Dogs Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part

Plaintiff filed a section 1983 claim against defendants related to the killing of her dog.  Plaintiff hired a Dogs Expert Witness to provide testimony, which was challenged by the defendants.  The court granted the motion to exclude in part and granted it in part.

Facts:  This case (Zorich v. St. Louis County et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Missouri – August 21st, 2018) involves a section 1983 claim stemming from the execution of a search warrant at the plaintiff’s home.  The plaintiff’s claim that the defendants violated her rights when they entered her home to execute a search warrant and killed her dog.  The plaintiff has hired Dogs Expert Witness James W. Crosby to provide testimony on her behalf.  The defendants have filed motions to exclude this expert witness from testifying.

Discussion: Crosby is currently the Chief of Animal care and Protective Services for the City of Jacksonville, Florida.  He trains police and animal control agencies concerning dangerous dogs, dog aggression, and using force in encounters with dogs.  He also trains in the investigation in serious dog attached on human victims.  In his report, Crosby opines that there was no reason to enter the property, that the forcible entry was “objectively unjustified, which created a danger to the occupants of the home, their dog, and the police officers.  In addition, Crosby states that the police tactical unit failed to follow its own policies of gathering intelligence before serving a search warrant.

The defendants argue that Crosby’s opinions related to the St. Louis municipal code and administrative search warrants should be excluded because he is not qualified to give them.  Also, the defendants state that Crosby’s opinions about the defendants’ use of the TAC team to execute a dynamic, no-knock entry at the residence in question should be excluded because he does not have the qualifications to do so and his testimony will not assist the trier of fact.

The court opines that the plaintiff did not demonstrate that Crosby has any specialized or technical knowledge that would aid the jury in understanding issues related to the St. Louis municipal code, administrative search warrants, the usage of the TAC team, and the execution of search warrants.  Thus, the court grants this part of the motion.

The defendants also allege that Crosby’s opinions about the reasonableness of the defendants actions are legal conclusions and aid the jury’s province.  The court agrees, opining that Crosby cannot offer legal conclusions that touch upon the ultimate legal issue in this case.  Crosby will be allowed to offer testimony that will help the jury understand best practices for canine interactions, particularly those that involve aggressive dogs and whether the dog in this case acted aggressively.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of James W. Crosby is granted in part and denied in part.