Forensic psychiatrists are increasingly facing Daubert challenges. In working with expert witnesses and particularly forensic psychiatrists, it has become clear that more and more forensic psychiatrists are being faced with Daubert challenges. The good news for the experts is that many of these challenges ultimately fail. These experts still have to go through the time and effort to assist counsel in opposing these motions.
In MUHAMAD M. HALAOUI, v. RENAISSANCE HOTEL OPERATING COMPANY, Case No. 6:13-cv-1839-Orl-40TBS, United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division, May 13, 2015, the court dealt with an allegation of sexual harassment at work.
Forensic psychiatrist Greer is a board-certified forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Greer received his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1985, completed his psychiatric residency at UCLA Medical Center in 1988, and completed a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Florida in 1992. (Doc. 57-3). Throughout his career, Dr. Greer has held numerous directorships, associate professorships, and chair positions related to psychiatry and forensic psychiatry and has published or co-published myriad articles in peer reviewed journals.
Dr. Greer ultimately diagnosed Halaoui with “Depressive Disorder Not Otherwise Specified,” and concluded that Halaoui’s depression is not the result of any sexual harassment he experienced while working for Renaissance. (Id. at pp. 6-7). Rather, Dr. Greer opines that Halaoui’s psychological state derives from his own guilt about the life choices he has made and the disappointment he has caused to his parents. (Id.). Dr. Greer also stated in his report that Halaoui’s MMPI-2 reveals that Halaoui tends to exaggerate his depressive symptoms and projects his own impulses onto others as a defensive mechanism.
The court found Dr. Greer’s methodology reliable under Daubert and stated:
Next, Halaoui challenges the methodology employed by Dr. Greer. Halaoui disputes the conclusions Dr. Greer reaches, claiming that Dr. Greer’s opinion on the cause of Halaoui’s depression is unsupported by the evidence, based on faulty logic, and is merely speculative in nature. (Doc. 54, pp. 10-11).
In determining the reliability of an expert’s methodology, the U.S. Supreme Court advises courts to look at a number of factors, including (1) whether the methodology has been tested, (2) whether the methodology has been subjected to peer review and publication, (3) rates of error associated with the methodology, (4) the existence of standards governing the methodology, and (5) the methodology’s degree of acceptance in the relevant scientific community. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94. “Evidence that derives from principles and techniques of uncontroverted validity is, of course, readily admissible, subject to the qualification of the proposed witness and . . . a showing that proper safeguards were employed . . . .” United States v. Downing, 753 F.2d 1224, 1232 (3d Cir. 1985).
As recounted above, Dr. Greer conducted a general mental status examination and had Halaoui complete the MMPI-2. Halaoui raises no issue as to the reliability of these two psychological evaluations. Nor could he with any degree of sincerity, as Halaoui’s proffered expert witness, Dr. Jeffrey A. Danziger, relies on the same two psychological evaluation techniques in forming his opinions. (Doc. 57-1, pp. 7-8). Moreover, the MMPI-2 is the most widely used and accepted standardized psychological metric for adults and has been subjected to decades of peer review and publication. General mental status examinations are similarly commonplace and widely accepted within the psychological and psychiatric communities. Further, upon reviewing the report in light of the relevant Daubert factors, the Court finds Dr. Greer’s methodology reliable. Again, to the extent Halaoui disagrees with Dr. Greer’s opinions, Halaoui may test Dr. Greer’s conclusions through cross-examination and presentation of contrary evidence.