Public Opinion & Survey Research Expert Witness Allowed in Fair Housing Act Litigation

Summary:  Public Opinion & Survey Research Expert Witness testimony allowed in Fair Housing Act case even though his expertise is in mixed methods and not specifically social sciences.

Facts:  This case (National Fair Housing Alliance et al v. Bank of America, National Association et al – United States District Court – District of Maryland – February 8th, 2023) involves a claim of violation of the Fair Housing Act.  The plaintiffs allege that Bank of America and Safeguard’s management of certain properties has a statistically significant racial disparity, which is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.  To help with their case, the plaintiffs hired four experts to provide expert witness testimony.  One of those experts is Public Opinion & Survey Research Expert Witness Dr. Michael D. Fetters.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Dr. Fetters was retained to provide his expertise in social science research to the arguments in this case.  The defendants state that Dr. Fetter’s testimony as his expertise in mixed methods research methodology is not relevant to the current case, which deals in quantitative, not qualitative, data.  The court stated that the plaintiffs offered Dr. Fetter as an expert in “social science research and methodology” and that is what his report is about.  The court goes on to say that his specialization in mixed methods research does not disqualify him from providing an expert opinion in general social science methodology.

To be sure, the court opined that the mixed methods study is one that is employed generally in social sciences and that some studies are qualitative and some are quantitative.  In addition, the court stated that Dr. Fetters is providing his expert opinion on the study as a whole and not just the quantitative piece of the methodology.  Also, the judge stated that any other arguments about the scope of Dr. Fetters’ expertise goes to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Fetters is denied.