Interpreters Expert Witness Expert Testimony Allowed in Part

Plaintiff, on behalf of 2 individuals with hearing impairments, filed an ADA suit against the defendant.  The plaintiff hired Heather M. Hughes to provide expert witness testimony and the defendant filed a motion to exclude.  The court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part.

Facts:  This case (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. S&B Industry Inc – United States District Court – Northern District of Texas – January 24th, 2017) involves claims for failure to accommodate and discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  The plaintiff (EEOC) has filed sued on behalf of Katelynn Baker and Tia Rice against the defendant (D&B) alleged that they failed or refused to hire them because of their hearing impairment.  To assist in proving their case, the EEOC has hired Heather M. Hughes (Interpreters Expert Witness) to detail the use of American Sign Language (ASL), how interpreters are used, and other issues of audism.  S&B has filed a motion to exclude Hughes’s testimony.

Discussion:  First, the S&B seeks to exclude testimony related to two of Hughes’s objectives: 1) background information on barriers that deaf and hard of hearing have to navigate; and 2) statistics on how many deaf and hard of hearing need employment.  S&B argues that these opinions are not reliable, not relevant, inadmissible, and have analytical gaps.  The EEOC states that information on the historical barriers that the deaf and hard of hearing face is relevant to the jury. The court agreed with S&B, opining that her opinions on audism and phonocentric view must be more than subjective beliefs or speculation. Regarding the second objective, the court opined that it was neither relevant nor reliable for the same reasons.

In addition, S&B has moved to exclude Hughes’s testimony specific to objective 3, which was about determining the type of hearing aids that would be suitable to deaf and hard of hearing individuals during employment.  S&B argues that this opinion is not helpful or relevant to the plaintiffs, as they are profoundly deaf.  The court, on this objective, agreed with the EEOC, stating that her testimony and opinions are relevant to the case.

In addition, S&G argues that Hughes’s opinion is not based on reliable data, is filled with false assumptions, sources which are not identified, and is not within the scope of her report.  EEOC responds that all of these arguments go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility and that they can address any “false assumptions” at trial.  The court agreed with the EEOC, stating that any deficiencies in Hughes’s dat, methodology or assumptions is best addressed at trial.

Also, S&B argues that Hughes’s report is unreliable, irrelevant, and  not admissible because it relies on the false assumption that Baker and Rice sought work at S&B.  Again, the court disagreed.

Conclusion:  The court granted in part and denied in part the defendants motion tot dismiss the expert witness testimony of Heather M. Hughes.