TORTS: Toxic torts exposure; expert evidence; studies of similar injuries; Daubert inquiry: BURTON V. CSX TRANSPORTATION INC. (SC 10/23/2008)

TORTS:  Toxic torts exposure; expert evidence; studies of similar
injuries; Daubert inquiry
Opinion  by Minton
DATE RENDERED: 10/23/2008

S. Ct. affirms C.A. affirmation of defense verdict for CSX in this Federal Employers Liability Act
(FELA) toxic exposure case. 

Appellant alleged his exposure to chlorinated hydrocarbons while employed by CSX lead to "toxic
encephalopathy," a controversial diagnosis. A jury returned a defense verdict; appellant alleges error in that 1) the trial court admonished the jury to disregard causation opinions from appellant's trial expert, a
neurophysiologist, while 2) allowing the jury to consider the opinions of CSX's expert and 3) forbidding any reference by appellant to "CSX workers'" involvement in a study of toxic

S.Ct. held that: 1) appellant's trial expert herself admitted that she could not state the cause of appellant's cognitive impairment; also, the error, if any, was harmless because the appellant put on two other trial experts as to causation which the jury chose not to believe or to ignore. On issue 2), the court found that CSX's expert's testimony passed Daubert and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting it. Finally, on issue 3), without any indication that the "CSX workers" in the study were subject to the same conditions as appellant reduced the probative value of their status as "CSX workers" and posed a risk of undue prejudice against CSX. 

Digested by John E. Hamlet

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