Control Manufacturer’s Motion to Exclude Plaintiffs’ Psychiatrist Denied After Daubert Hearing

Posted by

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division

In the present action, defendant Johnson Controls, filed a motion to exclude a psychiatrist’s opinions about three plaintiffs’ mental health. By way of background, the plaintiffs retained Dr. Zachary Torry to evaluate whether those three plaintiffs suffered a psychiatric injury as a result of being exposed to asbestos and chlorinated chemicals and, if so, whether a reasonable person under similar circumstances would experience a psychiatric injury. To form his opinions, Dr. Torry met with and interviewed each of the three plaintiffs, administered various tests, and reviewed their treatment records and other materials. Dr. Torry concluded that each plaintiff suffered “extreme emotional distress” because of their alleged exposures and that the distress each plaintiff suffered was reasonable.

Johnson Controls moves to exclude those opinions on multiple grounds. First, it argues that his opinions lack foundation because he assumed that the plaintiffs were exposed to asbestos and other chemicals. Second, it objects that his reports include factual recitations of underlying facts about the history of the site and the contamination. Third, it argues that he did not apply a reliable methodology in support of his causation opinions.

After an in depth analysis of each of Johnson Controls’ arguments, the court did not find any of these arguments warrant excluding Dr. Torry’s opinion and found that Dr. Torry satisfied Rule 702’s threshold. Rule 702 governs the admission of testimony by expert witnesses. Under that rule, a witness “who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” may offer an opinion if the following criteria are met:

  1. the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
  2. the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
  3. the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
  4. the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Accordingly, the court denied Johnson Controls’ motion.