Internal Medicine and Fire Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

The son of a man who died while camping filed suit against several companies that manufactured and sold certain devices.  The Defendant hired two expert witnesses to prove their case.  The Plaintiff filed motions to exclude these experts.

Facts: This case (Kelley v. Howard Berger Company, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Tennessee – December 27th, 2016) involves the death of an individual when a fire erupted in a traveling camper.  The decedent’s son has filed suit stating that the Defendant did not instruct the deceased on how to properly use the devices.  In addition, the Plaintiff alleges that the the defendant’s devices leaked oxygen. The Defendant hired two expert witnesses: Joseph T. Hannan, M.D. (internal medicine expert witness), and Jerry Carter (Fire Expert Witness).  The Plaintiff has filed Daubert motions to exclude the expert witness testimony of both.

Discussion:  Regarding Dr. Hannan, he opined that the decedent had a significantly diminished quality of life and was nearing the end of his life and would have died within 18 months regardless of the accident. The Plaintiff argues that he is not qualified to give an opinion on the life expectancy of the decedent as he is not qualified to provide such an opinion and his opinions are not based on any scientific facts or basis.  The Plaintiff argues that Dr. Hannan is not an expert in internal medicine, geriatrics, or hospice case and is not qualified to opine on life expectancy.

The defendant replied by stating that Dr. Hannan has been practicing medicine since 1978 and is board certified as an internist.  In addition, he practiced in pediatrics, internal medicine, geriatrics, and hospice care for over 40 years and is thus qualified to form an opinion regarding the decedent’s illness and remaining life expectancy.  In addition, he argues that Dr. Hannan’s method of forming a prognosis was based on a review of the medical history and his experience in treating patients with similar issues.

The court opined that Dr. Hannan is qualified to testify on the decedent’s life expectancy as he has been practicing geriatrics since 1985 and has been involved in hospice care since 1996.  In addition, Dr. Hannan relied on his experience, medical articles, government documents related to life expectancy, and medical records of the patient.  All of these are reliable methods for accepting expert witnesses.

In addition, the Plaintiff argues that Jerry Carter listed seven potential causes of the fire, but there is no evidence to support any of these causes, except the presence of a space heater.  The Plaintiff also requests the Mr. Carter be excluded from testifying on the possible causes of the fire, that the decedent was smoking prior to the fire, and other related issues.  The Defendant replied that Mr. Carter should be permitted to testify that smoking were a potential source of the fire as the Plaintiff’s experts identified smoking as a potential source.  The court disagreed, stating that Mr. Carter’s opinion is relevant in an attempt to rebut Plaintiff’s expert opinion and that any concerns can be explored at cross-examination.

Conclusion:  The Plaintiff’s motions to exclude the expert opinions of Dr. Hannan and Mr. Carter were denied.