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McBride v. Houston County Health Care Authority

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

June 11, 2015

COURTNEY McBRIDE, Plaintiff,
v.
HOUSTON COUNTY HEALTH CARE AUTHORITY d/b/a Southeast Alabama Medical Center, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Courtney McBride developed a rare skin disease after receiving treatment at a county hospital followed by her subsequent discharge to a local jail. She brings this civil action against the following defendants: Houston County Health Care Authority; Drs. Dinesh Karumanchi and Rajendra Paladugu; the City of Dothan; and Dothan City Jail Correctional Officers Mamie McCory and Stephanie Johnson. She asserts that the Health Care Authority and the doctors committed medical malpractice in violation of Alabama law, and she further claims that the City of Dothan and its correctional officers were deliberately indifferent to her medical needs in violation of the United States Constitution and were negligent in violation of Alabama law. The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3) (civil rights) and § 1367 (supplemental).

The case is before the court on defendant Karumanchi's motion to exclude the expert opinions of Dr. Robert Auerbach, Dr. Carla Rodgers, and Dr. Allan Nineberg. The motion will be denied.

Relying on Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), Karumanchi challenges Drs. Nineberg and Auerbach's qualifications and methodology; he also challenges Dr. Rodgers's qualifications to testify under Alabama medical-malpractice law. At the outset, the court notes that the magistrate judge already issued an opinion denying Karumanchi's earlier motion to exclude the expert opinions of Auerbach, Rodgers, and Nineberg, in which he discussed each experts' qualifications as well as Auerbach's methodology for determining causation. See McBride v. Houston Cnty. Health Care Auth., 2014 WL 4373187 (M.D. Ala. 2014) (Moorer, M.J.). Because Karumanchi did not object to the magistrate judge's opinion, the decision is binding, as "a party may not assign as error a defect in the order not timely objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Because his motion therefore is not properly before this court, it is due to be denied. Indeed, if Karumanchi could bring successive Daubert motions, he would lack an incentive to complete his due diligence before filing and to make timely objections to the magistrate judge.

Nevertheless, the court will address Karumanchi's arguments on the merits below, as an alternative basis for denying his motion. Because the court agrees with the magistrate judge's opinion, it will not rehash what has already been covered but rather will focus on Karumanchi's arguments based on the new information not available at the time of the magistrate judge's opinion.

I. DAUBERT CHALLENGES TO DOCTORS NINEBERG AND AUERBACH

The court first will lay out the legal standard for evaluating expert testimony. It will then address two general arguments made against Drs. Nineberg and Auerbach and last will move to specific criticisms of each expert's opinion.

A. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility of expert testimony. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 587. Rule 702 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 this case."

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The trial court must serve as a gatekeeper for expert-witness testimony. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597. Doing so requires the court to make both a "relevance" and a "reliability" determination, disallowing expert testimony that is ...


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