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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Drug Expert Vaults Challenge to His Creds

DALLAS (CN) - Judicial immunity bars a man from suing a drug-testing expert over the results used in his child-custody battle, a Texas appeals court ruled.

The father, described in the court record only as B.W.D., brought the lawsuit in 2012 against James W. Turnage; his company, Forensic DNA & Drug Testing Services; and Medtox Scientific.

B.W.D. said a random drug test Turnage performed on him caused him to be wrongfully labeled an alcohol and drug user in his custody dispute.

Claiming that Turnage lacked "even the minimal education requirements to work in any technical job in a licensed drug and alcohol testing laboratory," B.W.D. called Turner an "imposter" who lacks a college degree and is not a toxicologist.

B.W.D. said subsequent drug tests that another lab conducted on him all came back negative, but that Turnage's test results brought "onerous terms" to B.W.D.'s ability to share custody of his daughter.

In addition to having to undergo weekly random alcohol and drug tests, B.W.D. had a breathalyzer installed in his car for one year, according to the complaint.

A Dallas County judge granted the defendants summary judgment in 2013, however, and a three-judge panel with 5th District Court of Appeals affirmed Monday that judicial immunity applies.

The defendants were acting as an "arm of the court" when they conducted the court-ordered drug testing, and "they did not exceed the [family court] order's scope by interpreting the drug testing results," Justice Lana Myers wrote for the court.

"The order also did not specify where or how it would be determined appellant had 'tested positive' for alcohol or an illegal substance," the 11-page opinion states. "These matters were left to the discretionary judgment of 'the person charged with the responsibility of interpreting the test results.' The order did not identify that person, but it stated that Jim Turnage, the president of Forensic DNA and Drug Testing Services, not Medtox, which is not mentioned anywhere in the order, must be given the satisfactory explanation for a positive test result for alcohol or an illegal substance."

Attorneys for the plaintiff did return a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Follow @davejourno
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