Hale v. Empire Express Inc et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 70 Motion with directions on defense experts. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 6/21/2017. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
SHERRAN K. HALE, Individually and
as Administrator and Personal Representative
of the Estate of Robert W. Hale, deceased
EMPIRE EXPRESS, INC.; EMPIRE
TRANSPORTATION, INC.; and J. ANTHONY
BRADLEY, Administrator and Personal
Representative of the Estate of
Iketha D. Winchester, deceased
Whether Iketha Winchester was tired, and whether her many health
problems contributed to the collision, have always been core issues. The
Court’s Scheduling Order required staged disclosure of experts.
disclosed five retained experts. None said that Winchester suffered a sudden
medical problem. The Empire defendants disclosed three experts who
provided opinions about Winchester’s medical conditions. Two reported that
they couldn’t say one way or the other, based on all the available evidence,
about any sudden medical event. Hale’s rebuttal expert, a pathologist, then
came down hard: Dr. Melinek said “it is reasonable to conclude that Ms.
Winchester experienced a medical event which delayed her responsiveness
and that was the underlying reason for the accident.” ¹ 70-1 at 5.
The Empire defendants’ motion to stop Dr. Melinek from testifying at
trial is partly granted and partly denied, with a trim to the proposed
testimony from the two defense experts. Dr. Melinek’s central opinion—a
sudden medical event, which slowed the truck driver’s ability to react, caused
the accident—moves beyond just rebutting the defense experts into a new
theory of liability. This opinion belonged in Hale’s case in chief. Marmo v.
Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., 457 F.3d 748, 759 (8th Cir. 2006). And it is excluded
because Hale didn’t disclose it in the first round. FED. R. CIV. P. 26(a)(2)(D)
& 37(c)(1). Same ruling on the “ticking time bomb” conclusion. This is
another version of Dr. Melinek’s deep opinion on what caused this accident:
unless disarmed, a ticking time bomb explodes. Last, Dr. Melinek may not
testify that discrepancies in the medical records show Winchester’s dishonesty
with health professionals. This is also a new matter, rather than rebuttal.
Two of Dr. Melinek’s opinions directly rebut some of the defense
experts’ opinions, and thus come in. Dr. Melinek disputes Sawyer’s and
Scapellato’s assessment about drugs because of Winchester’s new and
recently filled insulin prescription. ¹ 70-1 at 6. That’s perfectly acceptable.
And she may testify about the possibility of medical problems resulting from
insulin. Ibid. She may also testify that Winchester’s many medical problems
made slowed reaction time foreseeable. This is proper rebuttal of Scapellato’s
opinion that Empire Express couldn’t have predicted Winchester would be in
an accident like this one. ¹ 70-9 at 3, 4 & 8. But there’s a bright line here: Dr.
Melinek may not say that those problems likely caused the accident—either
explicitly, or implicitly with a label such as “ticking time bomb.”
Fairness requires a trim to Mitler’s and Scapellato’s opinions, too. They
can’t say that a sudden medical emergency cannot be ruled in or ruled out.
The conclusion is understandable, and could be heard as a non-opinion
opinion. But, in the context of this record, it’s a hedge that has teeth. It raises
the possibility of a sudden medical emergency, and then downplays it by
concluding that the facts give no clear answer. Because Hale’s first round of
expert disclosures didn’t press a sudden emergency theory, an omission that
prompted the Empire defendants’ motion about Dr. Melinek, it would be
unfair for the defense experts to speak on that theory at all.
Motion, ¹ 70, granted in part and denied in part with directions on
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
21 June 2017
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