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Joiner v. General Elec. Co.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20939
Nos. No. 94-9131, 78 F.3d 524/(11th Cir., 03/27/1996)

The court holds that a district court erred by excluding expert scientific testimony in an action in which plaintiffs seek damages for personal injuries allegedly caused by exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at work. The court first sets forth the two-pronged test for admission of expert testimony that the U.S. Supreme Court established in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 23 ELR 20979 (1993), noting that the Supreme Court instituted a "gatekeeping" role for trial judges to determine whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is reliable and whether that reasoning or methodology is relevant to the issue involved. Next, the court holds that in assessing the reliability of plaintiffs' expert testimony, the trial court improperly rejected two animal studies on which the experts relied. Instead of viewing the bases of an expert's opinion as a whole to screen out mere speculation, the district court assessed only a portion of the studies the experts relied on. The trial court also erred by excluding the testimony because it drew different conclusions from the research than did each of the experts. The court should have satisfied itself as to the legal reliability of the proffered expert testimony, leaving the jury to decide the correctness of competing expert opinions. The court next holds that the trial court improperly determined that the experts' opinions did not fit the facts of the case, when in fact their testimony created genuine issues of material fact as to whether PCBs alone could cause cancer without the presence of dangerous derivatives.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Kenneth J. Chesebro
1600 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02138
(617) 661-4423

Counsel for Defendants
Anthony L. Cochran
Chilivis, Cochran, Larkins & Bever
3127 Maple Dr. NE, Atlanta GA 30305
(404) 233-4171

Before BIRCH and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and SMITH,* Senior Circuit Judge.