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Herrington v. Elliot-Blakeslee, et al.

Area of Law:

Torts. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prisoner civil rights, Eight and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff Herrington sued two doctors from the correctional institution where he was incarcerated for violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, alleging failure to provide medical care.

Grounds:

Plaintiff moved to strike defendants’ expert testimony based on “conflict of interest” and potential bias.

Outcome:

Denied.

Analysis:

Plaintiff argued that defendants’ expert opinion was colored by a “conflict of interest” giving rise to potential bias because of his employment by the Oregon Department of Corrections (O.D.O.C.), the organization managing the correctional institution where the plaintiff was held and which employed the defendant doctors.

The court denied the motion, holding that the mere fact the expert was employed by O.D.O.C. and retained by defendant did not demonstrate bias.  If credibility issues exist, vigorous cross-examination at trial, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the “traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” FED. R. EVID. 702, Advisory Committee Notes (2000) (quotation omitted).  According to the expert’s declaration, based on his education and experience, the expert would apply reliable principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Furthermore, bias alone is not grounds for evidentiary exclusion. The expert was not controlled by defendant and was bound, as are all witnesses, to testify truthfully.