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Allen King and Bruce King, As Administrators of the Estate of Roger King v. Eric Taylor

May 8, 2013

ALLEN KING AND BRUCE KING, AS ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF ROGER KING
PLAINTIFFS
v.
ERIC TAYLOR, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AS A KENTUCKY STATE TROOPER DEFENDANT



OPINION & ORDER

This matter is before the Court upon the motion in limine of the Plaintiffs, Allen King and Bruce King, as Administrators of the Estate of Roger King ("Plaintiffs"), to exclude the testimony of Lt. Bobby Day of the Kentucky State Police ("KSP") pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharamaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), and Federal Rule of Evidence 702 [DE #75]. This motion is fully briefed and is ripe for review.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 25, 2009, in Boyle County, Kentucky, KSP Trooper Eric Taylor and officers from the Boyle County Sheriff's Office attempted to serve an emergency protective order and an arrest warrant on Roger King ("King"). However, when the officers went to serve the EPO and arrest warrant on King at his home, King did not answer the front door or a side door. The officers moved to the rear of the house and saw a set of double-paned glass doors at the top of the porch that provided a line of sight to the interior of the house. Through the glass doors, one of the officers saw King lying down on a couch with a blanket partially covering him. With Trooper Taylor providing cover, one of the other officers approached the glass door, knocked loudly, announced that he was with the Sheriff's Department and called for King to come to the door, while also pressing his shoulder against the door pane so that his reflective Boyle County Sheriff's Office patch would be visible through the glass, and illuminating the interior of the home with his hand-held flashlight. Trooper Taylor alleges that, upon seeing the police officers at the rear of his house, King sat up on his couch, looked at the officers angrily, retrieved a large, fully-loaded firearm (a Taurus Judge revolver) from his left side and turned toward the officers, pointing his weapon at them. Trooper Taylor alleges that he responsively fired his M-16 at King. King died of the gunshot wound. Plaintiffs do not contest that King had a gun with him on the couch. Rather, Plaintiffs argue that Taylor shot King from King's back porch while King was lying on his couch. According to Plaintiffs, King was not extending a gun in the officers' direction and may have been sleeping when he was shot.

Plaintiffs filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the following claims against Trooper Taylor: (1) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution (Count I); (2) assault and battery (Count II); and (3) negligence (Count III) [DE #1]. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Trooper Taylor [Id.].

Trooper Taylor has identified Lt. Bobby Day as an expert to testify in this matter. According to his expert report, Lt. Day will testify that Trooper Taylor acted in accordance with his training and accepted police practices during the execution of the warrant and EPO against King [DE #75-3].

However, Plaintiffs argue that testimony that an officer violated, or complied with, a department's policies and procedures is irrelevant and inadmissible in an excessive force case. Plaintiffs argue that the fundamental question for the jury in this case is whether Taylor exercised excessive force and violated King's constitutional and statutory rights. According to Plaintiffs, because Lt. Day testified that he was not offering any opinions as to whether Trooper Taylor's actions complied with the Constitution, he cannot be permitted to testify.

II. RULE 702 AND THE SUPREME COURT'S HOLDINGS IN DAUBERT AND KUMHO TIRE Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence states the requirements for admissibility of expert

testimony:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, 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; the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (3) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed.R.Evid. 702. Generally, this rule "should be broadly interpreted on the basis of whether the use of expert testimony will assist the trier of fact." Morales v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., 151 F.3d 505, 516 (6th Cir. 1998). "[U]nder the Rules the trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). As the Supreme Court stated in Daubert:

Faced with a proffer of expert scientific testimony, then, the trial judge must determine at the outset, pursuant to Rule 104(a), whether the expert is proposing to testify to (1) scientific knowledge that (2) will assist the trier of fact to understand or determine a fact in issue. This entails a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts at issue.

Id. at 592-93. The proponent of expert testimony must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the testimony is reliable, not that it is scientifically correct. Id. at 593; Fed.R.Evid. 104(a).

In determining whether to admit or exclude proffered expert testimony, the court must act as a "gatekeeper" to ensure that the expert is duly qualified to render an expert opinion, that his testimony will assist the trier of fact, and that the proffered testimony is reliable. Id. In Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999), the Supreme Court clarified that this "gatekeeper" function applies to all expert testimony, not just scientific testimony. Id. at 147 (explaining that Rule 702 makes "no relevant distinction between 'scientific' knowledge and 'technical' or 'other specialized' knowledge. It makes clear that any such knowledge might become the subject of expert testimony."). However, the court's gatekeeper role under Daubert "is not intended to supplant the adversary system or the role of the jury." Allison v. McGhan, 184 F.3d 1300, 1311 (11th Cir. 1999). See also United States v. 14.3 Acres of Land Situated in LeFloure County, Mississippi, 80 F.3d 1074, 1078 (5th Cir. 1996)(The Court is mindful that its "role as gatekeeper is not intended to serve as a replacement for the adversary system."). Rather, "[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking [debatable] but admissible evidence." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596. In addition, the Court should be mindful of the definition of relevance provided by FRE 401: "Evidence is relevant if: (a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action." Fed.R.Evid. 401. "The Rules' basic standard of relevance thus is a liberal one." Daubert, 509 U.S. at 587.

In 2000, Rule 702 was amended in response to Daubert and cases applying it, such as Kumho Tire. It affirms the trial court's role as gatekeeper and provides general standards for the trial court to use to assess the reliability and helpfulness of proffered expert testimony. Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 702. In fact, the advisory comments to the 2000 amendments to Rule 702 note that "[a] review of the case law after Daubert shows that the rejection of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule." Advisory Committee ...


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