Plaintiff filed a toxic tort lawsuit against defendants for negligence. Plaintiff hired an Occupational/Environmental Health Expert Witness to provide testimony, which was challenged by the defendant. The court denied the motion to exclude.
Facts: This case (Thompson v. Kinder Morgan Altamont et al – United States District Court – District of Utah – October 19th, 2018) involves a toxic tort claim. The defendants owned a natural gas compressor station that doubled as a petroleum storage and freight loading facility. The plaintiff claims that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the migration of pollutants onto his property. The plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which he claims was caused by exposure to benzene, one of the substances that allegedly contaminated the property. The plaintiff hired Occupational/Environmental Health Expert Witness Dr. Peter Infante to provide expert testimony. The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this testimony.
Discussion: The parties agree that expert epidemiological testimony is essential to the resolution of this case. The defendants take issue with Dr. Infante’s opinion by stating that there is too great an analytical gap between the literature that bears on the relationship between benzene and CML and his conclusion that it is more likely than not that benzene is the cause of CML. The defendants argue that Dr. Infante relies on studies that do not examine CML or do not find statistically significant relationships between benzene and CML and he draws conclusions from studies that the authors of the studies do not make. In addition, they state that the statistically significant studies that are included in his review are not sufficient enough to support his opinion.
The court disagrees with the defendants, opining that Dr. Infante relies on published studies that found statistically significant associations between benzene and CML. In addition, he offers scientific explanations based on generally accepted principles regarding the difficulties related to the study of rare events. The court also opines that the literature on this issue is not so one sided that Dr. Infante’s conclusion is unsupported by the data.
The court notes that any disagreements about the studies go to the weight of the evidence and not the admissibility.
The court concludes that Dr. Infante is well-qualified to render an opinion in this case as he has been researching and publishing on benzene toxicity for over forty years. In addition, during the two days of hearings, Dr. Infante testified on every step of his review of the literature. Last, the court opines that he did not engage in any unscientific leaps or baseless conjecture.
Conclusion: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Peter Infante is denied.