate
issue to be decided by the trier of fact; however, an expert
may not render a legal opinion, because such testimony would
usurp the court's role in explaining the law to the jury.
Berckeley Inv. Grp., Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195,
217 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, expert witnesses should not be
permitted to judge the credibility of another witness or
opine about the intent or motive of parties or others because
such assessments are to be made by the jury. Griggs v.
BIC Corp., 844 F.Supp. 190, 201 (M.D. Pa. 1994),
aff'd, 37 F.3d 1486 (3d Cir. 1994); In re
Rezulin Prods. Liab. Litig., 309 F.Supp.2d 531, 547
Linda S. Piotrowski, M.D.
record reflects that Dr. Piotrowski was Plaintiff's
treating psychiatrist from approximately August 2004 to
September 2009 and again from May 2011 to September 2014. Her
expertise is offered to prove that Plaintiff's
“psychiatric symptoms escalated significantly to a
severe refractory depression after the escalation of discord
at his place of work . . . .” (Defs.' Piotrowski
Mot. Ex. A.) Defendants contend that Piotrowski's
opinions are irrelevant to and do not fit the facts of this
case because, according to Defendants, her opinions about
Plaintiff's psychiatric condition are based on
Plaintiff's statements in his treatment with her
regarding various events in his life and how he felt about
them, rather than the “facts of the case.”
(Defs.' Piotrowski Mot. 10-11.) For the same reason,
Defendants argue that Piotrowski's opinions are
“unreliable” and should be excluded
“because of a lack of reliable methodology and her
ability to prove any of her opinions.” (Id. at
16-17.) In response, Plaintiff contends that, because
emotional distress damages may be recovered in his tortious
interference claim, “Dr. Piotrowski's testimony is
very relevant . . . and would assist the jury in
understanding the issues” to be presented at
trial. (Pl.'s Opp. Br. 26-27, ECF No. 80.)
qualifications as an expert are not in dispute. Her
curriculum vitae reflects that she received her
medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine. She did her residency and psychiatry residency at
the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Yale
University School of Medicine, respectively. (Defs.'
Piotrowski Mot. Ex. A.) We further note that a
“treating physician['s] testimony on prognosis and
causation will inherently be based on scientific, technical
or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule
702.” Pease v. Lycoming Engines, No. 10-843,
2012 WL 162551, at *12 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2012) (citations
omitted). Clearly Piotrowski is qualified to testify
as an expert.
further conclude that Piotrowski's proposed testimony
satisfies the reliability and fit requirements. First, the
fact that Piotrowski's treatment of and opinions about
Plaintiff are based on his version of the events in dispute
in this action does not render her opinion unscientific or
unreliable. “In performing its gatekeeping function,
and, in particular, in deciding whether an expert's
report meets the reliability factor of a Daubert and
Rule 702 analysis, the District Court is not to weigh the
evidence relied upon or determine whether it agrees with the
conclusions reached therein.” Walker v.
Gordon, 46 Fed.Appx. 691, 695 (3d Cir. 2002); see
also In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 762
(3d Cir. 1994) (concluding that either review of a
patient's medical records or a personal examination
provides a sufficient reliable source of information to
support medical conclusions regarding a patient's
status). On the contrary, “[a]n expert is . . .
permitted to base [her] opinion on a particular version of
disputed facts, ” with the weight of that opinion to be
decided by the jury and the basis of that opinion subject to
cross examination. Walker, 46 Fed.Appx. at 695-96
(citing Stecyk v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., 295
F.3d 408, 414 (3d Cir. 2002)).
Piotrowski's opinion is not irrelevant. If Plaintiff
establishes his tortious interference claim, and proves
resulting pecuniary loss, he may be able to recover for
emotional distress damages “if they are reasonably to
be expected to result from the interference.”
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 774A (1979);
Pelagatti v. Cohen, 536 A.2d 1337, 1343-44 (Pa.
Super. Ct. 1987) (holding that absent pecuniary loss, a
plaintiff asserting tortious interference claim cannot
recover for consequential emotional harm); see also
Dreiling Millennium Trust II v. Reliant Renal Care,
Inc., 833 F.Supp.2d 429, 435 (E.D. Pa. 2011) (same);
Shiner v. Moriarty, 706 A.2d 1228, 1239 (Pa. Super.
Ct. 1998) (same). Although expert testimony is not required
to prove emotional harm resulting from tortious interference
with contractual or prospective contractual relations,
Shiner, 706 A.2d ...