Psychology and Psychiatry Expert Witness Testimony Challenged

Plaintiff filed an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim against his former employer.  Plaintiff and defendant both hired expert witnesses and both filed motions to exclude.  The court denied the motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert and granted in part (taking other parts of the motion under advisement) the motion to exclude the defendant’s expert.

Facts:  This case (Jim David Wagoner v. Lewis Gale Medical Center, LLC – United States District Court – Western District of Virginia – December 8th, 2016) involves an ADA claim against a former employer.   The plaintiff (Wagoner) claims that he was fired from his security officer position with the defendant (Lewis Gale) because of his dyslexia, that Lewis Gale did not accommodate him and terminated him because he sought an accommodation.  Both parties hired expert witnesses to assist in their case.  Wagoner hired Andrea Foutz (Psychology Expert Witness) and Lewis Gale hired Michel P. Gingras (Psychiatry Expert Witness).  Both parties also filed motions to exclude the testimony of the other party’s expert witness.

Discussion: Foutz’s opinions support Wagoner’s claim that he is disabled as she diagnosed him with a learning disability with dyslexia.  Dr. Gingras diagnosed Wagoner with delusional disorder with paranoid features as well as other psychiatric diagnoses.  Dr. Gingras also opined that Wagoner is not credible and that his blaming of his problems on “dyslexia” is a fabrication.

Lewis Gale argues that Foutz is not qualified to offer an expert opinion in this case because she focuses on child and school psychology.  In addition, they claim that her testimony is not reliable because it is not based on sufficient facts or data and that her testing is designed for children.

The court denied all aspects of the defendants motion.  Even though Foutz’s web site appears to show that most of her work is done with children, it also indicates that she accesses persons in college.  Also, the fact that Foutz may focus on children does not mean that she is not qualified to opine on the psychological status of adults.  Also, she evaluated Wagoner over a two day period, reviewed his prior school tests and evaluations, and administered various tests.  There is no indication that these tests are unreliable and can be the subject of cross-examination at trial.

Wagoner argues that Dr. Gingras’s report is unreliable because his examination of Wagoner is overly simplistic and failed to employ industry standard evaluations as Foutz did.  Lewis Gale stated that Gingras was not testing for dyslexia, but rather his ability to perform his job.  The court opined in the favor of Lewis Gale as the fact that Foutz’s report was longer than Gingras’s is not a basis for exclusion.

In addition, Wagoner argues that some of Gingras’s opinions are not relevant and are based on his state of mind, demeanor, and personal life.  He argues that the probative value of this testimony should be excluded because it is outweighed by its unfair prejudice and it has potential for confusing or misleading the jury.  The court agreed, stating that Gingras will not be allowed to testify on Wagoner’s credibility.  In addition, the court opined that they will take the admissibility of his other opinions under advisement.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Foutz is denied.  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Gingras is granted and taken under advisement.