Third Circuit Court of Appeals Affirms Trial Court Dismissal Of Claims Against Premises Owner Client In Take-Home Multi-Substance Toxic Exposure Case
December 17, 2014 (Philadelphia, PA) – The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a 2013 decision by Judge Eduardo Robreno in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissing a take-home multi-substance toxic exposure case brought by the spouse of a former employee of their client. Rob Gilbreath handled the case before Judge Robreno and the appeal. At the trial court level, the plaintiff alleged that the decedent developed desquamative interstitial pneumonitis from exposure to a laundry-list of substances brought home on her husband’s work clothes including: beryllium, aluminum, carbon, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, lithium, cobalt, and asbestos. Hawkins Parnell & Young filed a motion to dismiss which included a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on each substance and articulated why the plaintiff’s expert’s medical report failed to establish a causal nexus between any substance and the decedent’s disease. It was on this basis that Judge Robreno dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.
The plaintiff’s appeal contended that her expert’s causation report complied with the MDL Administrative Orders, that Alcoa should have produced additional documents that might have demonstrative a causal nexus, and that Judge Robreno should have transferred the case back to the Eastern District of Tennessee rather than dismiss the claims. The Third Circuit held that Judge Robreno did not err in concluding that the plaintiff’s expert failed to satisfy the MDL Administrative Orders, stating that although the plaintiff’s expert opined that the substances at issue could cause “general lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis and chronic industrial bronchitis, [he] did not link the substances and [the decedent’s] specific disease process.” The Third Circuit also concluded that Judge Robreno did not err in refusing to require Alcoa to provide additional discovery to the plaintiff as no motion to compel was filed prior to submission of the expert’s final medical report. Similarly, the Third Circuit disregarded Plaintiff’s argument for transfer back to the Eastern District of Tennessee rather than dismiss because Plaintiff had failed to comply with remand requirements.