Environmental Engineering Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Hazardous Contaminant Spill Litigation

Summary:  Environmental Engineering Expert Witness allowed to testify even though the defendant argued that he did not follow NCP standards when obtaining field samples of a hazard contaminant.

Facts:  This case (Courtland Co. v. Union Carbide Corp. – United States District Court – Southern District of West Virginia – April 29th, 2022) involves a hazardous materials claim.  The plaintiff, Courtland, alleges that properties owned by the defendant, Union Carbine Corp (UCC), released hazardous contaminants that have spilled onto Courtland’s property.  In support of these claims, Court hired Environmental Engineering Expert Witness Dr. D. Scott Simonton to provide expert witness testimony.  UCC filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  UCC claims that Dr. Simonton’s testimony should be excluded because his opinions are not supported by reliable principles and methodology.  First, UCC alleges that an August 2017 sampling performed by Dr. Simonton does not have any discussion of the methodology he utilized for the sampling event. In addition, UCC alleges that a November 2019 sampling lacks 1) field logs, 2) plans for collection and analysis, 3) objectives for data quality, and 4) independent laboratory validation.  Also, UCC asserts that, in his deposition testimony, Dr. Simonton stated that he did not create a sampling plan, did not create any field notes or collect any field blanks, and assumed that the groundwater flowed from Courtland’s property to UCC’s property.

The court notes that Dr. Simonton failed to follow NCP standards or ensure the integrity of the sampling or data.  The court also states that UCC has not provided citations to any authority about the use of NCP protocols for the present case and the judge notes that she is not aware of any.  Thus, the court mentions that it cannot conclude that the NCP is the only scientific and valid method for field sampling.

UCC also argues that Dr. Simonton drew vastly outsized and unwarranted conclusions based on the limited sampling data that he obtained.  The court opined that Dr. Simonton is aware of the NCP requirements and has provided information why the NCP are not applicable in this case.  Thus, the court rules, that his expert witness testimony is based on valid data and facts and that he employed reliable methods and principles to his research.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. D. Scott Simonton is denied.