United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
DAUBERT OPINION AS TO PHASE 2A EIGHTH AMENDMENT
H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiffs in this phase of this class-action lawsuit are
seriously mentally ill state prisoners and the Alabama
Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP). The defendants are
officials of the Alabama Department of Corrections
(ADOC)--Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and Associate
Commissioner of Health Services Ruth Naglich--who are sued in
only their official capacities.
Phase 2A of the case, the plaintiffs claim that the
defendants have failed to provide constitutionally adequate
mental-health care to ADOC prisoners with serious
mental-health needs, in violation of the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments (as enforced through 42 U.S.C. §
1983). The court has jurisdiction of the claim
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and
§ 1343(a)(3) (civil rights).
in December 2016, the court presided over a two-month bench
trial concerning this claim. At trial, the parties presented
evidence from five expert witnesses, some of whom the parties
had objected to prior to trial. The parties did not object to
any of the experts' qualifications, but the plaintiffs
asserted objections under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm.,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), to portions of Dr. Raymond
Patterson's testimony and to the methodology underlying
Robert Ayers's opinion, and the defendants asserted
Daubert objections against Dr. Kathryn Burns's
and Eldon Vail's methodologies. The court recently issued
an opinion finding that the plaintiffs prevailed on their
Eighth Amendment claim in the Phase 2A trial. Braggs v.
Dunn, __F.Supp.3d__, 2017 WL 2773833, 2:14cv601-MHT
(M.D. Ala. June 27, 2017) (Thompson, J.). In tandem with that
opinion, the court entered an order overruling all
Daubert objections and promised that an opinion
explaining why would follow later. This is the promised
before the trial, the court entered a Phase 2 scheduling
order setting forth its requirements for the parties should
they wish to bring Daubert challenges. The court
made clear that, if the parties wished the court to consider
any Daubert challenges at trial, “including
any unresolved challenges previously raised by either party
in litigation on dispositive and class certification motions,
” they had to address those Daubert challenges
in their trial briefs detailing proposed findings of facts
and conclusions of law, and that, “[a]bsent exceptional
circumstances, ” separate Daubert motions
would not be entertained. Phase 2 Pretrial and Motion
Deadlines Order (doc. no. 529) at 4-5; see also New
Phase 2A Scheduling Order (doc. no. 748) at 4 (affirming
deadlines in doc. no. 529).
sides challenged expert testimony under Daubert. In
their opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for class
certification, the defendants challenged Dr. Burns's
methodology under Daubert and stated that Vail was
not qualified under Daubert and Federal Rule of
Evidence 702 because he did not visit every ADOC facility.
The plaintiffs asserted Daubert challenges to the
testimony of Ayers and the methodology of Dr. Patterson's
audits in their summary judgment briefing.
court overruled the defendants' Daubert
objection against Burns in the class-certification opinion,
but did not find it necessary to resolve the remaining
Daubert objections before trial. Braggs v.
Dunn, 317 F.R.D. 634, 645-49 (M.D. Ala. 2016) (Thompson,
plaintiffs reasserted their Daubert challenges in
their pre-trial brief, as required by the court in order to
raise their objections at trial. The defendants stated in
their pre-trial brief: “The State believes that
restating its position on the admissibility of the expert
witnesses is unnecessary here and relies upon the extensive
briefing already submitted on these issues.” Defs.'
Pre-Trial Br. (doc. no. 992) at 196 n.893.
Federal Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility of expert
testimony. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc.,
509 U.S. 579 (1993). 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 ...