Plaintiffs’ Experts Permitted to Testify Regarding Conspiracy Claims U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, March 14, 2018

Defendant Crane Company filed motions to strike the plaintiff’s expert reports from James A. Bruce, M.D., Barry Castleman Sc.D, and Captain Francis J. Burger as violating Federal Rules of Evidence 402 and 702 in this lung cancer case that was removed to Federal Court. The plaintiff alleged asbestos exposure through his work on two ships in the United States Navy, and through his work as a salesman. Only one count remained from the plaintiff’s Fourth Amended Complaint following Crane’s summary judgment motion, and it alleged that Crane and others conspired to suppress and misrepresent the hazards of asbestos. In its motion to strike, Crane argued that none of the experts’ reports set forth any opinions on the plaintiff’s sole remaining claims against it.

The court analyzed the motion through the “fit requirement” of Daubert, which goes primarily to relevance. It acknowledged the plaintiff had the burden to demonstrate the admissibility of its experts’ opinions, but that the standard was not high. This burden was met “when there is a clear ‘fit’ connecting the issue in the case with the expert’s opinion such that it will aid the jury in determining an issue in the case.”

The court denied Crane’s motions with respect to Dr. Bruce and Dr. Castleman. As to Dr. Bruce, the court reasoned that before proving a conspiracy, the plaintiff must first show the plaintiff’s lung cancer was caused by asbestos exposure. Because Dr. Bruce’s opinion made that connection, the court deemed it relevant despite its silence as to conspiracy. Regarding Dr. Castleman, the plaintiff offered evidence that he would testify regarding Crane’s knowledge of the hazards of asbestos, an issue that the court considered relevant to conspiracy claims.

The court had previously reviewed Captain Burger’s report in granting in part Crane’s motion for summary judgment on product identification and nexus grounds. Though it was insufficient to establish issues of fact relative to the plaintiff’s exposure to Crane products, and was silent on conspiracy, the court reasoned that Captain Burger’s testimony could be contributory in establishing asbestos exposure causation for the plaintiff’s lung cancer. As such, they denied Crane’s motion with respect to Captain Burger, without prejudice to Crane’s ability to renew the motion after the close of expert discovery.

Read the full decision here.

 


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