Correctional Healthcare Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part

The estate of man who died while in prison filed suit against the nurses and county.  The plaintiffs hired a correctional healthcare expert witness and the defendants filed a motion to exclude the testimony.

Facts: This case (Lee v. Jackson Mississippi – United States District Court – Southern District of Mississippi – January 3rd, 2017) involves the death of John Morris Lee, Jr. while he was incarcerated at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center (ADC).  Mr. Lee was reportedly having a seizure and was found not responsive and gasping for breath.  He subsequently passed away.  Mr. Lee’s estate brought this lawsuit against numerous defendants arguing that they were at fault in his death.  In order to prove their case, the plaintiffs hired Dr. Lori E. Roscoe (correctional healthcare expert witness).  Dr. Roscoe will offer opinions which address the procedures taken by the defendants and will discuss proper procedures that should have been followed based on national standards.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude certain of Dr. Roscoe’s opinions.

Discussion: The defendants argue that four opinions by Dr. Roscoe should be excluded:  1) that Jona Crowley was indifferent regarding Lee’s medical needs; 2) that Jackson County did not monitor the healthcare provided at the ADC; 3) that Jackson County did not ensure that the staff had the correct policies and procedures; and 4) that Jackson County did not endure that the staff were properly trained.

The defendants argue that Roscoe’s expert testimony should be excluded because she only offered bare conclusions and that she she is not qualified.

The court agreed with the defendants opining that Dr. Roscoe’s conclusion that Crowley was deliberately indifferent will be excluded as it is a legal conclusion. In addition, the court continued, even if this expert opinion was admissible, its probative value is outweighed by the dangers of confusing and misleading the jury.  Regarding the defendants’ arguments on the sufficiency of evidence to support Dr. Roscoe’s opinions, this goes more to the weight of the evidence, rather than the admissibility.

The other argument, that Dr. Roscoe is not qualified to offer opinions on medical causation was granted.  Dr. Roscoe appears to offer medical causation opinions by stating that Crowley’s failure to to use care directly contributed to the death of Mr. Morris.  In addition, Dr. Roscoe further opined that the “Jackson County Administration” failed to monitor the healthcare services provided by the staff, failed to ensure that the staff had current policies and procedures intact, and failed the ensure that the staff was properly trained.  This caused the death Mr. Morris. Under Mississippi law, nursing experts cannot opine on medical causation.

The plaintiffs argue that Dr. Roscoe’s conclusions do not reach into complex medical issues and that she reiterated the opinion of the forensic pathologist.  The court disagreed, stating that an unqualified expert does not become qualified because she adopted another’s opinion. The court opined that Dr. Roscoe is not qualified to offer medical causation opinions and, to be sure, the Plaintiffs did not actually designate Dr. Roscoe as a medical causation expert.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Roscoe is granted in part and denied in part.