WINGARD v. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
OMNIBUS MEMORANDUM ORDER denying 55 Motion in Limine re driving record; denying 56 Motion in Limine re cumulative expert testimony; granting in part and denying in part 57 Motion in Limine re expert testimony of Dr. Gentile; denying 67 Motion in Limine re testimony of Dr. Butler. Signed by Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan on 11/21/2022. (bjb)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SCOTT E. WINGARD,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Before the Court are motions in limine filed by Plaintiff Scott Wingard [ECF
55, ECF 56] and Defendant United States of America (“Post Office”) [ECF 57, ECF
67]. The Court issues this omnibus order resolving the motions as follows.
A. Plaintiff’s motion in limine regarding Plaintiff’s driving
record [ECF 55].
The motion is DENIED. The Post Office does not intend to offer Mr. Wingard’s
driving history into evidence except for the limited purpose of establishing that Mr.
Wingard was involved in a prior accident, from which he suffered injuries. To the
extent Mr. Wingard raises any objections to that evidence, they are overruled because
that limited evidence is relevant to the Post Office’s defense and so is permissible.
B. Plaintiff’s motion in limine regarding duplicative expert
testimony [ECF 56].
The motion is DENIED without prejudice.
Mr. Wingard challenges the
relevance of testimony from one of the Post Office’s experts—Dr. Richard Kaplan, a
pain and rehabilitation specialist—under Rule 403 because it is duplicative of
testimony from two other experts: Dr. William Abraham, an orthopedic surgeon, and
Mark Kerestan, a physical therapist. However, the Court finds that the Rule 403
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balance does not favor exclusion of this evidence, at least at this juncture. Each of
the Post Office’s witnesses is a different specialist with different expertise. The Post
Office has demonstrated that it will rely on these experts to answer different
questions related to Mr. Wingard’s various medical injuries, each of which requires
analysis as to their causation, permanence, severity, prognosis, and impact on Mr.
Wingard’s quality of life and ability to work. Therefore, the Court finds this evidence
to be relevant, and doesn’t find that it is so cumulative as to warrant exclusion. The
Court is not inclined to exclude testimony that will assist it at trial. Habecker v.
Copperloy Corp., 893 F.2d 49, 52 (3d Cir. 1990) (noting the Third Circuit’s “liberal
policy of admitting expert testimony which will aid the trier of fact”).
Accordingly, the Court will deny Mr. Wingard’s motion without prejudice and
will permit Dr. Kaplan to testify. Mr. Wingard may raise his motion again at trial if
it turns out that Dr. Kaplan’s testimony becomes excessively duplicative at that time.
Defendant’s motion in limine to limit testimony of Dr. Gentile
The motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The Post Office
alleges Dr. John Gentile’s expert report fails to meet the requirements of Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26 because it does not disclose the basis for his conclusions
that the automobile accident in this case was the cause of Mr. Wingard’s shoulder
pain. The Post Office also challenges Dr. Gentile’s testimony under Federal Rules of
Evidence 702 and 703 for failing to apply a reliable methodology for his conclusions
as to Mr. Wingard’s shoulder pain and the cost of a knee replacement, and for failing
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to rule out alternative causes as to Mr. Wingard’s shoulder pain. The Court addresses
each objection in turn.
Though potentially deficient under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26, Dr. Gentile’s expert report will not preclude
The purpose of the rules governing expert reports is “the elimination of unfair
surprise to the opposing party and the conservation of resources.” Reed v. Binder,
165 F.R.D. 424, 429 (D.N.J. 1996) (citation omitted). An expert report must include,
among other things, a “complete statement of all opinions that will be expressed at
trial and the reasons and basis for the opinion.” Id. at 428. “The test of a report is
whether it was sufficiently complete, detailed and in compliance with the Rules so
that surprise is eliminated, unnecessary depositions are avoided, and costs are
reduced.” Peronis v. United States, No. 16-1389, 2018 WL 4740170, at *6 (W.D. Pa.
Oct. 2, 2018) (Fischer, J.) (cleaned up).
To provide a basis for his opinions as to the cause of Mr. Wingard’s knee injury,
Dr. Gentile’s expert report states that femoral fractures of the kind Mr. Wingard
sustained are “typically high energy injuries and commonly seen from higher speed
motor vehicle accidents . . . and certainly is consistent with [Mr. Wingard’s] report of
an automobile accident as the cause.” ECF 58-7, p. 1. Dr. Gentile’s report does not
provide a similar basis as to Mr. Wingard’s shoulder injury, but states “within a
reasonable degree of medical certainty” that Mr. Wingard’s injuries “are directly
related to the automobile accident.” Id. at 2. Then, at his deposition, Dr. Gentile
testified that (1) Mr. Wingard was referred to him by Dr. Adrian Butler, the primary
physician who treated Mr. Wingard and who is one of Dr. Gentile’s partners, for the
purpose of treatment, and (2) Dr. Gentile based his conclusion that Mr. Wingard’s
shoulder injury was caused by the crash on Mr. Wingard’s complaints of pain
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following the crash and the medical notes of Dr. Butler. ECF 62-1, p.10, 30:3-6; p. 18,
Dr. Gentile’s testimony clarifies the basis for his conclusion that the car
accident caused Mr. Wingard’s shoulder pain, even if his expert report is deficient in
that respect. But even assuming that Dr. Gentile’s expert report fails to satisfy the
requirements of Rule 26, exclusion of that testimony would still not be an appropriate
sanction because any violation of the rule is harmless. In this regard, the Court
considers the factors in Nicholas v. Pennsylvania State University to assess a party’s
failure to abide by the disclosure requirements of Rule 26: (1) the prejudice or surprise
of the party against whom the excluded evidence would have been admitted; (2) the
ability of the party to cure that prejudice; (3) the extent to which allowing the
evidence would disrupt the orderly and efficient trial of the case or other cases in the
court; and (4) bad faith or willfulness in failing to comply with a court order or
discovery obligation. 227 F.3d 133, 148 (3d Cir. 2000).
Here, there is no surprise or prejudice to the Post Office because Dr. Gentile
testified at his deposition as to the basis of his opinion on Mr. Wingard’s shoulder
pain. See Reed, 165 F.R.D. at 430 (“Nothing causes greater prejudice than to have to
guess how and why an adversarial expert reached his or her conclusion.”). Dr.
Gentile’s testimony will also not disrupt an orderly and efficient trial because Dr.
Gentile will already testify as to the treatment of Mr. Wingard’s knee pain. And the
Court does not see any bad faith on the part of Mr. Wingard on this matter. The
Court therefore will not preclude Dr. Gentile’s opinions as to shoulder pain on the
basis of Rule 26.
Dr. Gentile’s opinions are not precluded under Federal
Rules of Evidence 702 and 703.
The Post Office next argues Dr. Gentile’s opinions must be excluded because
he did not base them on a reliable methodology, did not rule out alternative causes,
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and merely repeated the conclusions of Dr. Butler. None of these arguments is well
First, Dr. Gentile’s methodology is reliable. Rule 703 permits an expert to form
an opinion based on facts or data of which he was made aware. Fed. R. Evid. 703.
An expert may do so even if the underlying facts are not admissible, as long as they
are of the kind that experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on. Id. Rule
703 specifically contemplates “experts relying on reports and opinions from nurses,
technicians, and other doctors, hospital records, and X rays.” Feld v. Primus Techs.
Corp., No. 12-1492, 2015 WL 1932078, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 28, 2015) (quoting Fed.
R. Evid. 703 Advisory Committee’s Notes).
Second, the failure to rule out all alternative causes is not a basis to exclude
expert testimony. Heller v. Shaw Indus., Inc., 167 F.3d 146, 156 (3d Cir. 1999) (“A
medical expert’s causation conclusion should not be excluded because he or she has
failed to rule out every possible alternative cause of a plaintiff’s illness. . . . Obvious
alternative causes need to be ruled out.” (citation omitted)).
Third, Dr. Gentile’s reliance on Dr. Butler’s conclusions is more of a weight
issue than an admissibility one.
At his deposition, Dr. Gentile testified he has
expertise in shoulder injuries, as he specializes in trauma and joint reconstruction,
including for shoulders. ECF 62-1, p. 4, 5:9-7:19. He reviewed the medical opinions
of Dr. Butler in reaching his conclusions about Mr. Wingard’s shoulder, which is
permissible under Rule 703. Id. at 18, 63:16-64:16. Additionally, Dr. Gentile testified
that he based his conclusion on Mr. Wingard’s complaints of “new pain” after the
accident, such that he ruled out prior injuries as the cause of Mr. Wingard’s shoulder
pain in this case. Id. at 19, 66:2-67:10. The Post Office is free to challenge Dr.
Gentile’s conclusions on cross-examination. See Hunter v. Kennedy, No. 17-7, 2020
WL 3980414, at *3 (M.D. Pa. July 14, 2020) (“[Medical doctor expert] indicates that
he reviewed the medical records and has provided his opinions ‘to a reasonable degree
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of medical certainty.’ If at trial he does not testify as to a reasonable degree of medical
certainty, Defendants may object.
evidence at this point.
However, no cause exists for precluding the
Dr. Medrek’s opinions may best be challenged through
vigorous cross examination or presenting counter-evidence.” (cleaned up)).
Dr. Gentile’s conclusions as to cost of surgery are
The Post Office also challenges Dr. Gentile’s conclusions on the cost of a knee
replacement for Mr. Wingard. Dr. Gentile has offered no basis to conclude his opinion
was based on a reliable methodology, as he admitted he lacked expertise as to surgery
costs and reached his conclusion based solely on an internet search. ECF 62-1, p. 27,
99:24-100:13. Accordingly, that testimony is excluded.
Defendant’s motion in limine to preclude testimony of Dr. Butler
Finally, the Post Office asks this Court to preclude the testimony of Dr. Adrian
Butler, who initially treated Mr. Wingard and who is a partner with Dr. Gentile. The
Court DENIES the motion.
“In the Third Circuit, treating physicians’ opinions on prognosis and causation
are inherently expert testimony.” Rowland v. Novartis Pharms. Corp., 9 F. Supp. 3d
553, 566 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (Hornak, C.J.). But “[t]he plain language of Rule 26(a)(2)(A)
explicitly limits the expert report requirement to individuals ‘retained or specially
employed to provide expert testimony in the case or one whose duties as the party’s
employee regularly involve giving expert testimony.’” Pease v. Lycoming Engines, No.
10-843, 2012 WL 162551, at *13 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2012) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P.
26(a)(2)(B)). The relevant inquiry for whether a party retained or employed a treating
physician for expert testimony is “whether the treating physician acquired his
opinion as to the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries directly through his treatment of the
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plaintiff.” Donaldson v. Lensbouer, No. 15-63, 2017 WL 5634130, at *7 (W.D. Pa. Nov.
21, 2017) (Gibson, J.) (cleaned up).
Mr. Wingard disclosed Dr. Butler as a treating physician in both initial
disclosures and interrogatories. ECF 73, p. 5. The Post Office obtained Dr. Butler’s
records pertaining to his treatment of Mr. Wingard during discovery. Id. Though the
Post Office opted not to depose Dr. Butler, Dr. Gentile testified extensively about Dr.
Butler’s treatment of Mr. Wingard. ECF 62-1, p. 8, 22:8-23; p. 9, 25:10-18; p. 10, 29:131:25. There is no evidence from either party that Dr. Butler was retained for the
specific purpose of providing his expert opinion.
Thus, the expert reporting
requirements do not apply to Dr. Butler.
The Post Office nonetheless contests Dr. Butler’s testimony as otherwise
unreliable. That’s beside the point. As a treating physician, he can testify “as to
personal knowledge [he] gained from [his] examinations” of Mr. Wingard, including
examinations, diagnoses, course of treatment, and prognosis based on his
observations in the course of Mr. Wingard’s treatment. Rowland, 9 F. Supp. 3d at
Dated: November 21, 2022
BY THE COURT:
/s/ J. Nicholas Ranjan
J. Nicholas Ranjan
United States District Judge
Additionally, the Court does not see any unfair prejudice to the Post Office in light
of Mr. Wingard’s early disclosure of Dr. Butler as one of Mr. Wingard’s treating
physicians, and the Post Office’s choice not to depose him.
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