Environmental Toxicology Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in Deepwater Horizon Litigation

Summary:  Environmental Toxicology Expert Witness testimony not allowed even though the expert stated that in order to prove exposure, he would have to base his opinion on the scientific methods of an environmental toxicology.

Facts:  This case (Pettaway v. BP Exploration & Production, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – August 16th, 2022) involves the alleged exposure of toxic chemicals related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The plaintiff, John Pettaway, states that he was involved in the cleanup and was exposed to crude oil and dispersants. He alleges that his involvement in the cleanup has resulted in numerous medical issues, including cough, congestion, nasal discharge, and dizziness.  To assist in his case, Pettaway has hired Environmental Toxicology Expert Witness Dr. Jerald Cook to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant, BP, has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  BP alleges that Cook’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he is not able to prove causation with reliable and relevant testimony.  BP claims that Cook’s testimony is unreliable because 1) he did not verify Pettaway’s diagnoses; 2) follow the accepted methodology for analyzing epidemiology and evaluate the scientific literature.  In addition, BP alleges that Cook’s report is unhelpful because it does not address any of the plaintiff’s medical complaints.  Last, BO states that Cook does not specify which particular toxins can cause which specific conditions.

The court opines that Dr. Cook’s expert witness testimony is unreliable and unhelpful  because he did not identify the specific level of exposure to a chemical that would cause the specific conditions that were asserted in the plaintiff’s complaint.  In addition, the court notes that Dr. Cook’s report does not identify what level of exposure is necessary that would be able to prove the effects that he analyzes.  The court continues by noting that Dr. Cook does not identify a harmful dose of any chemical that the plaintiff was allegedly exposed to.

Also, the court opines  that Dr. Cook did not determine the relevant harmful level of exposure  and thus, the court notes that he does not have the sufficient facts on the composition of the substances and their toxicity to provide a good enough opinion on general causation.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Gerald Cook is granted.