Category: Discovery

It’s not what happened, but why: First Circuit rejects conclusory, unsupported expert opinions

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It is not uncommon for an opposing expert to opine that the existence of injury alone implies negligence, nor is it unusual to find that such opinions are supported only by general reliance on “literature” with no discernible connection to the issue at hand. Certainly, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) requires an expert’s report to contain “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.” And, Federal Rule of Evidence 702 requires that an expert not only base an opinion on sufficient facts or data but also reliably apply his or her methodology to those facts or data. Yet all too often, courts decline to hold an expert to task and instead find that these deficiencies go to the weight, but not the admissibility, of an expert’s opinion. But, as recently observed by the First Circuit, an expert must do more than merely cite the existence of an injury if a res ipsa loquitur argument is not available. And regardless, an expert’s failure to link the literature cited to the opinions offered is not a matter of insufficiency, but rather of unreliability.

In López-Ramírez v. Toledo-González, — F.4th —, 2022 WL 1261299 (1st Cir. 2022), Plaintiff experienced hearing loss, facial paralysis and loss of balance following a neurosurgical procedure performed by the defendant neurosurgeon. Plaintiff sued the physician and the hospital, alleging that the defendant neurosurgeon’s failure to properly evaluate, treat and monitor her condition during the surgery amounted to medical malpractice. In support of that claim, Plaintiff disclosed a neurology expert who opined that the defendant neurosurgeon deviated from the standard of care and included with his report articles from the medical literature that he felt “may be helpful” in understanding his opinions.

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District of Delaware Chief Judge’s New Standing Order Requires Disclosure of Third-Party Litigation Funding

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The District of Delaware is the latest in a series of courts to require disclosure of third-party funding arrangements, a subject we have previously explored. The Chief Judge in the District of Delaware now joins other courts like the District of New Jersey and the Northern District of California in requiring these disclosures.

On April 18, 2022, Chief District Judge Colm F. Connolly of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware issued a standing order requiring litigants to disclose whether their cases are being financed by third parties. The standing order requires that, “where a party has made arrangements to receive from a person or entity that is not a party (a ‘Third-Party Funder’) funding for some or all of the party’s attorney fees and/or expenses to litigate th[e] action on a non-recourse basis,” either for “a financial interest that is contingent upon the results of the litigation” or “a non-monetary result that is not in the nature of a personal loan, bank loan, or insurance,” the party must disclose certain details of the funding relationship within 45 days of the entry of the standing order (i.e., by June 2, 2022) for existing cases, or within 30 days of the filing of an initial pleading or transfer of a new matter into the District.

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Eastern District of Pennsylvania Issues Lone Pine Order in Zostavax MDL

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Multidistrict litigation is often criticized for enabling plaintiffs to file meritless cases and then hide in large inventories, hoping to be swept up in a settlement (whether global or otherwise) before the case is meaningfully probed through discovery.  Traditional tools such as plaintiff profile sheets and early screening orders represent a partial solution, as they can help identify cases with more obvious flaws such as those that are clearly time-barred or lack proof of product use.  But some issues, such as critical gaps in causation, are beyond the reach of the limited case-specific discovery permitted for most cases in an MDL.  Enter the Lone Pine order, a case management order by which a court requires all plaintiffs to produce evidence establishing specific elements of their claim.

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The California Supreme Court Shrugs Off a Settlement to Provide Important Guidance on Admissibility of Former Deposition Testimony by Company Witnesses

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We reported back in December [California Supreme Court Set to Decide How Defense Counsel Approach Defending Company Witness Depositions] on a case then pending before the California Supreme Court, Berroteran v. Superior Court. The case involves the former testimony exception to the hearsay rule, Evidence Code section 1291(a)(2), as applied to the deposition testimony of company witnesses taken in prior litigation. [Disclaimer: I wrote an amicus brief in support of the petition for review and another on the merits.]

Oral argument did not go well for the plaintiff. Consequently, it was not surprising that within a few days the parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement. The Supreme Court could have dismissed the appeal at that point and left the issue unresolved. But because its core mission is “to secure uniformity of decision” and to settle important questions of law, Cal. Rule of Court 8.500(b), the Court went ahead and decided the appeal. 2022 WL 664719 (Cal. Mar. 7, 2022). And, as Larry David might say, the decision is pretty, pretty good.

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Improper Texting During Remote Testimony Can Result in Significant Consequences to Litigants and Lawyers

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For many litigators, sworn testimony today looks much different than it did two years ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic has required parties to limit travel and in-person proceedings, remote testimony for depositions, arbitrations and even trials has become the rule rather than the exception. With this transition, litigators have been confronted with unique circumstances and felt compelled to ask questions to confirm that the witness’s testimony is that of the witness, and only the witness. For example, is anyone else present in the room with the witness? Does the witness have any unauthorized lines of communication that could be used while the sworn testimony is proceeding? It has now become critical to ask a witness to swear under oath that there is no one else in the room with the witness and that no person is authorized to communicate with the witness during her or his testimony. Several recent decisions solidify this practice point and illustrate the consequences to litigants and lawyers when a witness surreptitiously communicates with others during the course of remote testimony.

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Florida Rule Change Permits Immediate Appeals on Punitive Damages

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The Florida Supreme Court has accepted a proposed rule amendment to permit interlocutory appeals of court orders on punitive damages claims. On January 6, 2022, the Florida Supreme Court approved by 6-1 an amendment to Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130 to allow interlocutory appeals of nonfinal orders granting or denying leave to amend a complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages. Prior to this amendment, a party could only appeal such an order by petitioning for a writ of certiorari. And in that posture, the appellate court’s review was limited only to whether the trial court complied with the procedural requirements for making such a claim.

Practically, this means Florida appellate courts will be able to immediately review trial court orders regarding punitive damages claims on both procedural and substantive grounds. With this amendment, the merits of a plaintiff’s punitive damages claim can now be appealed prior to any discovery of a defendant’s financial information. The new rule takes effect April 1, 2022.

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