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Federal Court Denies Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ Motions in Limine on Eve of Trial

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana

Decedent Terry J. LeGendre worked for defendant Huntington Ingalls, Inc. (Avondale) from October 1967 to January 1968. He was later diagnosed with and died from mesothelioma. Prior to the May 2024 trial, defendants General Electric Company, Paramount Global, Eagle Inc., Foster Wheeler LLC, Uniroyal, Inc., and Taylor-Seidenbach Inc. moved to limit or exclude the plaintiff’s experts. Likewise, the plaintiff moved to exclude the expert opinion presented by defendants Avondale and Bayer CropScience, Inc.

The defendants’ motion sought to limit the testimony of Dr. Stephen Terry Kraus, Dr. Rodney Landreneau, and Mr. Frank Parker. They argued that the plaintiff’s experts lacked foundational evidence to determine the decedent’s social interactions with his cousin and brother-in-law were substantial factors to his mesothelioma diagnosis. In opposition, the plaintiff argued that the defendants’ contentions concerned the credibility of the experts’ opinions, rather than the admissibility of their opinions.

On the other hand, the plaintiff sought to exclude Dr. Bruce Case’s opinion, which stated the decedent’s mesothelioma was purely the result of exposure from his father’s employment at Johns-Manville. Avondale and Bayer countered that Dr. Case’s opinion was rooted in scientific literature and that, as a physician, he was qualified to speak to the cause of the decedent’s illness.

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony. It states:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) 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; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or date; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods of the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The court also applied Rule 704, which states that “testimony in the form of an opinion or inference otherwise admissible is not objectionable because it embraces an ultimate issue to be decided by the trier of fact.”

Applying these rules, the court held that all the experts were qualified to offer testimony and that they formed their opinions using reliable methods. Concerning the plaintiff’s experts, it found Dr. Kraus’ experience as a radiation oncologist, Dr. Landrenau’s experience as a thoracic surgeon, and Mr. Parker’s experience as a certified industrial hygienist and retired U.S. Air Force colonel proper and sufficient for admissibility. Similarly, the court determined that Dr. Case, an anatomic pathologist with over 40 years of asbestos-disease related study, also based his opinion on reliable scientific methods.

As such, the court ruled all the expert opinions in question were based upon the appropriate methodologies, scientific studies, scientific literature, and professional experience to satisfy Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and 704. The court emphasized it is “the role of the adversarial system, not the court, to highlight weak evidence.” LeGendre v. La. Ins. Guar. Ass’n., 2024 US Dist LEXIS 75266, at *7 [ED La Apr. 24, 2024, No. 22-1767]). Further:

The fact that opposing parties do not agree with the facts relied upon by the experts or their interpretation of those facts does not render their opinions irrelevant or unreliable; challenges related to the basis of any of the experts’ opinions are thus best suited for cross-examination, not exclusion under Rule 702.

Id., Delta Towing, LLC v. Justrabo, 2009 WL 3763868 (E.D. La. 2009) (citing Primrose Operating Co. v. Nat’l Am. Ins. Co., 382 F.3d 546, 563 (5th Cir. 2004).

Thus, the court ruled the expert opinions in question as admissible and thus denied both the defendants’ and plaintiff’s motions in limine.

Read the full decision here.