211 F.3d 449 (8th Cir. 2000), 99-1944, Brennan v. Reinhart

Docket Nº:99-1944
Citation:211 F.3d 449
Party Name:Tina Brennan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reinhart Institutional Foods; Defendant-Appellant, Bunn-O-Matic, Inc., Defendant
Case Date:April 26, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 449

211 F.3d 449 (8th Cir. 2000)

Tina Brennan, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Reinhart Institutional Foods; Defendant-Appellant,

Bunn-O-Matic, Inc., Defendant

No. 99-1944

United States Court of Appeals, FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

April 26, 2000

Submitted: February 16, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota.

Before McMILLIAN, LAY, and JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judges.

LAY, Circuit Judge.

Reinhart Institutional Foods (Reinhart) appeals the district court's admission of hearsay through the expert testimony of a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Because we feel the decision to admit the evidence is supported by Federal Rule of Evidence 703, we affirm.

I. Facts and Background

Tina Brennan sued for personal injury arising from an electric shock she received from a coffee maker while working as a

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waitress. She brought suit against Reinhart, as Reinhart had supplied the coffee machine to her employer and a Reinhart employee installed it. She allegedly developed fibromyalgia from the resulting shock. During the course of the trial, the district court 1 allowed Brennan's vocational rehabilitation counselor, Rick Ostrander, to mention hearsay statements by Brennan's physicians in expressing his opinion as to her probable loss of employability and earning capacity due to her injuries.

During the course of Ostrander's testimony, he stated Dr. P. James Eckhoff, Jr., a rheumatologist, had earlier reported Brennan "as having a permanent partial impairment of eleven percent of the whole person." (Tr. at 323.) Ostrander also noted that Brennan had been treated by Dr. Myung J. Cho, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and she was independently evaluated by Dr. Chris Tountas. Reinhart objected to Ostrander's statements as referring to hearsay that was not in evidence and not subject to cross-examination. The district court overruled the objection on the grounds that an expert can rely on matters not in evidence in forming an opinion. Ostrander then explained that Dr. Eckhoff's and Dr. Cho's reports that Brennan suffered a permanent partial impairment of eleven percent were "significant to [him] as a vocational rehabilitation specialist because [they] indicate[ ] a medical opinion of a permanent condition; one that is not likely to get substantially better or worse in the future." (Tr. at 324.) Additionally, Ostrander referred in his opinion to a functional capacities evaluation administered to Brennan by an occupational therapist. Reinhart objected on the same grounds, and, again, the district court overruled the objection. The jury found for Brennan, and she received a jury verdict of $256,000.

II. Discussion

The gravamen of this appeal is that the reports...

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