Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed an indictment against defendant related to an unlawful distribution of controlled substances.  Plaintiff hired an Emergency Medicine Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert testimony.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts: This case (United States v. Shelton – United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan – March 15th, 2019) involves a 21-count Indictment against the plaintiff.  The Indictment involves an unlawful distribution of controlled substances.  Count seven claims that the defendant’s prescription of oxycodone for a patient, DH, resulted in DH’s death.  The United States has hired Dr. Stacey Hail (Emergency Medicine Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Hail.

Discussion:  Dr. Hail has been hired to testify that DH would not have died but for the oxycodone prescribed by the defendant.

The defendant does not challenge Dr. Hail’s qualifications as an expert, focusing instead on the methodology and the content of her report as a basis to exclude her testimony.  To be sure, the court opines that Dr. Hail has the appropriate training and background to opine on opioid use and overdose deaths.  Dr. Hail is an emergency room physician, a toxicologist, and a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern and she is a published expert on opioid-related deaths.  In addition, she has testified seven times as an expert in federal court regarding toxicology and opioid overdoses.

The defendant challenges the differential diagnosis methodology provided by Dr. Hail regarding her opinion that DH’s death was the result of the defendant prescribing oxycodone.  The defendant alleges that Dr. Hart’s conclusion was not based on established. peer-reviewed, scientific methodology.  The United States responds by opining that differential diagnosis is used every day by all physicians to diagnose their patients’ medical problems.

Dr. Hail opines that he is aware of the “but-for” standard in drug related deaths and ruled out numerous possible causes of death.  The Government argues that Dr. Hail’s review of numerous documents related to the case as well as the differential diagnosis, were integral in forming the basis of her medical opinion that an oxycodone overdose due to the distribution  of the drug was the most likely cause of DH’s death.

The defendant argues that Dr. Hail did not address other possibilities, such that the missing pills may have been diverted rather than consumed, such as being traded for heroin.  The Government counters by stating that Dr. Hail considered heroin overdose, as DH’s blood was tested and there was no heroin metabolite in his blood.  The Government also argues that the defendant’s argument about what Dr. Hail did not consider does not necessarily disqualify her, as Dr. Hail applied her specialized knowledge and training to consider the facts.

The court notes that to the extent that the defendant raises any challenges in his motion, those can appropriately be raised on cross-examination of Dr. Hail.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Stacey Hail is denied.