United States District Court, S.D. Florida
JOHN O. HUDDLESTON, Plaintiff,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment. DE 52. The Motion has been fully briefed.
The Court has carefully considered the Motion,
Plaintiff's Response thereto [DE 55], Defendant's
Reply [DE 66], and the record and is otherwise fully advised
in the premises. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.
judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). If the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to a material fact, the burden shifts to
the non-moving party to come forward with specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Shaw v.
City of Selma, 884 F.3d 1093, 1098 (11th Cir. 2018).
factual dispute is ‘material' if it would affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and
‘genuine' if a reasonable trier of fact could
return judgment for the non-moving party.”
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. United
States, 516 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2008). When
deciding a summary judgment motion, a court views the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor. Furcron v. Mail Ctrs. Plus, LLC, 843 F.3d
1295, 1304 (11th Cir. 2016). The court does not weigh
conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations.
contends that summary judgment is appropriate because, given
prior rulings of the Court, Plaintiff has no expert witness
to testify that the vehicle accident at issue caused his
injuries, and thus he cannot establish causation, a necessary
element of his negligence claim. Unless the injury at issue
is readily observable such as a broken leg from being struck
by an automobile, a plaintiff is required to introduce
medical testimony to establish medical causation, which is a
necessary element for a finding of negligence in a personal
injury action. Jones v. Royal Caribbean Cruises,
Ltd., No. 12-20332-CIV, 2013 WL 8695361, *5-6 (S.D. Fla.
Apr. 4, 2013) (explaining that injuries such as back
difficulties are not readily observable); Marking v.
Novartis Pharm., Corp., No. 00-9108-CV, 2002 WL
32255405, *3 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 12, 2002). Summary judgment is
appropriate where no such testimony is available.
Marking, 2002 WL 32255405, *3.
witness may only testify to opinions or inferences that are
rationally based on the witness's perception, helpful to
a clear understanding of the witness's testimony or to
determining a fact in issue, and not based on scientific,
technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of
Fed.R.Evid. 702. United States v. Henderson, 409
F.3d 1293, 1300 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 701).
“[T]he ability to answer hypothetical questions is the
essential difference between expert and lay witnesses.”
Id. (alteration and quotation marks omitted).
treating physician testifying as a lay witness may testify
about the cause of an injury if knowledge of causation was
necessary for the physician to treat the patient or make
decisions about treatment. Wilson v. Taser
Int'l, 303 Fed.Appx. 708, 712-13 (11th Cir. 2008);
Carideo v. Whet Travel, Inc., No.
16-23658-CIV, 2018 WL 1367444, *12-13 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 16,
2018); Jones, 2013 WL 8695361, *5. If, at the
summary-judgment stage, it is unknown whether the plaintiff
has treating physician lay witnesses to provide causation
testimony, summary judgment should be denied. Jones,
2013 WL 8695361, *6. The exact boundaries of the treating
physician's testimony are then addressed at trial with
specific objections to specific testimony. Id.
even if Plaintiff has no witness to testify as an expert,
Defendant has not shown that none of Plaintiff's treating
physician lay witnesses needed to know the cause of the
accident to treat Plaintiff or to make decisions about his
treatment. Therefore, Defendant has not shown that Plaintiff
has no admissible medical testimony to establish medical
causation. Plaintiff's ability to establish medical
causation remains a genuine issue for trial and, thus,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied. The
scope of the testimony of Plaintiff's treating physician
lay witnesses will be addressed at trial.
the Court notes that Plaintiff's counsel has an
obligation to the Court not to pursue this case to trial if
counsel knows or should know that Plaintiff will be unable to
prove his claims. See Murray v. Playmaker Servs.,
LLC, 548 F.Supp.2d 1378, 1383 (S.D. Fla. 2008)
(explaining that, “[a]s an officer of the court, every
attorney ha[s] a duty to be candid and loyal and an
attorney's duty to zealously prosecute a case for his
client cannot outweigh his or her obligation to the
court” and concluding that counsel should have advised
her client to dismiss a lawsuit where counsel should have
known after discovery that no claim existed); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b) (requiring the
representations that an attorney or party makes to a court in
writing to be warranted by the facts or law). Should it
become clear at trial that Plaintiff has no admissible
evidence by which to prove medical causation and that a grant
of a motion for judgment as a matter of law under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 is a certainty, the Court will entertain any
appropriate post-trial motion for sanctions or an award of
on the foregoing, it is ORDERED AND ADJUDGED
that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 52] is
 While the parties' briefing does
not make the precise nature of Plaintiff's injuries
clear, the Court's understanding from a review of the
record is that Plaintiff is claiming neck and back injuries
and not a type of injury that is readily observable such as a
broken leg. To the extent that the Court is mistaken and
Plaintiff did sustain a readily observable injury, his