Daubert Challenges Result in Experts Being Allowed to Testify Regarding General Causation; Not Specific Causation U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, March 6, 2017
In this federal court case, it was alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent was exposed to asbestos while serving in various job duties while in the U.S. Navy during the 1960s. The plaintiff brought two Daubert motions seeking to preclude the defendants’ experts, Drs Michael Graham and Mark Taragin, from testifying. Dr. Graham is a forensic pathologist and Dr. Taragin is an epidemiologist. The court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff’s motions.
The court would allow each expert to provide general causation testimony regarding the nature of asbestos and the effects of its exposure. However, the court would not allow the experts to provide specific causation testimony that decedent’s mesothelioma was not caused by the defendants’ products. As the court noted in its decision: “Suffice it to say, in the realm of asbestos exposure, the percentages alone simply do not bear out specific causation testimony one way or the other. See Yates v. Ford Motor Co., 113 F. Supp. 3d 841, 847 (E.D. N.C. 2015) (“[I]ncreasing the likelihood of disease is a different matter than actually causing such disease.”). The analytical gap is too great. Accordingly, Dr. Graham may not offer the specific causation opinion that a defendant’s products did not cause or contribute to causing Mr. Bell’s mesothelioma. The plaintiffs’ motion is granted as to this issue.”
In a separate decision, the court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the court precluding their experts, Drs Kraus, Kradin and Mr. Parker, from offering specific causation opinions. As the court held: “In sum, Dr. Kraus’s, Dr. Kradin’s, and Mr. Parker’s opinions on specific causation are unreliable and must be excluded under Rule 702. However, the plaintiffs’ experts may testify — subject to a potential Rule 403 objection at trial — regarding Mr. Bell’s mesothelioma and issues of general causation. Likewise, provided that any Rule 403 objections are overcome, the experts may also respond to defendants’ argument that certain exposures were de minimis by noting that certain studies suggest that specific causation cannot be ruled out.”