Court Finds Tardy Addition of Computer Forensics Expert Prejudicial in Wrongful Termination Case


Computer Forensics ExpertCourt: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Sommers-Wilson v. Samsung SDI Am., Inc.
Citation: 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177437

Facts

In this case, the plaintiff brought claims of gender discrimination and retaliation following her termination by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that “inefficiency”, the reason given by the defendant for this dismissal, was pretextual because the defendant had never complained about her performance prior to her termination. Furthermore, the plaintiff argues that there was a complete lack of documentation to show any plan of terminating her before she raised concerns about the lack of women in leadership positions employed by the defendant.

The defendant filed this motion seeking to add a computer forensics expert witness to testify to the plaintiff’s activities on the computer in the workplace. The defendant argued that testimony from the computer forensics expert would support its case that there was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing the plaintiff.

Discussion

The court noted that the defendant’s attempt to add the computer forensics expert as an expert witness to their case was a surprise to the plaintiff, as the expert had not appeared on any witness list. The plaintiff had not designated any witness as a computer forensics expert, having only included experts in economics and psychology in the witness list submitted to the court.

The court was of the opinion that adding the computer forensics expert would be prejudicial to the plaintiff. In addition to having to schedule a deposition, the plaintiff would also have had to hire an expert of her own to prepare her case for the computer forensics expert’s deposition. These developments might also have led to filing of Daubert motions by either or both parties. The court noted that there was no way all these procedural tasks could be accomplished without delaying trial.

The defendant had claimed the computer forensics expert’s testimony was extremely important to its case as it would have had significant bearing on the nature, merits, and quantum, if any, of the damages. The defendant argued that the computer forensic expert’s testimony would have highlighted the plaintiff’s alleged misconduct by inappropriately downloading information that was sensitive to the defendant, and thus, precluded any claim of the plaintiff for front-pay.

The defendant further argued that the computer forensic expert’s testimony would have had bearing on merits by showing how the reason for firing the plaintiff was her using the internet inappropriately and searching for jobs while at work. The defendant believed that this expert testimony was crucial to its case and would have been enough to show that the reasons for terminating the plaintiff’s employment was non-discriminatory.

The court rejected these arguments, noting that it could not comprehend why the defendant did not designate a computer forensics expert at a much earlier stage in the case if such testimony was so essential to its case.

Held

The court denied the defendant’s motion to add the computer forensics expert as an expert witness to its case, noting that if testimony qualifies under Federal Rules of Evidence 702, 703, or 705, it is required that an expert witness be designated whether the testimony is foundational or not.

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