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Session v. Romero

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 14, 2019

FRANKY L. SESSION, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY SHERIFF CAPTAIN ROMERO, in his individual capacity, and DEPUTY SHERIFF SERGEANT JORDAN, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          ORDER

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendants' Expert's Report and in the Alternative Exclude Portions Thereof [Docket No. 392], Defendants' Fed.R.Evid. 702 Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of David Teigen [Docket No. 393], and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Serve a Supplemental Expert Report [Docket No. 405]. This case is set for a four-day jury trial beginning on January 28, 2019. Docket No. 359. Plaintiff alleges that defendants, who are deputies from the Denver Sheriff's Department, violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by keeping him in a 23-hour per day segregation unit at Denver Detention Center (“DDC”), which is operated by the Denver Sheriff's Department, from March 24, 2013 to December 18, 2013. Docket No. 300 at 2.

         I. MOTION TO EXCLUDE UNDER FED. R. EVID. 702

         A. Legal Standard

         The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which provides:

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 scientific, technical, or other 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. As the rule makes clear, while required, it is not sufficient that an expert be qualified based upon knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to give opinions in a particular subject area. Instead, the Court must “perform[] a two-step analysis.” 103 Investors I, L.P. v. Square D Co., 470 F.3d 985, 990 (10th Cir. 2006). After determining whether the expert is qualified, the Court must assess whether the specific proffered opinions are reliable. See id.; Fed.R.Evid. 702 (requiring that the testimony be “based on sufficient facts or data, ” be the “product of reliable principles and methods, ” and reflect a reliable application of “the principles and methods to the facts of the case”).

         Rule 702 thus imposes on the district court a “gatekeeper function to ‘ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.'” United States v. Gabaldon, 389 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2004) (quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993)). To perform this role, the Court must “assess the reasoning and methodology underlying the expert's opinion, and determine whether it is both scientifically valid and applicable to a particular set of facts.” Dodge v. Cotter Corp., 328 F.3d 1212, 1221 (10th Cir. 2003) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93). In assessing reliability, “the court may consider several nondispositive factors: (1) whether the proferred theory can and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subject to peer review; (3) the known or potential rate of error; and (4) the general acceptance of a methodology in the relevant scientific community.” 103 Investors I, L.P. v. Square D Co., 470 F.3d 985, 990 (10th Cir. 2006). These factors are not applicable in every case. See Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141, 150-53 (1999). Indeed, the trial court has “the sam e kind of latitude in deciding how to test an expert's reliability . . . as it enjoys when it decides whether or not that expert's relevant testimony is reliable.” Id. at 152. Regardless of the specific factors applied, however, the objective of Daubert's gatekeeping requirement remains the same: to ensure that an expert “employs in the courtroom the same level of intellectual rigor that characterizes the practice of an expert in the relevant field.” Id.

         Although the proponent of the challenged testimony has the burden of establishing admissibility, United States v. Nacchio, 555 F.3d 1234, 1241 (10th Cir. 2009) (citing Ralston v. Smith & Nephew Richards, Inc., 275 F.3d 965, 970 n.4 (10th Cir. 2001)), the reliability standard does not require proof “that the opinion is objectively correct, but only that the witness has sufficient expertise to choose and apply a methodology, that the methodology applied was reliable, that sufficient facts and data as required by the methodology were used and that the methodology was otherwise reliably applied.” United States v. Crabbe, 556 F.Supp.2d 1217, 1221 (D. Colo. 2008) (internal citation omitted).

         Assuming the standard for reliability is met, the Court must also ensure that the proffered testimony will assist the trier of fact. See Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 156; United States v. Rodriguez-Felix, 450 F.3d 1117, 1122-23 (10th Cir. 2006). “Relevant expert testimony must logically advance[ ] a material aspect of the case and be sufficiently tied to the facts of the case that it will aid the jury in resolving a factual dispute.” United States v. Garcia, 635 F.3d 472, 476 (10th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In assessing whether expert testimony will assist the trier of fact, the Court should also consider “whether the testimony ‘is within the juror's common knowledge and experience,' and ‘whether it will usurp the juror's role of evaluating a witness's credibility.'” Id. at 476-77 (quoting Rodriguez-Felix, 450 F.3d at 1123).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff has designated David Teigen as an expert in the field of corrections. Mr. Teigen's expert report includes five opinions that plaintiff anticipates offering at trial:

1. Under generally accepted correctional industry standards, an inmate shall only be placed in segregation for a jail management rationale relating to a threat to life, property, self, staff, community, other inmate, or to the security and orderly operation of the institution.
2. Under generally accepted correctional industry standards, the reason for placing or holding an inmate in segregation should be supported by clear and substantiated evidence and fully documented.
3. Under generally accepted correctional industry standards, an inmate in segregation should receive a review of his classification within a timely manner from the appropriate authority and in regular intervals until the inmate is released from segregation.
4. Based on my review of the record, Defendants have not provided a sufficient jail management rationale for keeping Mr. Session in segregation for the period between approximately March 31 and December 18, 2013.
5. Based on my review of the record, Defendants did not support their supposed rationale for keeping Mr. Session in segregation with sufficient evidence or documentation, as would be expected of them on a regular basis under industry standards.

Docket No. 393-1. Defendants seek to exclude each of these opinions on the grounds that (1) Mr. Teigen is not qualified to opine on the standards and policies applicable to a county-level detention center, like DDC; (2) Mr. Teigen's reliance on Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) and Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) policies and regulations renders his opinions unreliable; and (3) Mr. Teigen's opinions regarding the policies and ...


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