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Robinson v. Alabama State University

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

March 7, 2019

SHARON ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALABAMA STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is the Defendants' Joint Motion to Exclude the Report and Potential Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, Kale Kirkland, Ph.D. Doc. 67. Upon consent of the parties, the case was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of a final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Doc. 103.

         Plaintiff Sharon Robinson has offered a report prepared by Kirkland to demonstrate that she suffered emotional distress from the events forming the basis of her claims in this case. Kirkland is a forensic psychologist who issued a report about Robinson after conducting a clinical interview and examination, reviewing collateral information, and administering a personality inventory test. Doc. 73-2. Kirkland expressed the opinion that Robinson exhibits symptoms of depression and anxiety, including trauma-like symptoms, and continues to experience psychological distress in relation to her period of employment with Defendant Alabama State University (“ASU”). Doc. 73-2. Kirkland recommended that Robinson seek outpatient mental health treatment. Doc. 73-2.

         The defendants have moved to exclude Kirkland's opinions included both in the report and in anticipated testimony. After review of the motion, briefs, Kirkland's report, and the applicable law, the court concludes that the motion is due to be DENIED.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which 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 the case.

         Rule 702, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, “assign[s] to the trial judge the task of ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 587 (1993). This “gatekeeping function is important to ensure that speculative, unreliable expert testimony does not reach the jury under the mantle of reliability that accompanies the appellation expert testimony.” Rink v. Cheminova, Inc., 400 F.3d 1286, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005) (quotation and citation omitted).

         II. DISCUSSION

         In determining the admissibility of expert testimony under Rule 702, this court must conduct a rigorous three-part inquiry, considering whether: (1) the expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact through the application of scientific, technical, or specialized expertise to ...


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