Experts Allowed to Testify in Toxic-Tort Chemical Exposure Case; Noffsinger v. Valspar Corp.

A federal district court judge in Illinois has ruled that an expert’s testimony cannot be barred in the case of a truck driver who became ill while transporting chemicals.

The case stemmed from a suit filed by S.N. against the Valspar Corp. and one of its subsidiary companies. S.N. claimed that he became ill because of exposure to fumes from a defective drum of Dynaprime. He was transporting the chemical from Illinois to California.

The lawsuit claimed that toxic vapors were responsible for the death of S.N.’s dog, Boomer.

The defendants brought a motion for summary judgment and moved to bar testimony by experts for S.N. One of the experts was a pulmonologist and the second was called to testify on “reactive airways dysfunction syndrome” (RADS).

The defendants’ motion to bar the plaintiff’s experts was based on Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

In the motion to bar the plaintiff’s experts on RADS, the defendants claimed that (1) the plaintiff failed to identify the specific chemical that caused S.N.’s medical condition and (2) they failed to quantify the amount of his exposure to that chemical.

The federal district court judge denied the Daubert motion. RADS was identified as an asthma-causing or airway-dysfunction syndrome in 1985. At that time, an article was written that identified 8 criteria for diagnosing RADS. The legal standard supported by the Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert governs the admissibility of expert testimony. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 states that “a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

“(a) the expert’s scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge would help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
“(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
“(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and method; and
“(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”
The cases in line with the Federal Rule have the court act as a “gatekeeper” to be sure that an expert’s testimony is reliable to qualify for admission. Mihailovich v. Laatsch, 359 F.3d 892 (7th Cir. 2004).

The district court judge said the goal of Daubert is to attempt to be sure that the experts employ the same “intellectual rigor” in their courtroom testimony as would be employed by an expert in a relevant field, and the medical literature makes clear that an expert in RADS would do no more than what the plaintiff’s experts have offered. Given those reasons, the court denied the defendants’ motion to exclude the testimony of plaintiffs to experts.

Noffsinger v. Valspar Corp., No. 09 C 916 (March 15, 2012).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling catastrophic injury cases, toxic tort matters for individuals and families for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Rolling Meadows, Flossmoor, Plainview, Inverness, Skokie, Lisle, Calumet City, Alsip, Harwood Heights, Naperville and Park Forest, Illinois.

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