Psychology Expert Witness Expert Witness Testimony Excluded

Plaintiff sued insurance company defendant for denying a long term disability claim.  The plaintiff hired a psychology expert witness to assist in his case.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert testimony.  The court granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Pogue v. The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company – United States District Court – Western District of Kentucky – September 22nd, 2017) involves the denial of benefits by an insurance company.  The Plaintiff (“Pogue”) filed a long term disability claim with the Defendant (“Northwestern Mutual”) stating that he suffered from a severe anxiety disorder.  Northwestern denied the claim and Pogue filed suit.  To help with his case, Pogue hired Dr. Michael Cecil (psychology expert witness).  Northwestern Mutual filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Cecil.

Discussion:  Dr. Ceceil was retained to provide an expert medical opinion on Dr. Pogue’s ability to perform his duties as a physician from November 12th,, 2012 to date.  Dr. Cecil opined that Dr. Pogue has a moderate brain functioning disability, is not able to return to work as a physician, the cause of his disability is organic in nature, and his limitations have been present since November 9th, 2012.

Northwestern Mutual filed a motion to exclude Dr. Cecil’s expert witness opinion stating that he doesn’t have the proper qualifications to opine about Dr. Pogue’s neuropsychological issues and because his opinions are not reliable.

The court disagreed with Northwestern Mutual regarding Dr. Cecil’s qualifications.  The court noted that Dr. Cecil completed an internship in clinical psychology on a neuropsychology track, served as a neuropsychologist at Frazier Rehab Institute and Columbus Regional Hospital, and is currently the president and CEO of Louisville Neuropsychology.  The court also noted that even though he not board certified in neuropsychology, this does not disqualify him from testifying in this case.  The court thus determined that Dr. Cecil is qualified to provide expert testimony for the Plaintiff.

Northwestern Mutual also argued that Dr. Cecil’s are not reliable, stating that he does not have a scientific or factual basis to opine that Dr. Pogue’s neuropsychological issues were caused by brain trauma, that these issues make him incapable of returning to work, and that the deficits have been present since November 2012.   The court did agree with these arguments.

First, the court stated that Dr. Pogue did not give a history of traumatic brain history to the Defendant.  The court also opined that Dr. Cecil’s conclusions are a working hypothesis and do not pass muster under Rule 702.  In addition, the court stated that Dr. Cecil’s conclusion that Dr. Pogue is not capable of returning to the practice of medicine is based on his finding that Dr. Pogue suffers from brain trauma, which the court already excluded.  In addition, Dr. Cecil’s conclusion that Dr. Pogue’s condition has existed since November 2012 is also based on the first excluded opinion.  Thus, all three parts of this motion to exclude were granted.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Michael Cecil was granted.