Occupational Health Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff was diagnosed with a form of asthma which was allegedly tied to work he did for the defendant.  Plaintiff hired occupational medicine expert and defendant filed a motion to exclude said expert.  The court denied the motion to exclude

Facts:  This case (Dermoris Kidd v. Candy Fleet, LLC – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – November 29th, 2016) involves a claim of negligence, unseaworthiness, wrongful denial of maintenance and cure, and wrongful termination by plaintiff (Kidd) against the defendant (Candy Fleet).  Kidd worked on board the Candy Stripe, a vessel owned by Candy Fleet when he began to feel ill.  A doctor diagnosed him with respiratory conditions due to fumes and vapors as well as asthma.  At a later date, Kidd was working on board the M/V Candy Machine, another vessel owned by Candy Fleet and fell ill and claimed that he was not able to breathe.  He was subsequently diagnosed with bronchospasm and bronchitis.  Kidd then saw Dr. John Hamilton who diagnosed Kidd with reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS), which is a form of asthma and was caused by his exposure to Aluma Brite.  Kidd also hired Dr. Hamilton as an Occupational Health Expert Witness.

Dr. Hamilton was offered as an expert witness to testify that Mr. Kidd experienced significant injuries (physical as well as emotional) and will testify on past and future medical expenses as a result of the injuries he sustained on the job.

Candy Fleet has filed a motion to exclude Dr. Hamilton’s testimony as unreliable under the Daubert standard.

Discussion:  Candy Fleet argues that Dr. Hamilton’s testimony should be excluded for four reasons: 1) Dr. Hamilton is not correct when he asserts that that a Diffusing Capacity of the Lungs for Carbon Monoxide (DLCO) test can be used to diagnose RADS; 2) Dr. Hamilton has never treated another patient (besides Mr. Kidd) for Aluma Brite inhalation and is this not qualified to do so in this case; 3) Dr. Hamilton did not look ar Mr. Kidd’s history of asthma, acid reflux, or smoking as a cause of his injuries; 4) There were errors in Dr. Hamilton’s records, which undermine his expert opinion.

The court ruled against Candy Fleet on all four of these motions.  With regard to DLCO, Dr. Hamilton only mentions once that Kidd’s law DLCO result is consistent with a diagnosis of RADS.  In every other mention of diffusion capacity or DLCO, Dr. Hamilton refers to the test to 1) support his hypothesis that Kidd has impaired lungs or 2) exclude asthma as a cause of his symptoms.

The defendants state that since Dr. Hamilton is not a pulmonologist, and has never treated a patient with Aluma Brite inhalation before,, he is not qualified to offer an opinion in this case.  The court stated that Dr. Hamilton is qualified to opine as a general medical expert and that any question of his specialization should be discussed on cross-examination.

Regarding the argument that Dr. Hamilton failed to consider other causes for Kidd’s symptoms, the court opined that 1) Kidd disputes that he smoked or suffered from asthma in the past and 2) Dr. Hamilton offers justifications for discounting the competing opinions.

Last, Candy Fleet argues that there were errors in Dr. Hamilton’s medical records, which undermines his reliability.  the court opined that the the defendants did not include copies of these records nor do they offer any authority as to why these mistakes undermine Dr. Hamiltons abilities.

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