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Estate of Cruz-Sanchez v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 17, 2019

ESTATE OF GERARDO CRUZ-SANCHEZ, by and through his successor-in-interest Paula Garcia Rivera, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO EXCLUDE EXPERT DR. TODD WILCOX (DOC. NO. 88)

         HON. ANTHONY J. BATTAGLIA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to exclude expert Dr. Todd Wilcox. (Doc. No. 88.) Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants' motion. (Doc. No. 110.) On December 20, 2018, the Court held a hearing on the instant motion. Based on the arguments presented in the briefing as well as at the hearing, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendants' motion to exclude expert Dr. Todd Wilcox.

         BACKGROUND

         The instant matter revolves around the arrest, incarceration and eventual death of Gerardo Cruz-Sanchez. (See generally Doc. No. 83.) Mr. Cruz-Sanchez was incarcerated at the Otay Mesa Detention Center (“OMDC”). (Id. ¶ 1.) CoreCivic contracts with the United States to provide detention services at OMDC. (Doc. No. 107-1 at 6.) CoreCivic provides support to facilitate the delivery of healthcare services. (Id. at 8.)

         On February 11, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez had an intake assessment and reported no medical problems. (Id. at 12.) On February 12, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez was seen regarding pain in his upper eye lid. (Id.) On February 14, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez was seen by a nurse regarding a headache, sore throat, cough and nasal congestion for two days. (Id.) On February 16, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez saw another nurse complaining that he had a cough, body aches, and sore throat for one week. (Id.) On February 17, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez saw a physician's assistant regarding the same symptoms. (Id.) On February 26, 2016, an emergency call was made for Mr. Cruz-Sanchez. (Id. at 16.) Mr. Cruz-Sanchez was then brought to the medical clinic and seen by a doctor. (Id.) The doctor then called 911 and Mr. Cruz-Sanchez was transported to the hospital. (Id.) On February 29, 2016, Mr. Cruz-Sanchez passed away from pneumonia. (Id. at 20.)

         Currently, Defendants seek to exclude Plaintiffs' expert witnesses, Dr. Todd Wilcox (“Dr. Wilcox”). (Doc. No. 88.) Plaintiffs designated Dr. Wilcox to opine on correctional medicine.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Pursuant to Rule 702,

[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.

Id. “The party offering the expert bears the burden of establishing that Rule 702 is satisfied.” Sundance Image Tech., Inc. v. Cone Editions Press, Ltd., No. 02 CV 2258 JM (AJB), 2007 WL 935703, at *4 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2007).

         Prior to admitting expert testimony, the trial court must make “a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93 (1993). The trial court acts as a “gatekeeper” by making a preliminary determination of whether the expert's proposed testimony is not only relevant but reliable. Estate of Barabin v. AstenJohnson, Inc., 740 F.3d 457, 463 (9th Cir. 2014). This two-step assessment requires consideration of whether (1) the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid (the reliability prong); and (2) whether the reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue (the relevance prong). Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93; Kennedy v. Collagen Corp., 161 F.3d 1226, 1228 (9th Cir. 1998).

         A district court has broad latitude in deciding how to measure reliability and in making the ultimate reliability determination. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 142 (1999). In essence, the Court must determine whether the expert's work product amounts to “good science.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593. In Daubert, the Supreme Court outlined factors relevant to the reliability prong, including (1) whether the theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether it has been subjected to peer review; (3) the known or potential rate of error; and (4) whether the theory or methodology employed is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. Id. at 593-94. As later confirmed in Kumho Tire, “Daubert's list of specific factors neither necessarily nor exclusively applies to all experts or in every case. Rather, the law grants a district court the same broad latitude when it decides how to determine reliability as it enjoys in respect to its ultimate reliability determination.” 526 U.S. at 141-42.

         Under the relevance or “fit” prong, the testimony must be “‘relevant to the task at hand,' i.e., that it logically advances a material aspect of the proposing party's case.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 43 F.3d 1311, 1315 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597). Relevance requires opinions that would assist the trier of fact in reaching a conclusion necessary to the case. See Kennedy, 161 F.3d at 1230. In general, the Daubert analysis focuses on the principles and methodology underlying an expert's testimony, not on the expert's ultimate conclusions. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595. However, the Supreme Court has cautioned that “conclusions and methodology are not entirely distinct from one ...


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