Oncology Expert Witness Testimony Partly Allowed in Cancer Lab Employment Case

Summary: Oncology Expert Witness testimony granted in part even though the defendant argued that the expert does not have experience in T-32 NIH training grants

Facts:  This case (DURANDO v. THE TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA – United States District Court – Eastern District of Pennsylvania – July 6th, 2022) involves a claim of retaliation.  The plaintiff, Michael Durando, alleges that he was constructively discharged from his position as a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania because he believed that a colleague was discriminated against by her lab supervisor due to her pregnancy and that his supervisor was misusing federal grant monies.  In support of his claim, Durando hired Oncology Expert Witness Dr. Lynn R. Hlatky to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Penn argues that Hlatky’s experience does not allow her to testify about the T-32 training grant as her experience only covers research grants. However, the court notes that the defendant has not provided any evidence that there is a difference between a training grant and a research grant.  To be sure, the court also states that Hlatky has been a principal in many grants that have a training component.  Thus, the court opines that Hlatky is qualified to provide expert witness testimony in this particular case.

The defendant also maintains that Hlatky’s testimony is not reliable.  The court states that Hlatky testified that she wrote her report based on her knowledge and experience in the area of the T-32.  The court opines that Hlatky’s expert witness testimony meets the reliability threshold due to her experience with grants and cancer research as well as her knowledge of NIH grant procedures and processes.

However, the court does relay that 2 passages of Hlatky’s expert report will be stricken because they do not have any connection to her expertise and bases these opinions on her reading of unspecific case documents.  The court does state that any challenges to the weight of her report go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.  In addition, the court opines that Hlatky’s expert witness testimony would be useful to the jury with respect to NIH grants and how the research labs operate.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of  Dr. Lynn R. Hlatky is granted in part and denied in part.