Infectious Disease Expert Witness Testimony Confirmed on Appeal

Plaintiff sued defendant restaurant after contracting salmonella.  Plaintiff hired a Infectious Disease Expert Witness to provide expert witness testimony, which was challenged by the defendant.  The lower court denied the motion, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Facts:  This case (Stachulski v. Apple New England, LLC – Supreme Court of New Hampshire – July 18th, 2018) involves a claim of strict products liability.   The plaintiff claims that he contracted salmonella by eating a hamburger at the defendant’s restaurant.  The defendant disputes the allegation that the source of the salmonella and argues that other food sources could have been the cause of the illness.  A jury found in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding $750,000 in damages.  The defendant appealed pertaining to numerous arguments.  We will focus on the lower court acceptance of Seth D. Rosenbaum as a  Infectious Disease Expert Witness.  The defendant argues that Dr. Rosenbaum should not have been accepted as an expert witness in this case.

Discussion:  The defendant states that Dr. Ronenbaum’s testimony was based upon insufficient facts and was not the product of reliable principles.

Regarding the argument that Dr. Rosenbaum’s testimony was not based on sufficient facts or data, the court points to six facts that Rosenbaum relied on when formulating his opinion that the plaintiff contracted salmonella from eating the restaurant’s hamburger.  Thus, the court opines, they cannot conclude that the lower court did not exercise it’s discretion when opining on this issue.

The court next turns to whether Rosenbaum’s testimony was the product of reliable principles and methods.  The defendant argues that Rosenbaum did not lay a proper foundation and exercise the appropriate methodology.  Thus, his opinion was not scientific and should have been excluded.  The court notes however, that Rosenbaum reviewed the plaintiff’s medical records and numerous depositions and testified that this, along with his experience and qualifications as an infectious disease physician aided in forming his opinions that the restaurant was, more likely than not, the cause of the illness.  Thus, the  court declines to overturn the lower court on this issue.

Last, the court turns to the defendant’s last argument, that Rosenbaum lacked an adequate foundation to testify that someone with celiac disease would be more susceptible to salmonella illness than someone without the condition.  The court disagrees, stating that Dr. Rosenbaum opined that he could not quantify how much more likely someone with celiac disease would be more likely to contact salmonella than someone without the illness.  In addition, any arguments like this go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  This part of the appeal was confirmed by the court.