Nurse Anesthetist Expert Witness Can Testify in Florida Wage Dispute, U.S. Judge Says


Nurse Anesthetist Expert WitnessCase:

Billy Schumann, et al. v. Collier Anesthesia, No. 2:12–cv–347–FtM–29CM, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida; May 9, 2014

Background:

Plaintiffs Billy Schumann and Dustin Abraham, on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated, seek minimum wage and overtime compensation relief from Collier Anesthesia, P.A., Wolford College, LLC, Thomas L. Cook and Lynda M. Waterhouse under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They allege that registered nurses are employed by Collier as unpaid interns. They were substitutes for regular workers, and/or to augment Collier’s existing workforce during specific time periods, and they worked but were not paid overtime for work in excess of 40 hours per week.

Employment Law Expert Witness:

Defense expert Kenneth M. Kirsner is a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) who has practiced anesthesia for more than 30 years. He also is an attorney and is the Chief CRNA at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center in California. He has been a professor of nurse anesthesia and director of programs at colleges and universities.

Kirsner opined regarding the clinical training and supervision that nurse anesthesia students receive in order to qualify for graduation and certification, the processes by which anesthesia practices typically provide such training and supervision, and whether the work allegedly performed by the plaintiffs falls within such training and supervision.

He based his opinions on his experience as a CRNA, nurse anesthesia program director, and accreditation reviewer; his review of certain CRNA-related standards, regulations, and other documents disclosed in his report; and his review of the complaint and accompanying declarations in this case.

Admissibility of Employment Law Expert:

U.S. District Judge John E. Steele for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found that the defendants established that Kirsner’s proposed testimony is sufficiently reliable. The ability to understand CRNA accreditation standards, graduation requirements, and clinical training practices is beyond the understanding of the average lay person. Accordingly, his analysis is both reliable and sufficiently helpful to assist the trier of fact.

Further, the court said there was no reason that the probative value of Kirsner’s anticipated testimony would be substantially outweighed by its prejudicial impact. Plaintiffs’ argument that Kirsner’s testimony would result in undue prejudice because the jury could credit his testimony despite the fact that he did not perform a sufficiently in-depth analysis of Collier’s operations was an issue for cross-examination and is insufficient to preclude him from testifying, the judge held.

 

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