PAULINE R. HALL Plaintiff,
RITA SHIFF, PA-C, BROWN UNIVERSITY in Providence in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and QUEST DIAGNOSTICS, LLC Defendants.
Providence County Superior Court
For Plaintiff: Yvette M. Boisclair, Esq.; Mark S. Mandell, Esq.
For Defendant: Stephen P. Harten, Esq.; Anthony S. Aprea, Esq.; William J. Dailey, Jr., Esq.; Mark P. Dolan, Esq.
Before this Court is Third-Party Defendant Quest Diagnostics, LLC's (Quest or Third-Party Defendant) motion to strike Brown University and Rita Shiff, PA-C's (Brown or Third-Party Plaintiff) expert disclosure, in part, as it relates to internal medicine expert Allan Goroll, M.D. (Dr. Goroll). This motion is made pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 26. At issue is whether Brown's newly-identified expert unfairly prejudices Quest. For the reasons set forth below, Quest's motion is denied.
A recitation of the facts of this case was previously recounted by this Court in a Decision of May 23, 2013 regarding Quest's Motion to Compel. Accordingly, the Court will supplement the facts as necessary to decide the instant motion. The underlying litigation was resolved during mediation in February 2011 when Brown settled the case with Ms. Pauline Hall (Ms. Hall). Brown's cross-claim against Quest seeks contribution.
This Court has issued a Scheduling Order requiring the parties to disclose experts. Pursuant to that Order, Brown disclosed an expert witness in the field of internal medicine, Daniel J. Sullivan, M.D. (Dr. Sullivan), on August 20, 2010. Quest disclosed expert witness Mark D. Aronson, M.D. (Dr. Aronson), who is also a specialist in the field of internal medicine, on June 16, 2014.
Brown then moved to strike Quest's designation of Dr. Aronson as an expert. This Court denied that motion by Decision dated March 5, 2015. In response, Brown filed a Second Supplemental Interrogatory Answer on June 9, 2015. This Second Supplemental Interrogatory Answer disclosed a new internal medicine expert, Dr. Goroll, who may testify on Brown's behalf at trial.
II Standard of Review
The trial court is afforded great deference in its role as gatekeeper when deciding whether an expert is permitted to testify or not. See R.I. R. Evid. 104; Gallucci v. Humbyrd, 709 A.2d 1059, 1064 (R.I. 1998) ("This Court will not disturb a trial justice's ruling on the admissibility of expert testimony absent an abuse of discretion.") (citing Frias v. Jurczyk, 633 A.2d 679, 683 (R.I. 1993)). This determination must be "'exercised in the light of reason applied to all the facts and with a view to the rights of all the parties to the action . . . .'" Morra v. Harrop, 791 A.2d 472, 477 (R.I. 2002) (quoting DeBartolo v. DiBattista, 117 R.I. 349, 353, 367 A.2d 701, 703 (1976)).
This Court is mindful that "[t]he purpose of expert testimony is to aid in the search for the truth." Id. In this pursuit, "[f]orbidding a party to call a witness . . . 'is a drastic sanction that should be imposed only if it is apparent that the violation has or will result in prejudice . . . .'" Narragansett Elec. Co. v. Carbone, 898 A.2d 87, 95 (R.I. 2006) (quoting Gormley v. Vartian, 121 R.I. 770, 775, 403 A.2d 256, 259 (1979)). The Court must try "'to prevent trial by ambush'" and ensure litigants the opportunity "'to prepare for trial free from the elements of surprise and concealment . . . .'" Id. (quoting Neri v. Nationwide Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 719 A.2d 1150, 1152 (R.I. 1998)). It is particularly significant whether or not the party offering the witness has a "meritorious explanation" for the late disclosure. Gormley, 121 R.I. at 776, 403 A.2d at 259.
A Parties' ...