Steven Babitsky Esq.

The United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky dealt with the plaintiff, Schall, who was in a motorcycle accident and rendered a paraplegic.

Here there was a battle of life care planner experts.

There was an attempt to exclude the testimony of Dr. Castillo, an assistant professor of neurosurgery PM&R Division of University of Louisville.

Dr. Castillo intended to testify about the increased risk of medical complications.

The court permitted him to testify on this issue despite his limited familiarity of the case.

The court stated:

  1. Increased Risk for Various Medical Complications

The primary impetus behind retaining Dr. Castillo appears to be his knowledge of spinal cord injuries and the attendant medical complications. The vast majority of the doctor’s expert report concerns the various medical complications and reduced life expectancy that Schall can expect to experience based on his injury. Nissin challenges the reliability of this testimony by pointing to Dr. Castillo’s lack of particularized familiarity with Schall and his injury. [DN 195 at 12]. Nissin states that Dr. Castillo never (1) met, examined, or communicated with Schall; (2) communicated with Schall’s family members; (3) communicated with Schall’s treating physicians, medical providers, or hired experts; or (4) reviewed a single page of Schall’s medical records. [Id.]. Schall does not contest this argument but says that it is not grounds for deeming Dr. Castillo’s testimony unreliable and excluding it, but instead should be addressed during Dr. Castillo’s cross-examination. [DN 232 at 6, 10]. The Court agrees.

Dr. Castillo’s expert report makes clear that he is not opining that Schall will undoubtedly suffer from every listed medical problem, rather his opinion addresses what kinds of complications may arise in individuals with T-4 spinal injuries, generally. The patients that Dr. Castillo has treated and upon whom he bases his opinions may or may not mirror the medical history of Schall. Further, it is undisputed that Dr. Castillo reviewed only a summary of Schall’s medical records rather than the records themselves and has never met Schall. These circumstances may go to the weight of his testimony before a jury, but they do not render the testimony so unreliable that it should be excluded altogether under Daubert. As stated by the Supreme Court, “[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596.

It is certainly the case that a testifying expert’s knowledge must be “more than subjective belief or unsupported speculation.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 590. But, the testimony Dr. Castillo intends to offer concerning Schall’s potential future medical complications is not based on subjective belief or unsupported speculation. The record demonstrates that Dr. Castillo has had extensive medical education and training in the treatment of spinal cord injury patients. Additionally, he relies on cumulative research produced by the National Spinal Cord Injuries Statistical Center at the University of Alabama concerning the life expectancy of spinal cord injury patients. [DN 195-6 at 39:4-40:16]. Further, he has conducted extensive research and published articles on spinal cord injuries. Based upon Dr. Castillo’s experience, training, and education, the Court finds that he is qualified to testify as an expert and his opinion concerning medical complications attendant to T-4 paraplegics is neither unreliable nor inadmissible. See Jahn, 233 F.3d at 388 (“Experts are permitted a wide latitude in their opinions, including those not based on firsthand knowledge, so long as `the expert’s opinion [has] a reliable basis in the knowledge and experience of the discipline.'”) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592). Nissin’s Motion to Exclude Dr. Castillo’s opinion concerning Schall’s increased risk for various medical complications is DENIED.

For additional information, see here: