Plaintiff filed suit against the Defendant for alleged environmental contamination. Both parties hired experts to provide testimony. The court denied the motion to exclude the environmental engineering expert witness and granted in part and denied in part the motion to exclude the testimony of the hydrology & groundwater expert witnesses
Facts: This case (Raritan Baykeeper, Inc., et al. v. NL Industries, Inc., et al – United States District Court – District of New Jersey – August 16th, 2017) involves an environmental contamination claim. The Plaintiffs allege that the former owner of a titanium dioxide plant are liable for contributing to an alleged sediment contamination of arsenic, zinc, lead, and copper in the Raritan River. Both parties hired experts to provide testimony. The Plaintiffs hired Dr. George Flowers (hydrology & groundwater expert witness) and the Defendants hired Dr. Bruce Bell (environmental engineering expert witness). Both parties also filed motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of the opposing party.
Discussion: The Plaintiffs hired Dr. Bell to provide an opinion on the sediment dynamics of the Raritan River and if the NL Defendants contributed to the contamination. The Defendants claim that Dr. Bell’s testimony should be excluded because his testimony used GIS Maps that are not reliable, he does not have the relevant expertise to testify on the topic of sediment fate and transport, and he does not have the relevant experience to testify on the ecological screening criteria of the state of New Jersey.
The court found that Dr. Bell was qualified to provide expert testimony on sediment fate and transport and the magnitude of surpassing ecological screening criteria. He has worked in the field of environmental engineering for 40 years and has led many site evaluation and remediation projects, many of which involved the issues in the present case.
In addition, the court found that Dr. Bell’s testimony was reliable in that he reviewed correspondence from many different consultants and organizations as well as other environmental testing results. Last, the court found that Dr. Bell’s testimony fit the nature of the case. He assessed the stormwater runoff, presented slides on his findings, and then testified how particles that entered the river were able to settle into the sediment.
The Plaintiffs hired Dr. Flowers to provide an opinion on whether or not the Defendants’ titanium manufacturing facility released metals into the river. The Defendants argue that Dr. Flowers is not qualified to offer an opinion regarding the metals content of wastewater that was allegedly discharged into the Raritan River and his opinion on potential pathways for metal to reach the river should be excluded because he did not conduct any evaluations.
The court found that Dr. Flowers is qualified to offer testimony. Even though he has never worked in a titanium dioxide plant, his qualifications do not need to be specific. In addition, however, the court found that Dr. Flowers’ testimony was not relevant because it was not based on a thorough review of the site, its emissions, and a specific sampling of the Raritan River.
Last, the court found that Dr. Flowers’ testimony meets the requirements of fit for the issues in the case.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Bruce Bell was denied and the motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. George Flowers was granted in part and denied in part.