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Hoke v. Anderson

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

May 15, 2019

SARA HOKE, et al.
v.
ROBERT ANDERSON, et al.

          ORDER

          ANDREW W. AUSTIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Exclude Testimony of Dr. Trent Terrell (Dkt. No. 42) and Defendants' Motion to Exclude Testimony of Sara Hoke (Dkt No. 45). The District Court referred the above-motions to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for resolution pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, and Rule 1(c) of Appendix C of the Local Rules.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs, Sara and Amanda Hoke, bring this case against the Defendants, who are officers of the Austin Police Department, after an incident on March 18, 2016. The Plaintiffs were on 6th Street in Austin during the annual SXSW festival when one of the Plaintiffs accidently bumped into another woman. The woman, joined by four or five other women, allegedly became irate and attacked Sara Hoke. Sara's sister, Amanda, attempted to intervene and aid her sister. The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants, without any warning, began deploying chemical spray onto the women, including the Hokes, to break up the fight. The Hokes claim to have heard no commands from the police officers as they were being sprayed. The Hokes were sprayed over large portions of their bodies and did not realize that the police were present until the women who attacked them got up and walked away. The Hokes state that they were in extreme pain because of the burning sensation caused by the chemical agent used by the Defendants. As the Hokes were blinded by the chemical spray, they also did not see two men walk toward them and take their purses. The Hokes allege that the Defendants did not offer to help them despite being in pain, and instead directed the Hokes down the street to a vehicle that transported them to jail. Plaintiffs claim that the Defendants were aware of the pain caused by the chemical spray given their training, but did not provide them any water to wash away the spray. The Hokes allege they were released from jail the next day without their belongings and were only able to wash the chemical spray away after returning home. Based on these events, the Plaintiffs bring § 1983 claims alleging violations of their Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.

         In the motions before the Court, Defendants ask to exclude expert testimony of Dr. Trent Terrell, and Plaintiff Sara Hoke. The Plaintiffs have not responded to either motion.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides the standard for determining the admissibility of expert testimony. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579, 597-98 (1993). It provides:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

         Under Rule 702 and Daubert, the trial court is to act as a “gatekeeper” with regard to expert testimony, to make sure that unreliable expert opinions are not presented to the jury. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93. Daubert and its principles apply to both scientific and non-scientific expert testimony. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147 (1999). “A district court should refuse to allow an expert witness to testify if it finds that the witness is not qualified to testify in a particular field or on a given subject.” Id. To be relevant, “expert testimony [must] ‘assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.'” Pipitone v. Biomatrix, Inc., 288 F.3d 239, 245 (5th Cir. 2002).

         In addition to being qualified, an expert's methodology for developing the basis of his or her opinion must be reliable. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93; Moore v. Ashland Chem. Inc., 151 F.3d 269, 276 (5th Cir. 1998). “The expert's assurances that he [or she] has utilized generally accepted scientific methodology is insufficient.” Moore, 151 F.3d at 276. The party proffering expert testimony has the burden of ...


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