Nebraska Supreme Court Affirms Exclusion of Gastroenterology Expert Witness

The appellant filed a products liability claim in district court stating that a drug manufactured by the appellees caused her to have chronic pain.  The district court excluded the expert witness testimony of the appellant’s Gastroenterology Expert Witness.  The supreme court affirmed this opinion.

Facts:  This case (Freeman v. Hoffman-La Roche, Inc. – Supreme Court of Nebraska – May 18th, 2018) involves a products liability claim.  The appellant (Freeman) alleges that she developed a chronic condition as a result of ingesting Accutane, which is a pharmaceutical drug manufactured by the appellees  to treat chronic acne.  Freeman claims that she suffered ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, but expert witnesses agreed that she had actually developed Crohn’s disease.  In order to prove that the drug caused the development of her Crohn’s disease, Freeman hired Dr. David B. Sachar (Gastroenterology Expert Witness) to provide an expert witness opinion.  The appellees filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony, which was granted by the trial court, and thus, the appellees were granted summary judgment.  Freeman filed an appeal.

Discussion:  The trial court found that that Sachar’s methodology was not reliable due to his inconsistency in criticizing studies which were adverse to his adversary.  In addition, the trial court found that Sachar “cherry-picked” supporting studies from an overwhelming contrary body of literature, which indicated that his methodology was conclusion driven.

Free alleges that the district court drifted from its gatekeeping function and determined the weight of the evidence, and not the admissibility.  The current court disagrees.

The court opines that Sachar admitted that he hasn’t written or published an opinion about the use of isotretinoin use and Crohn’s disease, thus he would have review data from different scientific fields and other types of studies.  Sachar also recognized that no study specifically determined that isotretinoin could be a risk factor Crohn’s disease, he theorized that the drug could be a risk factor for Crohn’s disease.

The court finds that Sachar discredited all but one study finding no relation between the use of isotretinoin and IBD and that any studies that report no association between isotretinoin and Crohn’s disease would “waste everybody’s time”.  The court also finds that Sachar disregarded what the other two experts found to be the most probative evidence and also was unduly critical of those studies which were adverse to his theory, which indicates that his methodology was conclusion driven.

Conclusion: The Nebraska Supreme Court affirms the opinion of the district court excluding the expert witness report of Dr. David B. Sachar