Experts testifying in asbestos trials need not compare the exposure of one defendant’s products to a plaintiff’s overall exposure, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Nov. 22.
The majority reasoned that noncomparative testimony did not violate the ban against using “any exposure” causation theories.
The ruling affirmed the Superior Court’s decision, which upheld a $994,800 jury award out of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Justice Christine L. Donohue, who wrote the majority opinion in Rost v. Ford Motor, said plaintiff Richard Rost’s expert properly testified that Rost’s exposure to the defendant’s asbestos-containing products was substantial and alone could have caused Rost to develop mesothelioma. Having the expert quantify and distinguish exposure to the defendant’s products and compare that to every other exposure Rost had would create a nearly impossible hurdle for plaintiffs that doesn’t exist in other tort cases, Donohue said.
“Multiple asbestos-containing products may be substantial factors causative of a plaintiff’s mesothelioma. It is for the finder of fact, and not the courts, to make these determinations regarding substantial causation,” Donohue said. “The dissenting justices’ concern about whether the jury could understand whether the bucket of water was placed in a bathtub or an ocean misses the mark entirely, since Dr. [Arthur] Frank testified that Rost’s exposures at Smith Motors [where Ford’s asbestos-containing products were used], without more, were sufficient to cause his cancer.”
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