The Eleventh Circuit recently reinstated a case alleging a surgical tool caused internal burns during a hysterectomy surgery, holding that the district court erred in disqualifying an expert on the basis that he had never before used the tool. The decision is a reminder of the importance of asserting and maintaining precise and strategic Daubert challenges.
In Moore v. Intuitive Surgical, Inc., No. 19-10869, the plaintiff underwent a laparoscopic hysterectomy in which her surgeon used a robotic miniature electrified scissor tool manufactured by the defendant. Following surgery, the plaintiff experienced, among other things, abdominal pain and eventually learned she had sustained internal burns to her left ureter during the surgical procedure. The tool was recalled by the manufacturer a few months after the plaintiff’s procedure, and the plaintiff filed suit.
The nature of advocacy makes it hard sometimes for lawyers to focus solely on the outcome and the bottom line result. How a court gets there may not matter much to the prevailing party in the dispute as they celebrate the win, but it may have an impact on later cases. A recent example is the opinion in Burton et al. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., Inc., 2021 WL 1422814 (7th Cir. Apr. 15, 2021). The court found the winner’s circle, but it dented the car a bit along the way.
[Disclosure/disclaimer: The author filed an amicus brief in support of defendants in the case.]
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2) requires retained expert witnesses to provide an expert report which gives “a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(B)(i). If a party fails to disclose information required under Rule 26(a)(2), “the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(c)(1). As a plaintiff in the Western District of Washington recently learned, failure to adhere to Rule 26 can be fatal to a case.
It is not often that a federal district court limits an expert witness’s proffered testimony on the ground that the expert is not qualified to offer it, and it is also uncommon for a court to exclude expert testimony on the ground that it would not assist the trier of fact. However, the Western District of Louisiana recently limited a proffered engineering expert’s testimony on both of those grounds.
In Terral River Service, Inc. v. SCF Marine, Inc., No. 3:19-CV-00406, Plaintiff purchased a barge from Defendant and later found it partially submerged due to a fracture in the bow. The parties disputed the timing of the fracture, with Plaintiff alleging that it existed prior to delivery of the barge. Plaintiff offered as an expert witness a metallurgical and mechanical engineer with experience in evaluating barge fractures.
On December 8, 2020, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Southern District of New York’s granting of summary judgment in favor of Bayer — and resulting closure of all cases against Bayer — in the Mirena multidistrict litigation (MDL). In re Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Prod. Liab. Litig. (No. II), No. 19-2155, 2020 WL 7214264 (2d Cir. Dec. 8, 2020).
In the MDL, the plaintiffs alleged that the Mirena Intrauterine System had caused them to develop idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH). The District Court elected to focus first on whether the plaintiffs had evidence sufficient to establish general causation. The District Court held a Daubert hearing that lasted three days and featured testimony by 19 general causation witnesses — 7 for the plaintiffs and 12 for Bayer. On October 24, 2018, the District Court entered a detailed 156-page opinion granting Bayer’s Daubert motion as to all of the plaintiffs’ experts and denying as moot plaintiffs’ motion to preclude Bayer’s experts. In re Mirena IUS Levonorgestrel-Related Prods. Liab. Litig., 341 F. Supp. 3d 213 (S.D.N.Y. 2018). Bayer then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the District Court granted for lack of general causation and dismissed all cases in the Mirena MDL.