Asbestos Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part in Personal Injury Case

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendants related to a claim if asbestos exposure.  Plaintiff hired an Asbestos Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this testimony.  The court denied the motion in part and granted it in part.

Facts:  This case (Schindler v. Dravo Basic Materials Company, Inc. – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – February 5th, 2019) involves a claim for asbestos exposure.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendant negligently exposed him to asbestos, which caused him to contract mesothelioma.  To support his claim, the plaintiff has hired Asbestos Expert Witness, Dr. Robert Harrison to provide testimony on causation.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the testimony from this expert.

Discussion: Dr. Harrison seeks to offer at trial both general and specific causation opinions.  The defendant does not dispute Dr. Harrison’s general causation opinion that asbestos exposure can cause mesothelioma.  The defendant instead argues that Dr. Harrison’s specific causation opinion is unreliable and should be excluded.

The court opines that it is evident that when he formulated his opinions, Dr. Harrison was aware of very little about the plaintiff’s alleged exposure while working for the defendant.  In addition, Dr. Harrison did not indicate in either his report or during his deposition that before he reached his conclusions, he reviewed any other information specifically related to the plaintiff’s alleged exposure while working for the defendant.

The court opines that Dr. Harrison’s specific causation is not admissible.  The court states that Rule 702(b) requires an expert to base his opinion on enough information about the circumstances or level of the plaintiff’s exposure attributable to the defendant’s negligence which goes beyond a general statement that the plaintiff was exposed to toxic substance.  The court states that the only information that Dr. Harrison considered was the one sentence of his report that the plaintiff was on a dredge for six weeks and worked under asbestos insulated pipes that vibrated and deposited asbestos containing dust on and in close proximity to the plaintiff.

The court opines that this sentence does not contain a sufficient amount of information for his opinion to be reliable.  The court continues by stating that Dr. Harrison’s statement does not indicate that he considered the type of asbestos the plaintiff may have been exposed to.  In addition, this statement does not contain a reliable estimate about the amount, duration, or frequency of the plaintiff’s alleged exposure.  The court states that Dr. Harrison simply speculates that the plaintiff was exposed to an amount of asbestos sufficient to cause him to contract mesothelioma.  An expert cannot base his opinion on such speculation.

Thus, Dr. Harrison can testify on general causation, but cannot provide testimony on specific causation.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Robert Harrison is denied in part and granted in part.