Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Opinion Date: April 22, 2021
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury
Plaintiff filed suit against Intuitive for injuries following a surgical procedure, seeking money damages. After a two-day Daubert hearing, the district court agreed with Intuitive’s position and excluded the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, concluding that the district court erred in its application of the Daubert test and thus improperly entered summary judgment in favor of Intuitive. The court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in finding that perceived deficiencies in the expert’s testimony rendered him unqualified to provide expert testimony in this case. In light of Quiet Tech. DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK Ltd., 326 F.3d 1333, 1342 (11th Cir. 2003), the court concluded that the expert is qualified to perform a differential etiology on a patient who suffered a thermal injury during a hysterectomy performed with a da Vinci robot not because of his familiarity with the robot, but because of his familiarity with differential etiologies in the context of gynecological procedures. As such, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard, and thus abused its discretion. Even if the court were to ignore the district court’s manifestly erroneous ruling that conflated the reliability and qualifications prongs, the court would still be obliged to reverse, as the district court imposed an admissibility standard on expert qualifications that was “too high.” The court concluded that the district court improperly based its evidentiary determinations on the weight and persuasiveness of the evidence and that the Federal Rule of Evidence 702 does not impose any such requirements. Therefore, the expert was qualified to testify regarding the standard of care in hysterectomy procedures and the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. On remand, the court directed that the case be assigned to a different judge.
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