Asbestos-Liability-Suit Judges Should Be Wary of Plaintiffs’ Expert’s “Notice” Testimony

RobertWrightFeatured Expert Contributor, Mass Torts—Asbestos

Robert H. Wright, a Partner with Horvitz & Levy LLP in Los Angeles, CA

Anyone involved in asbestos litigation has come across the work of Barry Castleman.  By his own account, Castleman has testified for plaintiffs as an expert witness in over 400 trials in asbestos cases discussing the medical literature written about the mineral over the past 100+ years.  Castleman clearly possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of asbestos, but when considering whether his testimony is admissible, trial judges must ask:  is it all inadmissible hearsay? Continue reading “Asbestos-Liability-Suit Judges Should Be Wary of Plaintiffs’ Expert’s “Notice” Testimony”

Update: Court Imposes Injunction on Proposition 65 Listing of Glyphosate

On November 27, 2017, a WLF Legal Pulse post by WLF Senior Litigation Counsel Cory Andrews discussed a lawsuit filed by makers and users of pesticides that include the chemical glyphosate against the California agency that administers Proposition 65. That law requires warnings on products that contain substances “known to the state of California” to cause cancer. On February 26, Eastern District of California Judge William B. Shubb imposed a preliminary injunction preventing the state from listing glyphosate as a carcinogen under Prop 65. The court held that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the First Amendment arguments in their suit. National Ass’n of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Zeise.

Under Prop 65, a substance must be listed if it is identified as a potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international non-governmental entity. In 2015, IARC made that determination for glyphosate, triggering the automatic Prop 65 listing. IARC’s classification of glyphosate is contrary to the conclusions of many environmental regulators around the world, including the US EPA. Last November, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reinforced those regulators’ conclusions that glyphosate was unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans.

To pass muster under the First Amendment, a commercial-speech mandate must require language that is “purely factual and uncontroversial.” The language must thus be factually accurate, and even if literally true, cannot be misleading. Judge Shubb found that the warning required for glyphosate is not factual or uncontroversial because it “conveys the message that glyphosate’s carcinogenicity is an undisputed fact, when almost all other regulators have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that glysophate causes cancer.”

“Big Coffee” Wins Another One in the Food Court

big coffeeFood Court Follies—A WLF Legal Pulse Series

Ed. Note: This is the first post for our blog by our newest Staff Attorney, Marc Robertson.

Without Jerry Seinfeld’s litigious (and fictional) attorney Jackie Chiles on the case, Siera Strumlauf and her co-plaintiffs did not stand a chance in California’s Food Court (the Northern District of California) in her “latte fraud” lawsuit. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted Starbucks’ motion for summary judgment in Strumlauf, et al. v. Starbucks Corp., holding the plaintiffs failed to raise a single triable issue of fact as to each of their eight claims.

Lead plaintiff Strumlauf alleged that Starbucks committed, among other wrongs, breach of express warranty, fraud, and false advertising by underfilling its lattes and mochas (collectively, “lattes”). If this case sounds familiar, it is because a little over a year ago the Central District of California dismissed a case alleging Starbucks misrepresented the specific number of ounces in an iced drink in Forouzesh v. Starbucks Corp. (discussed here). That argument failed, so it only made sense that the plaintiff (and her lawyers) raised the temperature in the fight against Starbucks. Continue reading ““Big Coffee” Wins Another One in the Food Court”

New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65

warningLong the subject of much controversy, California’s Proposition 65 law prohibits businesses from exposing Californians to chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer” without first providing a warning. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) publishes a list of chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer.” By statute, that list must include substances designated as potential carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an international non-governmental entity. Continue reading “New First Amendment Challenge Takes Aim at California’s Listing of Glyphosate as a Potential Carcinogen Under Prop 65”

Trial Judge Tosses Jury Verdict in Talcum Powder Mass-Tort Suit for Lack of Causation

RobertWrightFeatured Expert Contributor, Mass Torts—Asbestos

Robert H. Wright, a Partner with Horvitz & Levy LLP in Los Angeles, CA

In a case that has generated national publicity, Judge Maren E. Nelson of the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted Johnson & Johnson’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict after a jury awarded plaintiff $417 million, including $347 million in punitive damages, in a case alleging injury from exposure to talc.  (See Johnson & Johnson Talcum Powder Cases, Los Angeles County Superior Court, Case No. BC628228, JCCP No. 4872, Oct. 20, 2017 Order.)

The trial court’s order is significant in several respects, but in particular because it rejects plaintiff’s attempt to establish causation based on epidemiologic studies that do not show a relative risk of at least 2.0 for the specific cancer alleged by plaintiff. Continue reading “Trial Judge Tosses Jury Verdict in Talcum Powder Mass-Tort Suit for Lack of Causation”

No “Daubert”-Style Gatekeeping in Alabama for Expert Testimony Based on Technical or Specialized Knowledge

Featured Expert Contributor, Judicial Gatekeeping of Expert Evidence

By Tager_09181Evan M. Tager, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Mayer Brown LLP, with Carl J. Summers, an Associate with Mayer Brown LLP.

In federal courts, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. applies not only to scientific testimony but also to technical and other specialized knowledge. That principle stems from the text of Federal Rule of Evidence 702(a)—which expressly references an “expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge”—and the US Supreme Court’s holding in Kumho Tire v. Carmichael, which extended Daubert’s gatekeeping responsibilities to technical and specialized knowledge. Put simply, Daubert provides a generally applicable rule for how federal judges should ascertain the reliability of expert testimony.

The same is not true in Alabama. In 2011, the Alabama Legislature adopted the Daubert standard and modified Alabama Rule of Evidence 702 to provide: Continue reading “No “Daubert”-Style Gatekeeping in Alabama for Expert Testimony Based on Technical or Specialized Knowledge”

Uncommon Defects and Unreliable Methods: U.S. District Court Effectively Applies ‘Daubert’ to Deny Class Certification

Featured Expert Column–Judicial Gatekeeping of Expert Evidence

Tager_09181Evan M. Tager, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Mayer Brown LLP, with Carl J. Summers, an Associate with Mayer Brown LLP.

In many civil lawsuits, parties introduce expert testimony to help the jury decide questions of negligence or causation. In class actions, expert testimony is also often employed to help the court answer questions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, such as whether a class is ascertainable or to develop a formula for awarding damages on a class-wide basis. In Kljajic v. Whirlpool Corp., the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (St. Eve, J.) addressed the intersection of Daubert and Rule 23’s commonality and predominance requirements.

Under Rule 23(a), a plaintiff must show that there are questions of law or fact common to the class. And plaintiffs who seek certification under Rule 23(b)(3) must satisfy the more demanding predominance requirement, which looks to whether the common issues in the case are more important than the individualized issues. These two requirements are similar, and expert testimony can shed light on whether a case can be maintained as a class action. Continue reading “Uncommon Defects and Unreliable Methods: U.S. District Court Effectively Applies ‘Daubert’ to Deny Class Certification”