Family Medicine Expert’s Testimony is Excluded for Basis on Hypotheticals

Wendy Ketner, M.D.

Written by
on March 9, 2021

Family Medicine Expert’s Testimony is Excluded for Basis on Hypotheticals

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Mcallen Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Flores v. Allstate Tex. Lloyd’s Co.
Citation: 229 F. Supp. 2d 697

In this insurance dispute, the plaintiffs argue their allergic reactions to mold made their home uninhabitable. They retain a family medicine expert to opine on this argument. The expert, however, fails to support his conclusions with testing or research. Rather, he bases his testimony on assumptions and hypothetical situations. This lack of reliable methodology is a clear failure of the Daubert standard. As a result, the court dismisses the expert’s testimony.

Facts

This case was the result of an insurance claim dispute. The plaintiffs, a married couple, bought the defendant’s insurance package to cover their house. They later sought compensation after water damage and mold caused allergy-related health issues and made their home uninhabitable. The plaintiffs argued that they should have been entitled to alternate living expenses under the provisions of the insurance policy. The defendant denied that the plaintiffs had any negative health problems as a result of exposure to mold. Further, the defendant claimed there was no credible evidence of any adverse health effects caused by mold exposure from the house, thus, denying their untenantability claim.

The Plaintiff’s Family Medicine Expert Witness

The plaintiffs tried to prove untenantability by establishing that they had adverse health effects from mold in their home, forcing them to find new living arrangements. They retained a family medicine expert to opine on their case.

The defendant moved to dismiss the expert’s testimony, claiming his opinions were not based on scientifically valid methodology and reasoning.

Discussion

The court explained that to be admissible, the expert’s testimony must make the existence of the alleged health effects more probable than without this testimony. And to be probable, the testimony must also be reliable. The court noted that the plaintiff’s argument was that their alleged allergies were caused by the presence of mold in their homes. This hypothesis was not tested by the expert. Instead, he suggested a correlation between the two. The expert was asked to assume the plaintiff was screened for allergies and found to be allergic to different types of mold, however, nowhere did the record indicate that this testing occurred. The expert testified he found nothing in the medical records to suggest a specific allergy to mold, and then, when asked about the relation, he gave a hypothetical explanation to support his hypothesis.

The court further observed that the expert was unable to locate any clinical research or experiments, whether his own or otherwise, which indicated that the mold form contained in the plaintiffs’ home had any health effects on them. For instance, the expert did not perform an allergy screening on the plaintiffs, nor did he base his opinion on the findings of any tests to establish if the plaintiffs were allergic to some specific form of mold present in their house. He merely argued that plaintiffs had allergies in general.

Held

The motion to exclude the plaintiff’s family medicine expert testimony was granted.

Key Takeaways for Experts

For scientific experts, admissibility standards will always rule your participation. Here, a medical expert failed to rely on scientific evidence, which unsurprisingly, led to his exclusion. Be sure your report and testimony fall in line with the expert evidence standard used for your jurisdiction.

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