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Mercado v. Dep't of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 14, 2019

DEP'T OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff filed his action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in September 2016. See [Dkt. 1 (Compl.)]. Plaintiff's remaining claims, set to be tried before a jury in March 2019, are deliberate indifference and First Amendment retaliation. The Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the facts and procedural history of this case and lays out only the facts necessary for this ruling.

         Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim relates to Defendants Dr. Frayne and Dr. Gagne's re-diagnosis of Plaintiff with antisocial and narcissistic personality disorders and termination of the medications Plaintiff had previously been receiving for bi-polar disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”). Plaintiff claims that by failing to provide him with appropriate treatment and medication for bi-polar disorder, Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need, causing him injury. Before the Court now is Defendants' Motion in Limine to preclude testimony from the Plaintiff regarding medical and mental health causation, future medical needs, and permanency of injury. See [Dkt. 162 (Mot. in Limine)].

         Motion in Limine Standard

         The purpose of a motion in limine is to “aid the trial process by enabling the Court to rule in advance of trial on the relevance of certain forecasted evidence, as to issues that are definitely set for trial, without lengthy argument at, or interruption of, the trial.” Palmieri v. Defaria, 88 F.3d 136, 141 (2d Cir. 1996). Evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Levinson v. Westport Nat'l Bank, No. 3:09-cv-1955 (VLB), 2013 WL 3280013, at *3 (D. Conn. 2013). A court's ruling regarding a motion in limine “is subject to change when the case unfolds . . . Indeed even if nothing unexpected happens at trial, the district judge is free, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, to alter a previous in limine ruling.” Palmieri, 88 F.3d at 139 (quoting Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 41-42 (1984)).


         To make a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, Plaintiff must show that his medical need was serious and that Defendants acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Smith v. Carpenter, 316 F.3d 178, 184 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 492 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). This includes both an objective component and a subjective component. First, the alleged deprivation must objectively be “sufficiently serious.” Wilson v. Shafer, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). Here, the parties agree that failure to provide treatment for bipolar disorder could constitute a serious deprivation. Second, Defendants must have been subjectively aware of a substantial risk that the inmate would suffer serious harm as a result of their actions or inactions. Salahuddin v. Goord, 467 F.3d 262, 279-80 (2d Cir. 2006). Here, Defendants assert that they believed that Plaintiff was not bipolar, while Plaintiff asserts that Defendants chose to deliberately ignore his prior diagnosis in favor of new diagnoses that required less intense medical supervision. At trial, Plaintiff will have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. Blake v. Coughlin, 205 F.3d 1321, 1 (2d Cir. 2000).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Defendants move to preclude Plaintiff from testifying about “medical or mental health causation of his alleged injuries, the extent of his injuries, his future medical needs or permanency of injury.” [Dkt. 162 at 5-6]. Defendants argue that such testimony “goes beyond the field of ordinary knowledge and experience of judges and jurors” and therefore is not appropriate testimony from a lay witness. Id. at 6. Defendants point out that Plaintiff has not disclosed any experts as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(A) and posit that, as a result, Plaintiff may not offer any expert testimony on the aforementioned topics. Id.

         Plaintiff represents that he does not intend to testify about medical or mental health causation, the medical bases of diagnoses, the need for future treatment, or the consequences of lack of treatment. [Dkt. 171 at 2-3]. Rather, Plaintiff plans to testify as to the fact of previous and subsequent diagnoses and his injuries. Id. As such, Plaintiff contends that Defendants' motion does not apply to Plaintiff's testimony. Id. at 3.

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 allows “[a] witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, training, or education” to provide opinion or other testimony under certain circumstances. Generally, Rule 26(a)(2)(A) requires a party to disclose its expert witnesses by a certain date. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(A). There is an exception to the disclosure requirement for treating physicians who, even when not disclosed, may provide certain testimony, as discussed further supra at Section B. On the other hand, a regular fact witness may testify to matters of which the witness has personal knowledge and for which a foundation has been laid. See Fed. R. Evid. 602. Further, a lay, non-expert, witness may testify in the form of an opinion if that opinion is limited to one that is “(a) rationally based on the witness's perception; (b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness's testimony or determining a fact in issue; and (c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.” Fed.R.Evid. 701.

         The parties seem to agree, as does the Court, that Plaintiff can testify as to the fact of his alleged injuries, including the past mental health diagnoses and treatment he received and the symptoms Plaintiff experienced both while on those medications and after the medications were halted. [Dkt. 162 (Mot. in Limine) at 3; Dkt. 171 (Opp'n Mot. in Limine) at 3]. Plaintiff may provide such testimony with a foundation which supports a finding that Plaintiff has personal knowledge of these matters. See Fed. R. Evid. 602. This testimony can include Plaintiff's “own perceptions, including the physical and emotional effects” Plaintiff experienced at certain times. See Coleman v. Tinsley, No. 1:10-cv-327, 2012 WL 728310, at *6 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 6, 2012) (holding that plaintiff could “testify about his own perception of his physical and mental health, before and after the incident, which includes recounting any pain, fear, or anxiety he experienced during those times”).

         The parties also seem to agree that Plaintiff may not testify as to medical causation, future medical needs, or permanency of injury, as these issues require scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge, which Plaintiff lacks. [Dkt. 162 at 3; Dkt. 171 at 3]. Plaintiff does not intend to testify on these topics according to his opposition to the motion in limine. See [Dkt. 171 at 3]. As such, there seems to be no dispute between the parties regarding Plaintiff's testimony.

         The Court agrees with the parties on the parameters of admissible and inadmissible testimony from Plaintiff. While Plaintiff may serve as a fact witness testifying based on his personal knowledge about the diagnoses he received and his mental and physical conditions over time, testimony from Plaintiff regarding technical medical information and as to causation of his injuries would be improper here. Specifically, Plaintiff is not qualified to testify about the bases for his mental health diagnoses or whether the withdrawal of Plaintiff's bi-polar disorder medication caused any injuries he claims. See Fed. R. Evid. 701; Fed.R.Evid. 702; United States v. Cravens, 275 F.3d 637, 641 (7th Cir. 2001) (“Although a lay person may readily observe a [health] problem, the causation of a mental disease or defect is a more technical medical determination such that a court would find expert testimony particularly useful to its ultimate decision.”)). This is because such testimony requires specialized knowledge and training which Plaintiff does not have. Plaintiff can only “lay the groundwork for the jury to infer ...

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