Medical Toxicology Expert Witness Testimony Allowed by Federal Court

Summary: The court ruled that a Medical Toxicology Expert Witness is able to testify in a case involving a possible erratic patient.

Facts: This case (Ashley v. Bridgeport et al – United States District Court – District of Connecticut – July 22nd, 2020) involves an incident where the plaintiff, Ashley, was transported by ambulance to St. Vincent’s Medical Center via the Bridgeport police station. The two parties disagree as to whether the plaintiff’s behavior was combative and erratic and whether taking him to the hospital for psychiatric services was warranted.

The defendant has hired Medical Toxicology Expert Witness Joel R. Milzoff, Ph.D. to provide testimony about the results of toxicology tests performed on the plaintiff.

Ashley states that Milzoff is not qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this case because he is not a medical doctor nor a psychiatrist. He also says that Dr. Milzoff is unqualified to testify on human behavior because of the complex situation of this case.  Ashley also says that Dr. Milzoff does not have any medical or scientific training and no experience assessing real-time toxicology impact on human behavior and is not qualified to render any medical expert opinion on the complex issues of this case.

The court opines, however, that Dr. Milzoff is not offering an expert opinion about the condition of Ashley on the day in question, or how Ashley actually behaved.  The court notes that Milzoff is providing an opinion about the consistency of certain behavior with the effects on a person of the drugs shown in the toxicology results.

The court thus explains that, as a forensic toxicologist, Dr. Milzoff is qualified to provide testimony in this case.  In addition, the court notes that Dr. Milzoff’s opinion will assist the trier of fact to determine a fact in issue.  Also, the court states that Dr. Milzoff’s expert witness testimony that Ashley’s reported behavior is consistent with the typical effects of toxicities detected in the plaintiff’s system will be helpful in resolving that issue of fact.

The court also notes that Dr. Milzoff’s testimony is based on sufficient facts and data. Dr. Milzoff stated that he relied on toxicology testing by St. Vincents in addition to the reports from the defendant officers and medical professionals involved about Ashley’s behavior and medical treatment.  

Ashley avers that Milzoff’s testimony should be excluded because it does not include the fact that some of the defendant officers reported smelling alcohol on his breath and does not consider video evidence from the Bridgeport police station.

The court opines that with respect to the smell of alcohol, the toxicology results did not show alcohol in Ashley’s system so it is reasonable that Dr. Milzoff would not opine on the presence of alcohol in a person where there was no evidence of alcohol.  

Last, the court opines that there is no dispute that Dr. Milzoff’s expert witness testimony is a result of reliable principles and methods and that he reliably applied those principles and methods to the facts of the case. 

Conclusion:  The court opined that the motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Milzoff is denied and that his testimony should be allowed.