Continuing the trend of careful Daubert scrutiny that we’ve reported on recently, the Sixth Circuit upheld the exclusion of expert testimony in a products liability case earlier this week, Rodrigues v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. The case arose out of an MDL proceeding concerning heparin, a drug commonly used to reduce the risk of blood clots. In the MDL proceeding, the district court found admissible expert testimony supporting the claims in which one or more symptoms were apparent within 60 minutes after receiving contaminated heparin. Conversely, the available evidence did not support a causal link between the contaminated heparin and complications arising more than an hour after receipt of the drug. Excluding this testimony, the district court granted summary judgment on plaintiff’s claims.
On appeal, the plaintiff focused on the exclusion of expert testimony to support causation, but the Sixth Circuit found that the district court properly performed its gatekeeping role under Daubert in excluding the testimony. Although the district court found the plaintiff’s expert qualified, it refused to admit testimony on whether the heparin could cause effects beyond the 60 minute window as unreliable. The expert simply could not explain the process by which the symptoms would be delayed, rendering the testimony “speculative” and unreliable. The expert’s “unexplained conclusion failed to connect the dots–to provide a satisfactory reason why the contaminated heparin might first cause symptoms more than sixty minutes after doctors administered it.” At the end of the day, there was simply too great an “analytical gap” between the data and the opinion offered by the expert.
This case contains echoes of (but does not cite) the Court’s decision in Tamraz v. Lincoln Electric, 620 F.3d 665 (6th Cir. 2010), which likewise excluded expert testimony in a products liability MDL as a result of its speculative nature. This decision, however, was brief and unpublished, perhaps suggesting that some of these Daubert issues are becoming more settled within the Circuit.