Forensic Psychology Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Sexual Harassment Case

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant related to a sexual harassment claim.  Plaintiff hired a Forensic Psychology Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (Robinson v. Alabama State University – United States District Court – Middle District of Alabama – March 7th, 2019) involves a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.  The plaintiff alleges that she has been subjected to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual discrimination at work.  The plaintiff has hired Forensic Psychology Expert Witness Kale Kirkland, Ph.D. to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Kirkland’s report demonstrates that the plaintiff has suffered emotional distress from the events forming the basis of her claims.  Kirkland issued a report about the plaintiff after conducting a clinical interview and examination, reviewing collateral information, and administering a personality inventory test.  Kirkland’s report shows that the plaintiff exhibits symptoms of depression and anxiety, and continue to experience psychological distress in relation to her period of employment with the defendant.  Thus, Kirkland recommended that the plaintiff look for mental health treatment.

The defendants do not challenge Kirkland’s qualifications, but they seek to exclude her expert opinions on the basis that Kirkland did not employ and scientific technique or specialized skill, that the jury would not be helped by Kirkland’s opinions and that Kirkland has merely offered opinions as to whether the plaintiff is to be believed.

The court opines that Kirkland identifies the scientific techniques that he used, including a clinical overview, a mental status examination, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (“MMPI”).  Thus, the court finds that Kirkland’s opinions are based on solid scientific techniques.

In addition, the plaintiff argues that Kirkland’s opinions do not invade the province of the jury.  The court opines that the testimony may assist the jury and should not be excluded on that basis.

Also, Kirkland made his assessment that the plaintiff gave genuine responses and was not malingering, however, in the context of expressing his opinion that Robinson exhibits symptoms of depression and anxiety and recommending that she seek outpatient mental health treatment.  The court thus opines that an opinion is not objectionable just because it embraced an ultimate issue.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Kale Kirkland is denied.