Court Allows Expert in Medical Forensics to Opine on Firearm Examination


Forensic ExpertCourt: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Mighty v. Miami-Dade City
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135528

Facts

In this wrongful death case, the deceased had an encounter with the police of the defendant city during which he was shot and killed. The plaintiff, a representative of the victim’s estate, brought this case against the defendant city. Both parties retained multiple expert witnesses to support their case. Among the Daubert motions filed in the suit was a motion to exclude parts of the testimony of the plaintiff’s forensic expert witness.

The Forensics Expert

The plaintiff’s forensic expert witness was a board-certified doctor of anatomic, clinical, and forensic pathology. The forensics expert held a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a medical degree in infectious diseases from Harvard Medical School. Upon completion of his degrees, the expert completed a fellowship in family practice from the University Of Miami School Of Medicine.

The forensic expert witness was given a license in medicine and surgery by the state of Florida in 1980. He had extensive experience treating patients, publishing in academia in local and national publications on myriad topics, as well as lecturing and training medical professionals over the years.

The forensic expert worked as a clinical assistant professor in the family practice department at the Florida International University Wertheim College of Medicine. In addition to running his own private practice, he served on the Infection Control Committee and the Surgical Case Review Committee at a hospital. He also served as an attending physician at the Department of Family Practice.

Discussion

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the expert was not suitably qualified to opine on the visibility of scuff marks or dents on the victim’s gun. The court noted that the expert’s reference to the absence of scuff marks, blood, tissue transfer, or dents from the victim’s gun that could have been perceived by the naked eye was a factual statement and thus admissible. It was also noted that the expert had prior experience working with examiners of firearms in a previous job. Because the expert used his prior experience in the field and his examination of the victim’s gun to form his opinion, the court deemed him qualified.

The court was of the opinion that excluding the other disputed paragraphs of the expert’s report on the basis of the defendant’s argument that it was cumulative of the opinions proffered by the plaintiff’s other witnesses and did not add anything of value, would not be right, noting that “the fact that [the experts’] testimony and opinions may overlap to some extent does not demonstrate a sufficient basis of … needless presentation of cumulative evidence under Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 403 to bar the testimony of either witness.” citing Bodner v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 17-20260, 2018 WL 2471215 at *5 (S.D. Fla. April 10, 2018). The court further noted that it would be premature to dismiss the expert’s challenged paragraphs because the plaintiff’s other witnesses had not yet testified.

Held

The court held that the forensics expert’s testimony was admissible as per the standards set by Daubert.

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