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Kannankeril v. Terminix Int'l, Inc.

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20219
Nos. 96-5818, 128 F.3d 802/(3d Cir., 10/17/1997)

The court holds that a district court improperly excluded a medical expert's testimony on causation in a case brought by a family seeking damages for cognitive injuries due to an exterminator's alleged excessive and improper application of pesticides. The court first holds that the plaintiffs needed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence only that their medical expert's opinion was based on good grounds. Fed. R. Evid. 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony has a liberal policy of admissiability. An expert's testimony is admissible so long as the process or technique the expert used in formulating the opinion is reliable. The court next holds that the medical expert's testimony on causation meets the requirements for the admission of expert testimony under Fed. R. Evid. 702. Differential diagnosis, used by the plaintiff's medical expert, may be reliable with less than all of the types of information that could be used. Thus, the reliability of the medical expert's opinion is not necessarily diminished by the fact that he did not perform a physical examination. In addition, it is for a jury to decide if the results of a single test outweighs the other factors relied on by the medical expert. Further, the defendant failed to challenge the plaintiff's expert by the presentation of other physicians' alternate diagnoses. The court also holds that the district court erred when it failed to recognize that the plaintiffs' medical expert had sufficient knowledge of the plaintiffs' exposure to the pesticides. Defendant's assertion that the only reliable information that could be used by the plaintiffs' medical expert was an air sampling test taken nine months after the last application of the pesticide is without merit. There is no expert opinion in the record that establishes that an ambient air test is the only appropriate way to gauge exposure to the pesticide. Instead, all factual evidence of the presence of chemicals in the plaintiffs' residence should be relevant in forming an expert opinion of causation. It is for the trier of fact to determine what weight to give the ambient air test results as an indication of exposure. Last, the court holds that the medical expert's opinion on causation has a factual basis and supporting scientific theory. The plaintiffs' expert's testimony is neither conjecture nor speculation, and his opinion was clearly stated to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.

Counsel for Appellant
Evan T. Lawson
Lawson & Weitzen
425 Summer St., Boston MA 02210
(617) 439-4990

Counsel for Appellee
Kevin E. Wolff
McElroy, Deutsch & Mulvaney
1300 Mt. Kemble Ave., Morristown NJ 07962
(201) 993-8100

Before Sloviter and Michel,1 JJ.