Community Mental Health Expert Witness Excluded

Plaintiff sued mortgage servicer defendants after a dispute between the two allegedly caused the plaintiff to suffer from anxiety and depression.  The plaintiff hired a Community Mental Health Expert Witness to provide testimony in this case.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude, which was granted by the court

Facts:  This case (VILKOFSKY v. RUSHMORE LOAN SERVICING, LLC et al – United States District Court – Western District of Pennsylvania – June 12th, 2018) involves a consumer protection claim against mortgage servicer companies.  the plaintiff and the defendant are in a dispute regarding mortgage payments made by plaintiff to defendant.  The plaintiff argues that he suffers from anxiety and depression due to the stress of dealing with the defendants regarding his mortgage dispute.  To that end, the plaintiff is using Community Mental Health Expert Witness, Theresa M. Bishop to provide an expert witness report on his behalf.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude the testimony of this expert.

Discussion: Bishop is a licensed professional counselor and is being proffered as an expert in this case to testify on the plaintiff’s alleged emotional distress, which includes anxiety and depression, and other related damages.  Bishop earned a bachelor of science degree in social work and a master of science in professional counseling.  She is also certified to diagnose based on the DSM-IV.  Bishop has never published in the area of psychology or counseling and has never conducted any research in the area.  Her expert report was produced in the form of a two-page letter.  Bishop’s conclusions are based on interactions that she and the plaintiff had as a result of their friendship and not as a result of the plaintiff being seen by Bishop in a professional setting.  She has not diagnosed the plaintiff.

The defendants argue that Bishop’s testimony should be excluded because she has no specialized knowledge, skill, training, or education relating to diagnosing anxiety or depression, and that doing so is beyond the bounds of her expertise.  The court disagrees, stating that Bishop does have the relevant experience, education, and training to diagnose the plaintiff with anxiety and depression and that any arguments by the defendant go to the weight of the testimony and not the admissibility.

The defendants also argue that Bishop’s testimony does not show 1) that she used any methodology to diagnose the plaintiff and 2) that the relationship between the how the testing was conducted and the underlying methodology was adequate.  Bishop does admit that she did not follow the same diagnostic procedures that one would normally follow when properly diagnosing a patient.  Thus, the court agrees with the defendant that Bishop’s methods are not reliable and that her testimony should be excluded.  The court, however, did state that Bishop will be able to testify as a lay witness in this case.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Theresa M. Bishop is granted.