United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, U.S.D.C. J.
amended complaint, Plaintiff Jose Antonio Peroza-Benitez
(“Plaintiff”) asserts that Defendants Reading
Police Officers Kevin Haser and Daniel White
(“Defendants”) employed excessive force on
October 8, 2015, while arresting him and, thus, violated his
Fourth Amendment rights. [ECF 32].
the Court is Plaintiff's motion to exclude expert
testimony or alternatively to compel expert deposition at
expense of defendants (hereinafter “Motion to
Exclude”). [ECF 53]. Specifically, Plaintiff moves
to preclude Joseph Blaettler from testifying as a
use-of-force expert on the basis that the expert report is
legally deficient and exceeds the bounds of the Federal Rules
of Evidence. Defendants oppose the motion. [ECF
For the reasons set forth, Plaintiff's motion is granted
and the testimony of Joseph Blaettler, the proposed expert,
Federal Rules of Evidence (“Rules”) govern
procedures in federal courts. Thus, when a party offers an
expert witness, the court functions as a
‘gatekeeper' to ensure that the expert's
testimony complies with these rules and commanding case law.
In re Paoli R.R. Yard PBC Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 732
(3d Cir. 1994) (hereinafter, “Paoli”).
Relevant here, Rule 702 provides that a witness who is
qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience,
training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion
or otherwise if, “(a) the expert's . . .
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b)
the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the
testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods;
and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and
methods to the facts of the case.” Fed.R.Evid. 702.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
(“Third Circuit”) has interpreted Rule 702 as
requiring three criteria: qualification, reliability, and
fit. Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741-43. “Qualification
refers to the requirement that the witness possess
specialized expertise.” Schneider v. Fried,
320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003). Reliability requires that
the testimony “be based on the ‘methods and
procedures of science' rather than on ‘subjective
belief or unsupported speculation'; the expert must have
‘good grounds' for his or her belief.”
Paoli, 35 F.3d at 742 (quoting Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 590
(1993)). Lastly, “fit” refers to the relevancy of
the expert's testimony “for the purposes of the
case” and its ability to “assist the trier of
fact.” Schneider, 320 F.3d at 404.
are limitations to the extent of expert testimony, such as,
“it is not permissible for a witness to testify as to
the governing law.” United States v. Leo, 941
F.2d 181, 196 (3d Cir. 1991). “Such testimony is
prohibited because it would usurp the District Court's
pivotal role in explaining the law to the jury.”
Berckeley Inv. Grp., Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195,
217 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing First National State Bank v.
Reliance Elec. Co., 668 F.2d 725, 731 (3d Cir. 1981));
see also United States v. Monaghan, 648 F.Supp.2d
658, 661 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (“testimony concerning the law
itself . . . is inappropriate expert testimony”).
Further, an expert may not “state legal conclusions
drawn by applying the law to the facts.” Highway
Materials, Inc. v. Whitemarsh Twp., 2004 WL 2220974, at
*20 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2004). Notably, the Advisory
Committee's notes on Rule 704 reaffirm the notion that
Rule 702 prohibits “opinions which would merely tell
the jury what result to reach.” Fed.R.Evid. 704
advisory committee's note. However, while an expert
witness is precluded from presenting legal conclusions, an
expert's “opinion is not objectionable just because
it embraces an ultimate issue.” Fed.R.Evid. 704.
Ultimately, “the expert's proponent bears the
burden of establishing the admissibility of his expert's
testimony by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Monaghan, 648 F.Supp.2d at 660 (citing
Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592).
issue presented is whether the opinions proffered in Mr.
Blaettler's expert report are permissible under the
governing case law and the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Generally, the expert report provides a summary of
depositions taken; recounts facts from the record in a
narrative manner; describes different purported legal
standards and guidelines for the use of force; and offers
opinions regarding the use of force employed in arresting
moves to exclude Mr. Blaettler's proffered testimony
because the testimony would: (1) invade the province of the
jury by opining on the ultimate legal issue in the case; (2)
confuse the issues by introducing various law enforcement
policies and procedures that are irrelevant to
Plaintiff's legal claims; and (3) impermissibly opine on
the credibility of witnesses and sufficiency of the evidence.
In response, Defendants contend that Mr. Blaettler's
proffered testimony will not invade the province of the jury
because he will opine that “Defendants['] actions
were consistent with recognized police policies and
procedures and with case law regarding police officers'
use of force”; his testimony regarding Reading Police
Department's policies and procedures and national
standards as to the use of force continuum is probative of
[the jury's] inquiry of whether the Defendants[']
conduct was reasonable”; and he does not give
conclusions or opinions as to the weight of the evidence or
credibility of the witnesses. [ECF 54 at 6-8].
are, however, mistaken. A careful review of the report shows
that throughout, Mr. Blaettler repeatedly opines that
Defendants' conduct was reasonable and/or did not
constitute excessive force, i.e., the ultimate issue
before the jury. For example, the expert opines that:
• “[A]ll officers' actions in this matter were
reasonable and consistent with Reading Police Department
Policies and Procedures, nationally recognized police
policies and procedures as well as established case law
regarding the use of force by police.” (Expert Report
• “Based on the actions of Jose Peroza-Benitez,
Officer Haser's action in striking Jose Peroza-Benitez in
the head were justified and reasonable.” (Id.
• “Based on the actions of Jose Peroza-Benitez,
Officer White's action of tasing Jose Peroza-Benitez were