The case I was expert witnessing for is over and a matter of public record so I can tell people about it now (the lawyer okayed it)! Yay!
It was a hospital access case. The plaintiff had been denied access to an inpatient program because he had a service dog. At some times (not during the access denial) the dog whined. At times it sought out attention from the general public. The dog had some separation anxiety and hospital anxiety after being forcibly separated at another hospital. And the dog had arthritis. So it wasn’t the best service dog ever. But still, in my opinion, it counted as a service dog under the ADA. I couldn’t evaluate the dog himself because the dog had passed due to old age before I got involved with the case.
There were some really interesting issues in this case that speak to a lot of recent debates in the service dog community. The hospital tried to claim that the dog was an ESA, and that the dog was not a SD. They had an expert give the ADI public access test (PAT) to the dog four years after the incident, and it did not pass. However, it didn’t pass the PAT for silly things like not knowing how to enter and exit an elevator the same way programs train it.
The defendants tried to argue that 3 work/task items were required, when only one is. One of the dog’s work/task items involved counter balance work, which the ADI trainer had never heard of before. They said the dog was bracing, which they argued it couldn’t do due to its small size (20 inches tall and 50 lbs).
I rocked the deposition (when the other side gets to interview you before seeing you in court)! I was really on the ball with that and the lawyers interviewing me seemed flustered. They tried to present me with a different version of the PAT that had more writing on it– I caught that and called them out on it.
I wasn’t as great at the trial, however. My nerves got to me and at the beginning of the trial I was so anxious that Hestia was in full help mode, which means standing up on my chest and licking my face furiously. I was worried people would think she was ill behaved, but I didn’t want to let the other side know my tells. So I just worked through it. After a while I settled in. I wasn’t as alert during the trial as I had been for the deposition.
Brad says I was a little snarky, because I let go of some zingers during my testimony. Like the lawyer pushing me on the fact that the dog had arthritis, so I said that they wouldn’t tell a person they couldn’t work just because of arthritis. I said several similar things.
The other side really put a lot of effort into trying to undermine me. They had transcribed two old radio shows I was on as part of PSDS (the org before PSDP) and tried to counter what I said there with what I was saying in court. I kept explaining that what we have on our website is a best practice– not the minimum standard of behavior and training. Again, yes I admitted the dog was not the best service dog ever, but it was trained to do work and tasks to mitigate the handler’s disability, and was mostly well behaved in public (except the times it would whine, which it never did during the access denial).
Unfortunately the plaintiff lost the case. The lawyers said I did a great job, but apparently there were things in the plaintiff’s past that counted against him, and the jury sided with the hospital. That was a big shock to me.
So, that was my expert witnessing in NYC. I had never been in a courtroom before, much less gone to trial (or even had a deposition). It was a very good experience, a learning experience, and a difficult experience. I’m glad I got to see a case through to the end, even if the jury didn’t rule the way I thought they should.