Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part in Employment Case

The plaintiff hired an Emergency Medicine Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.

Facts:  This case (Frye v. Hamilton County Hospital et al – United States District Court – Northern District of Iowa – June 7th, 2019) involves the termination of the plaintiff’s employment and the events that were leading up to and following the termination.  The plaintiff claims that the defendant hospital violated the plaintiff’s right to be free from unreasonable searches under the Iowa and United States Constitution.  In addition, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant violated part of the Iowa code by terminating the plaintiff for refusing a drug test.  The plaintiff has hired Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Dr. David Stilley to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Dr. Stilley is a certified medical review officer and has received training regarding behaviors that would see the need to warrant a reasonable suspicion drug test as part of his training.  Dr. Stilley relies on his knowledge and experience as an emergency medicine physician treating patients with drug and alcohol abuse for when he believes a reasonable suspicion drug test is appropriate.

The defendant argues that two portions of Dr. Stilley’s expert opinions should be excluded.  Specifically, that 1) the hospital did not have reasonable suspicion to request the plaintiff to submit to a drug test and 2) the hospital was legally required to look for a reasonable drug test immediately after witnessing the erratic behavior that justified the test.  The defendant argues that these opinions should be excluded as they are improper legal conclusions and because Dr. Stilley’s methodology is unreliable.

The defendant argues that the Dr. Stilley’s opinions about reasonable suspicion are improper legal conclusions that invade the province of the judge and jury.   The plaintiff states that Dr. Stilley’s opinions are not legal conclusions, but rather expert opinions as to the meaning of “reasonable suspicion” as it is used by human resources professionals and medical review officers.  The court opines that Dr. Stilley’s opinions about the defendant’s lack of reasonable suspicion and that the defendant hospital violated the policy should be excluded as they are legal conclusions.

The court also notes that even if Dr. Stilley’s opinions are not legal conclusions, the court would be obligated to exclude his opinions under the Federal Rule of Evidence 403, in that its probative value is outweighed by a danger of misleading the jury.

The court opines that Dr. Stilley may still render an opinion that the plaintiff’s behavior might have been the result of issues other than drugs and alcohol and that the plaintiff’s behaviors were not consistent with the use of drugs or alcohol.

Conclusion: The motion to exclude Dr. David Stilley from testifying is granted in part and denied in part