Two judges in Las Vegas have banned Dr. Derek Duke, an expert witness, from testifying in their personal injury cases. Both judges find that Duke routinely delivers partial testimony in support of insurance providers. Duke’s medical specialty is neurosurgery and he earns an estimated $1 million annually by providing his opinions in cases. Timothy Williams, a District Court Judge, authored an opinion that spanned over 30 pages, explaining how Duke’s expertise is consistently untrustworthy and biased. Williams went further to state how Duke clearly demonstrates prejudice geared to discredit plaintiffs in injury cases.
Judge Williams, who used to practice personal injury law, is said to have reviewed over 300 of Duke’s expert opinions. Mark Denton, another District Court Judge, had refused to allow Duke to testify in a 2015 case for many of the same reasons that Williams cited. Their data suggests that Duke’s opinion was contrary to the physician involved in treatment roughly 95% of the time. In approximately 86% of the cases, Duke found that no injury existed, a contrary finding to the treating doctor. He allegedly offered opinions well outside the realm of his expertise. In one example, he claimed to be capable of diagnosing and treating mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression by simply speaking to the individual. Williams noted that Duke had deviated from his role of being an independent expert by making comments deemed to be unethical and unprofessional.
Based on a recent personal injury case with plaintiff Richard Greene, attorney Dennis Prince is suing Duke, citing a conspiracy. The allegations center on his exhibiting significant bias in cases to further the interests of Allstate Insurance. Prince says that because of the two recent rulings by judges against Duke, hopefully, insurers will begin considering other options for expert witnesses. Prince says that Duke is effective in influencing jurors; however, he has found Duke to be often much too aggressive.
Nevada statute addresses the use of expert witnesses in civil cases. In cases where technical or highly specialized information could help explain the evidence to the trier of fact, an expert witness with the proper experience and qualifications may be asked to testify. Nevada courts encourage expert testimony when it is truly relevant to the case and their knowledge is based on accepted methodology. In making this determination the court will evaluate if the opinion is:
- Within a realm of expertise that is clearly recognizable
- Has been clearly tested
- Has withstood scrutiny from peers or been published
- Considered to be acceptable by others in the field
- Focused on facts, rather than generalities or assumptions
A district court may determine if an individual is competent to provide expert testimony based on factors including:
- Academic credentials such as degrees and certifications
- Whether they are licensed or accredited in the field
- Their past work experience
- Training in the specialty and relevant experience.