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Sixth Circuit Continues Daubert Trend

Posted in Recent Cases

Doctor.Photo.jpgAdding to line of cases that started a year ago with Tamraz v. Lincoln Elec. Co., 620 F.3d 665 (6th Cir. 2010) (discussed here), the Sixth Circuit has again tightened the requirements for expert testimony under Rule 702 and Daubert in Thomas v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.pdf, Nos. 09-6147, 09-6272, 09-6274. 

As previously reported last September, a majority of the Court in Tamraz overturned a $20.5 million verdict after concluding that the trial court erroneously admitted a physician’s testimony regarding the cause of a disease where the testimony did not meet the same stringent test of reliability as the physician’s testimony about the diagnosis of the disease. 

Earlier this year, the Court built upon its decision in Tamraz when it held, in Pluck v. BP Oil Pipeline Co. (09-4572) (discussed here), that an expert’s conclusions ruling out other potential causes of a plaintiff’s injury must also satisfy Daubert and Rule 702. 

The Court’s latest decision, issued just last week, continues the Court’s trend of requiring strict compliance with the requirements of Rule 702 and Daubert for all aspects of expert testimony.  In Thomas, the Court affirmed the dismissal of three product liability cases on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ treating physicians, while arguably qualified to opine as to the nature of the condition afflicting the plaintiffs, could not meet the reliability requirements necessary to testify about the cause of plaintiffs’ affliction.  Because the plaintiffs could not satisfy the elements of their claims without expert testimony as to causation, the Sixth Circuit upheld the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant drug manufacturer.  

While the Sixth Circuit’s expert jurisprudence may seem rigid of late, practitioners would be wise to consider strict compliance with Rule 702 and Daubert the new norm; as the Supreme Court recently denied cert over the Tamraz case, this line of cases appears to have staying power.

Additional commentary on the Sixth Circuit’s recent Daubert and pharmaceuticals jurisprudence can be found here.