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Doe v. Pike

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 25, 2019

JANE DOE, by and through her friend, KIM PIKE, Plaintiff,
v.
BARBARA PIKE, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff,
v.
KIM PIKE and BRIAN MCCORMICK, Third-Party Defendants.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         Background

         John Pike (“J. Pike”) sexually assaulted his granddaughter, Plaintiff Jane Doe, multiple times between 2007 and 2010. Jane Doe sued J. Pike for those assaults in this Court. Default judgment was entered against J. Pike and Jane Doe was awarded damages. Jane Doe, by and through her friend, Kim Pike (“Plaintiff”) now brings claims for negligent supervision (Count I) and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count II) against her grandmother, Barbara Pike (“B. Pike” or “Defendant”). The gravamen of Plaintiff’s claim is that B. Pike either was, or should have been, aware of J. Pike’s abusive behavior, and should have taken steps to prevent it. B. Pike has filed a Third-Party Complaint against Kim Pike and Brian McCormick, Jane Doe’s parents, alleging claims for contribution.

         B, Pike has provided Plaintiff with a report by a Dr. Renee Sorrentino (“Dr. Sorrentino”) which includes “an expert opinion regarding [J. Pike’s] behavior toward his granddaughter … and whether [B. Pike] had any knowledge about her husband’s sexual offending behavior.” Plaintiff moves to exclude Dr. Sorrentino’s report and testimony for violations of Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 403. B. Pike has filed a motion for summary judgment contending that she is entitled to judgment on Plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law because she did not owe Jane Doe a duty of reasonable care. B.Pike has also filed a motion to strike portions of the Plaintiff/Third Party Defendants’ statement of facts.

         This Order addresses Plaintiff’s Motion To Exclude The Expert Testimony Of Dr. Renee Sorrentino (Docket No. 46) and Defendant, Barbara Pike’s Motion To Strike Portions of Plaintiff and Third-Party Defendants’ Local Rule 56.1 Statement (Docket No. 72). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion to exclude expert testimony is granted, in part, and denied, in part. As to some issues, the Court will reserve ruling until trial. The motion to strike, which was filed under seal[1], is denied for the reasons set forth in the Plaintiff’s opposition, which I find persuasive. The Court will apply these rulings when considering the motion for summary judgment, which remains pending.

         Standard of Review

          “[T]he district court serves as the gatekeeper for expert testimony by ensuring that [it] ... both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Milward v. Rust-Oleum Corp., 820 F.3d 469, 473 (1st Cir. 2016), quoting Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., 509 U.S. 579, 597, 113 S.Ct. 2786 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A district court enjoys substantial discretion to decide whether to admit or exclude relevant expert testimony.” Pages-Ramirez v. Ramirez-Gonzalez, 605 F.3d 109, 115 (1st Cir. 2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). In deciding whether to admit expert testimony, the court must consider

1) whether or not the proposed expert is qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; 2) if the proposed subject matter of the expert opinion properly concerns scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge; and 3) whether the testimony is helpful to the trier of fact, i.e., whether it rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the facts of the case.

Bogosian v. Mercedes-Benz of N. Am., Inc., 104 F.3d 472, 476 (1st Cir. 1997) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

The fundamental question that a court must answer in determining whether a proposed expert’s testimony will assist the trier of fact is whether the untrained layman would be qualified to determine intelligently and to the best degree, the particular issue without enlightenment from those having a specialized understanding of the subject matter involved.

United States v. Shay, 57 F.3d 126, 132 (1st Cir. 1995) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         “Evidence, even if it passes the requirements of Rule 702, remains subject to Rule 403’s balancing test.” United States v. Tetioukhine, 725 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2013). See also United States v. Rodriguez-Estrada, 877 F.2d 153, 155 (1st Cir. 1989) (“If the evidence brings … unfair prejudice or a cognizable risk of confusing the jury, and [the risk] substantially overbalances any probative value, then the evidence must be excluded.”). Because experts can easily sway juror’s opinions, courts must be especially vigilant in preventing expert testimony from “intrud[ing] into areas that jurors … are uniquely competent to judge.” United States v. Pires, 642 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011); See also Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595, 113 S.Ct. 2786 (“[e]xpert evidence can be both powerful and quite misleading”). “Evidence is generally deemed unfairly prejudicial if it has an undue tendency to prompt a decision by the factfinder on an improper basis.” United States v. Benedetti, 433 F.3d 111, 118 (1st Cir. 2005).

         Discussion

         Dr. Sorrentino’s Report

         The expert report (“Report”) prepared by Dr. Sorrentino is approximately thirty-one (31) pages long. The first five pages summarize Dr. Sorrentino’s qualifications, the purpose of the Report, and the sources used to prepare the Report. The next seven pages summarize Dr. Sorrentino’s individual interviews with J. Pike and B. Pike, followed by a fifteen page “summary of records, ” containing information drawn from police records, disclosure documents, and prior depositions. The last six pages describe Dr. Sorrentino’s answers to four questions posed by B. Pike’s counsel, and her rationale for those answers. The Report concludes with a bibliography, and three attached exhibits: Dr. ...


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