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Edmond v. Plainfield Board of Education

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 13, 2018

TYEAST M. EDMOND, Plaintiff,


          Kevin McNulty, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tyeast M. Edmond's suit arises from her employment as a social worker with the defendant, Plainfield Board of Education ("the Board"). After summary judgment practice, four claims remain for trial: retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; invasion of privacy; false light; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Emotional distress is also a component of the damages sought.

         Now before the Court is Edmond's motion in limine to bar the testimony of the Board's expert on emotional distress. For the reasons stated herein the motion will be granted as to the causation portion of Ejiofor's opinion and report, and denied with respect to the remaining portions.


         Edmond challenges the qualifications of Udoka Ejiofor, the Board's proposed expert. Ejiofor, a licensed psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, performed a psychiatric evaluation and rendered a report concluding that Edmond suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD") and Narcissistic Personality Disorder ("NPD"). (ECF no. 108-2).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. It provides certain prerequisites for the admission of expert testimony:

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.

         The Rule "embodies a trilogy of restrictions on expert testimony: qualification, reliability and fit." Schneider v. Fried, 320 F.3d 396, 404 (3d Cir. 2003). Qualification "refers to the requirement that the witness possess specialized expertise." Id.; see Waldorf v. Shuta, 142 F.3d 601, 625 (3d Cir. 1998) ("Rule 702 requires the witness to have specialized knowledge regarding the area of testimony." (internal quotation omitted)). This requirement is interpreted liberally: a "broad range of knowledge, skills, and training qualify an expert." Waldorf, 142 F.3d at 625; see In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 741 (3d Cir. 1994) ("Paoli f). This "liberal policy of admissibility extends to the substantive as well as the formal qualification of experts." Paoli I, 35 F.3d at 741. The Third Circuit has "eschewed imposing overly rigorous requirements of expertise and ha[s] been satisfied with more generalized qualifications." Id. Exclusion of expert testimony is the exception rather than the rule because "[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence." Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 580 (1993).

         Ejiofor meets the minimal qualifications to testify as an expert in the field of psychiatric nursing. See Lujano v. Town of Cicero, No. 07 C 4822, 2011 WL 6097719, at *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 6, 2011) ("[N]urses. . . can give expert testimony if they meet the standards for doing so under Rule 702."). Ejiofor is a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. (ECF no. 108-4 at 28:17-21). He is licensed as a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse in New Jersey and New York. (ECF no. 108-3). In 2005, Ejiofor received a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Medicine and Dentistry ("UMDNJ"). (ECF nos. 108-3; 108-4 at 11:9-17). In 2011, he received his masters of science in nursing from UMDNJ. (ECF no. 108-4 at 11:25-12:4). Ejiofor's training was in adult psychiatry and mental health. (ECF no. 108-4 at 13:24-14:2). In 2013, Ejiofor received a master's certificate in psychiatric family health from Rutgers University. (ECF no. 108-4 at ¶ 3;3-5).[1]

         As a licensed and certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Ejiofor performs psychiatric evaluations and treats psychiatric patients. (ECF no. 108-4 at 38:5-10). He has more than 450 active patients and has been performing psychiatric evaluations since May of 2012. (ECF nos. 108-3; 108-4 at 95:2). Ejiofor is part of various professional associations, including the New Jersey Society of Psychiatric ...

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