Epidemiology Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after allegedly being exposed to asbestos on his job.  Plaintiff hired an Epidemiology Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion.

Facts:  This case (Michel v. Ford Motor Company, et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – January 7th, 2019) involves a claim of asbestos exposure.  The plaintiff worked as a parts delivery driver, truck mechanic, generator service technician from 1965 to 2005.  The plaintiff filed this action after being diagnosed with mesothelioma.  He has since passed away.  The plaintiff’s survivors, now being substituted as the plaintiffs have hired Epidemiology Expert Witness Dr. Murray Finkelstein to provide testimony.  The defendants have filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Finkelstein.

Discussion:  Dr. Finkelstein will testify that the plaintiff developed mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos contained in friction products and gaskets.  Dr. Finkelstein relies on numerous published studies which shows the connection between asbestos and mesothelioma.

The defendants argue that Dr. Finkelstein’s methodology for calculating exposure is unreliable because minor changes to the inputs have a major change on the overall level of asbestos exposure.  In addition, they allege that his calculations contain mathematical errors.  They also allege that the methodology is untested and unsubstantiated.

The court opines that the defendants’ assertion that Finkelstein’s methodology is untested and unsubstantiated is not correct as the plaintiffs have pointed to at least one peer-reviewed article that used the same methodology to evaluate exposure.  This indicates that Dr. Finkelstein’s calculation of risk is a commonly accepted way to connect exposure levels to incidences of cancer.  The court opines that potential mistakes in Dr. Finkelstein’s application of an accepted methodology can be a fertile ground for cross-examination.

The defendants also argue that Dr. Finkelstein’s conclusion that chrysotile brake and gasket dust translate to the peritoneum is not supported by the studies that Dr. Finkelstein cites.  The court opines that the studies that Dr. Finkelstein cites to are sufficient under Daubert.

In addition, the defendants argue that Dr. Finkelstein’s specific causation testimony should be excluded because it is indistinguishable from the “any exposure above background” theory that other Eastern District courts have rejected.  The court opines that his causation opinion is different from the previously excluded theories, and it is sufficiently reliable under Daubert.

Last, Defendants argue that Dr. Finkelstein lacks support for his contention that the chrysotile asbestos in defendants’ products was contaminated with tremolite.   The court opines that this issue is best brought up during cross-examination at trial.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Murray Finkelstein is denied.