Consideration of Decedent’s Specific Exposure History Renders Testimony of Dr. Jacqueline Moline Reliable U.S. District Court, New Jersey, August 4, 2017
Decedent Gerald Hoffeditz alleged asbestos exposure from automotive and heavy equipment repair on various vehicles, including large military trucks while working at the Letterkenny Army Depot. He subsequently passed away from mesothelioma. Various defendants moved to exclude the evidence and testimony put forth by the plaintiff’s expert Dr. Jacqueline Moline. The court denied this motion.
For expert testimony to be admitted, the proffered witness must: (1) be qualified; (2) testify about matters requiring scientific, technical or specialized knowledge (reliability), and (3) assist the trier of fact. To be qualified, the witness must have specialized expertise. To be reliable, the process or technique the expert used in formulating his/her opinion must be based on the methods and procedures of science. Finally, the testimony must establish a valid scientific connection to the pertinent inquiry.
First, Dr. Moline was qualified. Second, after observing Dr. Moline in a Daubert hearing, the court concluded that her methodology was reliable and would assist the tier of fact. She considered a variety of methodologies established in the literature for determining whether exposure to a chemical compound caused a particular disease. In answering the question of whether the patient was exposed to a dose shown to cause the disease, the defendants argued that Dr. Moline relied upon an impermissible “each and every breath” theory of causation, which had been held insufficient to establish substantial factor causation under Pennsylvania law. However, the court found that Dr. Moline relied upon the decedent’s specific exposure history, not the “each and every breath” theory, and therefore her testimony was sufficiently reliable. Dr. Moline considered the decedent’s answers to interrogatories, deposition testimony, and medical records to determine his exposure, and the amount/type of work performed with different products. She compared this work to studies considering individuals working in similar capacities. This was precisely the type of analysis that at least one defendant had suggested should be performed. Further, “to the extent Defendants argue Dr. Moline’s testimony should not be admitted because she did not quantify Mr. Hoffeditz’s exposure from each Defendant’s products, they have failed to articulate how this indicates a lack of reliability or fit.”