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Salvani v. Corizon Health, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 29, 2019

CORIZON HEALTH, INC. et al ., Defendants.

          SCOLA JUDGE



         This matter is before the Court on Craig Salvani's (“Plaintiff”) Daubert motion to exclude the expert opinions of Dr. Zawitz, Dr. Stemer, and Dr. Fournier. [D.E. 124]. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.'s (“Wexford”) and Marta Castillo's (“Ms. Castillo”) (collectively, the “Wexford Defendants”) filed a response on August 15, 2019. [D.E. 130]. Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), Josue Jorge Caraballo, M.D. (“Mr. Caraballo”) and Stephanie Loznicka, R.N. (“Ms. Loznicka”) (collectively, the “Corizon Defendants”) filed a separate response on August 16, 2019. [D.E. 141]. Plaintiff did not file a reply to either response and the time to do so has now passed. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion is now ripe for disposition. After careful consideration of the motion, response, relevant authority, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Daubert motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a former inmate at the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) who filed this action on December 18, 2017 for a violation of his civil rights. [D.E. 1]. Plaintiff entered the custody of the FDOC at the South Florida Reception Center on February 6, 2014. Employees of Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) provided medical services at the prison. On February 12, 2014, a urinalysis indicated that Plaintiff had an infection. A nurse ordered an x-ray and another urinalysis was scheduled in seven days. The x-ray allegedly included a granuloma in Plaintiff's left lung and another x-ray was recommended. Plaintiff claims, however, that the follow-up x-ray was never performed and that five days later a nurse noticed that Plaintiff had an increased heart rate.

         On February 20, 2014, prison officials transferred Plaintiff to the Regional Medical Center - a hospital that FDOC owns and where Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”) provides medical services. Plaintiff alleges that he complained to medical personnel during the next several days. At 1:14 a.m. on February 24, 2014, Plaintiff claims that he suffered from hyperventilation and low blood pressure. Plaintiff then alleges that Jorge Caraballo (“Dr. Caraballo”) examined him at 4:20 a.m. and that Dr. Caraballo ordered an IV and laboratory testing. Plaintiff was transferred to an outside hospital later that morning and he was diagnosed with sepsis, pneumonia, and endocarditis. Approximately two weeks later, Plaintiff's legs were amputated. Plaintiff alleges that he was injured because Corizon has a policy of saving money at the expense of delivering quality medical care. Plaintiff also claims that Dr. Caraballo could not treat him immediately because Dr. Caraballo was required to get permission before he could send Plaintiff to the hospital. Because Corizon failed to deliver quality healthcare and attempted to save money at the cost of Plaintiff's well-being, Plaintiff concludes that Corizon violated his civil rights.


         The decision to admit or exclude expert testimony is within the trial court's discretion and the court enjoys “considerable leeway” when determining the admissibility of this testimony. See Cook v. Sheriff of Monroe County, Fla., 402 F.3d 1092, 1103 (11th Cir. 2005). As explained in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Fed.R.Evid. 702.[2] The party offering the expert testimony carries the burden of laying the proper foundation for its admission, and admissibility must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence. See Allison v. McGhan Med. Corp., 184 F.3d 1300, 1306 (11th Cir. 1999); see also United States v. Frazier, 387 F.3d 1244, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of establishing qualification, reliability, and helpfulness rests on the proponent of the expert opinion, whether the proponent is the plaintiff or the defendant in a civil suit, or the government or the accused in a criminal case.”).

         “Under Rule 702 and Daubert, district courts must act as ‘gate keepers' which admit expert testimony only if it is both reliable and relevant.” Rink v. Cheminova, Inc., 400 F.3d 1286, 1291 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589). The purpose of this role is “to ensure that speculative, unreliable expert testimony does not reach the jury.” McCorvey v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 298 F.3d 1253, 1256 (11th Cir. 2002). Also, in its role as Agatekeeper, @ its duty is not Ato make ultimate conclusions as to the persuasiveness of the proffered evidence.@ Quiet Tech. DC-8, Inc. v. Hurel-Dubois UK Ltd., 326 F.3d 1333, 1341 (11th Cir. 2003)

         To facilitate this process, district courts engage in a three-part inquiry to determine the admissibility of expert testimony:

(1) the expert is qualified to testify competently regarding the matters he intends to address; (2) the methodology by which the expert reaches his conclusions is sufficiently reliable as determined by the sort of inquiry mandated in Daubert; and (3) the testimony assists the trier of fact, through the application of scientific, technical, or specialized expertise, to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.

City of Tuscaloosa, 158 F.3d 548, 562 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). The Eleventh Circuit refers to the aforementioned requirements as the “qualification, ” “reliability, ” and “helpfulness” prongs and while they “remain distinct concepts”; “the courts must take care not to conflate them.” Frazier, 387 F.3d at 1260 (citing Quiet Tech, 326 F.3d at 1341).

         In determining the reliability of a scientific expert opinion, the Eleventh Circuit also considers the following factors to the extent possible:

(1) whether the expert's theory can be and has been tested; (2) whether the theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of error of the particular scientific technique; and (4) whether the technique is generally accepted in the scientific community. Notably, however, these factors do not exhaust the universe of considerations that may bear on the reliability of a given expert ...

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