Expert Article Library

Case Name: Douglas v. York County (http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/getopn.pl?OPINION=05-1940.01A)

Court: United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, on appeal from US District Court of Maine

Date: December 28, 2005

Type of expert: Physician—Medical Doctor—Psychiatrist. Dr. Diane Schetky, a forensic psychiatrist (plaintiff); Dr. Carlyle Voss, a psychiatrist (defendant)

Issue: Ability of the court to disregard an expert’s opinion

Summary of case: Plaintiff, who was gang raped by male prisoners in 1971 in a Maine county jail, is suing the jail. To avoid the statute of limitations, she argues that she was mentally ill for 25 years after the incident and thus the statute of limitations was tolled during that period.

Role of the expert: Both sides had experts determining her mental state for the past 30 years through evaluations and reviewing her medical records. Douglas’s expert concluded that Douglas would not have had enough emotional and psychological strength to proceed in this type of lawsuit for the jail house rapes until recently. Defendant’s psychiatric expert testified otherwise.

Expert analysis: The Court decided that a reasonable jury could not conclude that Douglas was incapacitated from bringing a rape charge for 25 years after the incident. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s expert testimony because it was inconsistent with the simple evidence of the plaintiff’s life as a whole, and the entire record of background evidence showed she did function in society to protect herself and her legal rights.

Summary prepared by J. Price, Student, University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)