Case Review: Daubert Challenge of a Physician Life Care Plan

A recent federal court decision* for the Southern District of Illinois involved a motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert physician life care planner based on a Daubert challenge which was granted. In this particular personal injury case, plaintiff hired a physiatrist to produce a life care plan based on “needs for treatment and medical services, as well as equipment necessary that he is reasonably certain to utilize in order to maximize his medical and rehabilitative potential” following the injury at issue.
The defense challenged the qualifications of the expert, his methodologies, and the reliability of his opinions. On the gatekeeping function regarding the reliability of methodology and reasoning, the court found that the methodology and reasoning applied, are not based on more than subjective belief and unsupported speculation. The defendant contended that the opinions were not grounded in a proper basis as the physiatrist relied on his own assessment of the patient to develop his life care plan and opinions related to future medical needs rather than assessments of his treating physicians. As a result, he failed to establish the reliability of his opinions. 
The defendant also contended that the physiatrist did not speak with the patient’s treating physicians. Accordingly, he simply relied on his template to develop the plan without any indication as to the methods or basis for his additional treatment suggestions. Furthermore, his method was not subjected to peer review, as he did not prepare the initial report himself.  He could not estimate how much of the plan he prepared and how much was prepared by his nurse practitioner.  Additionally, he did not discuss the plan with the patient’s treating physicians to validate his recommended treatments. Another significant aspect challenged was that he did not offer a basis for his projections regarding the frequency of the patient’s future care, therefore, the costs and ipse dixit conclusion is not valid.
It was noted that opinion without foundation in the record has no probative value, and given that his opinions regarding future medical treatment have no foundation in the record, his methods prove unreliable. As a result, the court agreed that the proposed treatments and cost estimates in the life care plan are not scientifically reliable and therefore excluded the expert from testifying. The court also excluded the plaintiff’s forensic economist as “her testimony and opinions are based solely on the physiatrist and his nurse practitioner’s inadmissible life care plan”. 
In summary, the court excluded the expert’s report based on speculation and unsupported conclusions.
*United States district court for the Southern District of Illinois, September 2017. Jordan Queen vs. W.L.C. d/b/a SNIPER TREESTANDS, case No 14-CV-519-DRH-SCW
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Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Lacy Sapp, MHS, CRC, LPC, LRC, CLCP 
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP