Favorable Defense Discovery Rulings, Including Preclusion of Treating Physicians from Testifying as Experts

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The district court issued two opinions in the same case, issuing various rulings on motions brought by both parties. The plaintiff alleged he developed lung cancer from asbestos exposure while employed by Freeport Sulphur Company, predecessor to Mosaic Global Holdings, Inc. This case started in Louisiana state court, and was removed by Mosaic. The primary rulings on these motions are summarized below.

The plaintiff moved to exclude evidence of settled claims and collateral sources of compensation. The defendants argued that both settlement agreements and collateral sources may be admissible to show bias or for other limited purposes. While the court agreed that Federal Rule of Evidence 408, which excludes this type of evidence, was not a “blanket ban,” the court must also balance the exception against the public policy objectives. The court denied the plaintiff’s motion, since neither party argued specifics; neither party identified which settlements should be excluded, and the briefing regarding collateral sources was similarly academic. However, the court did rule that this evidence would not be admitted without express permission of the court.

The plaintiff argued that the defendants made a judicial admission in its motion for summary judgment regarding his asbestosis, which the defendants denied. Judicial admissions withdraw facts from contention. Since the defendant’s motion did not meet the standard for judicial admissions, this was denied.

The plaintiff moved to exclude a consultation note made by his doctor regarding his smoking history, and argued it was hearsay. The defendants argued it was admissible under the business records exception. After examining various affidavits produced by both parties regarding how these records were kept, the court rejected the plaintiff’s hearsay and authenticity arguments. The Fifth Circuit did not require conclusive proof of authenticity before allowing the admission of disputed evidence, and the defendants presented sufficient evidence to support a finding that the doctor’s record was what its’ proponent claimed it to be.

Finally, the defendants moved to exclude expert opinion testimony from the plaintiff’s treating physicians, arguing the plaintiff failed to comply with expert disclosure requirements. The defendants also argued the physicians were not qualified to give opinions as to the cause of the plaintiff’s illness. The court granted this motion, because the plaintiff failed to meet the applicable disclosure requirements. The plaintiff produced no Rule 26(a)(2)(C) disclosure, and pursuant to Rule 37(c)(1), the failure to disclose results in mandatory and automatic exclusion. Further, due to the complexity of asbestosis and lung cancer, and the specialized knowledge required to assess these diseases, treating physicians who did not provide a report or disclosure under Rule 26 were limited to lay testimony only.

Read the first decision here.

Read the second decision here.