Plaintiffs’ Motion to Exclude Defense Expert’s Hearsay Statements Granted

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana; July 18, 2022

Plaintiffs filed an asbestos-related lawsuit on behalf of Decedent, Callan Cortez, alleging that Mr. Cortez contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos, and subsequently died. The relevant exposure claimed by Mr. Cortez was take-home exposure from his brother, Daniel, who lived with Mr. Cortez while he worked at Avondale Shipyards from 1967 until 1968.

Danny Joyce, an Avondale industrial hygienist and corporate witness, gave deposition testimony about conversations he had with Walsh-Healey Act inspectors. Plaintiffs moved in limine to exclude factual testimony from Joyce since it was not based on personal knowledge, and to exclude any expert from testifying about, or relying on, Joyce’s hearsay testimony. Avondale opposed the motion.

This issue is governed by Rule 703 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Rule 703 provides:

“An expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value in helping the jury evaluate the opinion substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.”

Avondale argued that its expert hygienist, James Shea, is entitled to rely on Joyce’s statements because Joyce worked as a hygienist at Avondale, and Joyce’s statements are the type of information that experts in Shea’s field would reasonably rely on in forming their opinions.

While the court agreed that Shea’s reliance on Joyce’s statements did not render

Shea’s opinion inadmissible, Avondale was not allowed to disclose Joyce’s hearsay statements to the jury because they did not satisfy the requirements of Rule 703. Specifically, the probative value of the statements in helping the jury evaluate Shea’s opinion did not substantially outweigh the prejudicial effect of the statements. Accordingly, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion.

Read the full decision here