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Naki v. State of Hawaii

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 4, 2015

Peter K. Naki, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Hawaii, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILBORG, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant's Daubert Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Human Factors Expert Joellen Gill, (Doc. 107), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 108). The Court now rules on the motions.

I. Background

This case arises out of an alleged fall Plaintiff took from a top bunk at Saguaro Correctional Center ("SCC"). The inmates' bunk beds in SCC are built into the cell wall. (Defendant Corrections Corporation of America's Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 109 ("DSOF") at ¶ 1); (Plaintiff's Controverting Statement of Facts in Support of Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant Corrections Corporation of America's Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. 115 ("PCSOF") at ¶ 1). The top bunk is approximately 56 inches (4'8") from the floor and 40 inches (3'4") above the lower bunk. (DSOF at ¶ 2); (PCSOF at ¶ 2). The cell bunks at SCC are not fitted with ladders or side guard rails for safety and security purposes. (DSOF at ¶ 3); (PCSOF at ¶ 3).

Plaintiff, who is approximately fifty-nine inches tall (4'11"), was assigned to a top bunk several times during his incarceration, including the time period of his alleged fall. (DSOF at ¶ 13); (PCSOF at ¶¶ 13, 54). Plaintiff alleges that on December 30, 2010, he "was using the stacked locker crates to descend from the top level of his assigned bunk bed when the crates collapsed, " causing him to fall and resulting in a broken forearm and injured forehead. (DSOF at ¶¶ 39, 48); (PCSOF at ¶ 39, 48).

Of Plaintiff's claims, only his negligence and § 1983 Eighth Amendment claims remain. Plaintiff's theory in both claims is that Defendant should have installed ladders or other assistive devices on the bunk beds to assist inmates in ascending and descending to and from the top bunks. Defendant has moved to exclude Plaintiff's proffered expert witness, Joellen Gill, and for summary judgment on both of Plaintiff's remaining claims. Both motions are fully briefed.[1]

II. Defendant's Motion to Exclude Plaintiff's Expert

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 provides,

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993) (" Daubert I "), the Supreme Court held that Rule 702 imposes a special gatekeeping obligation upon a trial judge to make a preliminary assessment of the admissibility of expert scientific testimony. Specifically, the Court held that under Rule 702, "the trial judge must ensure that any ...


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