Genetics Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Blood Consent Litigation

Summary:  Genetics Expert Witness allowed to testify despite the Defendant’s claim that her testimony on informed consent would not assist the trier of fact.

Facts:  This case (Kanuszewski v. Shah – United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan – February 3rd, 2022) involves a 1983 claim regarding Michigan’s Newborn Screening Program.  The plaintiffs allege that the defendants violated their Fourteenth Amendment Rights by taking blood from their babies and using the blood without their consent. In order to prove their case, the plaintiff’s have hired Genetics Expert Witness Professor Sonia Suter to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant’s have filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: According to the plaintiffs, Professor Suter will provide an expert opinion about informed consent in newborn screening programs. In addition, Suter will contrast the costs and benefits of an opt-out consent system to those of an opt-in consent system.

The court opines that Suter has the experience, skill, and education to provide expert testimony on methods of obtaining consent in a healthcare setting.  The defendant’s argue that Professor Suter’s expert witness testimony is not helpful to the trier of fact.  They state that because Suter is a “Law Professor”, she does not have the scientific knowledge that will help the court understand the underlying issues in this case.  The court notes that Suter is not just a “Law Professor”, but a “titan in her field” and that district courts often allow law professors to testify in cases like these.

The defendant’s also argue that Suter’s testimony regarding an alternative method of obtaining consent should be excluded because she focuses more on the desired remedy and not the plaintiff’s injury.  The court rules that both parties are challenging the aspects of consent in this case and issues still remain on that claim, so this part of the motion to exclude should be dismissed.

The judge also opines that Suter’s expert witness opinion methods are reliable and recognized in the scientific community and the Defendant’s have not offered any evidence to counter these opinions. In addition, the Defendant’s arguments on the sufficiency of empirical testing go to the weight of the testimony and should be brought up during cross-examination.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Sonia Suter is denied.