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Ewald v. Embassy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 9, 2014

Ellen S. Ewald, Plaintiff,
v.
Royal Norwegian Embassy, Defendant.

Thomas E. Marshall, Sheila A. Engelmeier, and Susanne J. Fischer, Engelmeier & Umanah, P.A., for Plaintiff.

Daniel G. Wilczek, Joel P. Schroeder, Sean R. Somermeyer, and John B. Gordon, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Defendant's Discrimination Expert [Doc. No. 226]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The specific details of this employment discrimination action are documented in other orders and will not be recounted here. (See, e.g., Jan. 26, 2012, Mem. Op. & Order at 2-4 [Doc. No. 18].)

After this litigation began, Defendant retained Benjamin Shippen, Ph.D., as an expert to review the salary decisions in 2008 for two positions at the Honorary Norwegian Consulate General: the Higher Education and Research Officer position ("Higher Education position") and the Innovation and Business Development Officer position ("Innovation position"). (Expert Report by Benjamin S. Shippen, Ph.D., Ex. 3 to Aff. of Thomas E. Marshall [Doc. No. 227-1].) Specifically, Dr. Shippen was asked to determine whether the salary decisions were consistent with the compensation for similar positions in the general geographic area of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where both positions were located. (Id. at 1.) After reviewing various documents and data, [1] Dr. Shippen concluded that

substantially different skills, backgrounds, and experience were required to perform these two jobs. These were qualitatively different jobs, each demanding unique qualifications and requiring vastly different sorts of professional experience. A review of the labor market compensation data shows that occupations with job requirements and duties most like those of the Higher Education position are not similarly compensated compared to occupations with job requirements and duties most like those of the Innovation position.

(Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff moves to strike Dr. Shippen as an expert for Defendant, arguing that the expert opinion is inadmissible at trial because Dr. Shippen: (1) does not consider the facts of the case, and (2) arbitrarily categorizes occupations based on speculation and conjecture. (Pl.'s Mot. to Strike Def.'s Discrimination Expert at 16-25 [Doc. No. 226].) Defendant responds that Plaintiff's motion is not properly before the Court. (Def.'s Mem. of Law in Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. to Strike at 1-2 [Doc. No. 248].) Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's motion should be denied on the merits because Dr. Shippen's report and testimony are admissible, and Plaintiff's criticisms are unfounded. (Id. at 2-7.)

III. DISCUSSION

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Under Rule 702, proposed expert testimony must satisfy three prerequisites to be admitted. Lauzon v. Senco Prods. Inc. , 270 F.3d 681, 686 (8th Cir. 2001). First, evidence based on scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge must be useful to the finder of fact in deciding the ultimate issue of fact. Id . Second, the proposed witness must be qualified to assist the finder of fact. Id . Third, the proposed evidence must be reliable or trustworthy in the evidentiary sense, so that if the finder of fact accepts it as true, it provides the assistance the finder of fact requires. Id . These requirements reflect the Supreme Court's analysis in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc. , 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Id . The district court has a "gatekeeping" obligation to make certain that all testimony admitted under Rule 702 "is not only relevant, but reliable." Daubert , 509 U.S. at 589.

Nonetheless, "Rule 702 reflects an attempt to liberalize the rules governing the admission of expert testimony, " and it favors admissibility over exclusion. Lauzon , 270 F.3d at 686. Doubts regarding the usefulness of an expert's testimony should therefore be resolved in favor of admissibility, United States v. Finch , 630 F.3d 1057, 1062 (8th Cir. 2011), and gaps in an expert witness's qualifications or knowledge generally go to the weight of his testimony and not its admissibility. Robinson v. GEICO Gen. Ins. Co. , 447 F.3d 1096, 1100 (8th Cir. 2006). "The exclusion of an expert's opinion is proper ...


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