Georgia Supreme Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Expert’s ‘Each and Every’ Exposure Causation Testimony In Asbestos Case

On July 5, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court, in Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. v. Knight, addressed the admissibility of the "each and every" exposure theory of causation in the context of an asbestos lawsuit. In Scapa, plaintiff Knight alleged exposure to asbestos fibers from his work at the Scapa Dryer Felt plant, which allegedly caused his mesothelioma. At trial, the jury found in favor of Knight. Scapa appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's causation expert, who testified that "each and every" exposure to asbestos that Knight had at the Scapa plant caused his mesothelioma. The appellate court upheld the trial court's decision to allow testimony regarding the "each and every" exposure causation standard. Upon a motion for writ by Scapa, the Georgia Supreme Court agreed to examine the issue of the admissibility of the "each and every" exposure standard.

The Georgia Supreme Court noted that, under Georgia law, although plaintiff did not have to prove that asbestos exposure at the Scapa plant was a "substantial contribution to his mesothelioma, [he] did have to show that it made a meaningful contribution." In this regard, the Court held that a de minimis contribution to an injury is not sufficient under Georgia law. The Court noted that the issue of the dose of asbestos exposure by Knight at the Scapa plant was "seriously disputed at trial." It reasoned that by allowing testimony that "each and every" exposure to asbestos caused Knight's mesothelioma, plaintiff's expert had "essentially told the jury that it was unnecessary to resolve the extent of exposure... - if the jury determined that Knight was exposed at the facility to any asbestos beyond background...according to [plaintiff's expert], it was therefore a contributing cause of his mesothelioma", regardless of the dose. The Court held that testimony of the sort offered by plaintiff's expert in Scapa "does not 'fit' the issue that the jury was charged with deciding, and it could not have been helpful to the jury." The Court therefore reversed the appellate court and found that the "each and every" exposure causation standard was not sufficient under Georgia law.

At Governo Law Firm, we have handled many cases where plaintiffs' causation experts have testified that any type of exposure to asbestos fibers, including de minimis exposure, was a cause of the plaintiff's disease. The Scapa case provides an example of the court's ability to act as a gatekeeper to prevent questionable science from reaching the jury's purview, and is yet another example of Court's rejecting unfounded and unsubstantiated causation opinions by plaintiffs' experts. If you have any questions about this or other issues relating to asbestos litigation, please feel free to contact David Governo (dgoverno@governo.com) or Matthew Ilacqua (milacqua@governo.com).

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