United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Evidence — expert testimony – disclosure — harmless error
Where a witness offered expert testimony that was excluded by the district court, so that the plaintiff could not rebut it, the error was not harmless.
“As defendants’ closing argument made plain, Ebersole’s improper testimony was critical to their theory of the case: The officers were doing their jobs as usual, made a routine arrest, and found some drugs. Tribble, the arrestee, got lucky and had his case assigned to Branch 50. Branch 50 was too busy to do its job properly and threw out Tribble’s low-weight case, as it typically does with low-weight cases. Who could blame that court, really? But instead of being grateful for his good fortune, Tribble decided to see if he could cash in by suing the officers. Obviously, we think, defendants theory of the case relies on Ebersole’s analysis of how things (allegedly) worked at Branch 50. Her testimony as a non-disclosed expert was not harmless. Tribble, therefore, is entitled to a new trial.”
Affirmed in part, and Reversed in part.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Hibbler, J., Tinder, J.