Epidemiology Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Prison COVID Class Action Case

Overview: Epidemiology Expert Witness testimony allowed even though the defendants argued that the expert only relied on a small set of documents to form his opinion.

Facts: This case (Maney et al v. Brown et al – United States District Court – District of Oregon – April 19th, 2024) involves a class action against the State of Oregon and other officials at the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC).  The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated their Eighth Amendment rights by not protecting them from exposure to COVID.  In addition, the plaintiffs allege negligence and wrongful death against the defendants.  Among others, the plaintiff hired Epidemiology Expert Witness Dr. David Fleming to provide expert witness testimony.  The plaintiffs filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The defendants argue that Dr. Fleming’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he relied on a small set of documents that were produced in discovery and did not conduct an independent investigation.  The defendants also allege that Dr. Flemming “skimmed” some of the documents that were provided to him.  The court opines that the plaintiffs have met their burden that Dr. Fleming’s testimony is based on enough facts to move forward.  The court also states that Fleming reviewed a significant number of documents to form his expert opinion.

In addition, the defendants argue that Dr. Fleming’s testimony about building ventilation should be excluded because he does not have experience, education or training in HVAC issues.  The court disagrees, stating that Dr. Fleming is an expert in matters of public health and epidemiology, and does not put himself forward as being an expert in ventilation.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Dr. David Fleming is denied.