Expert Article Library

Rheumatologists found unpersuasive in silicone implant case

Case Name: Dee Norris v. Baxter Healthcare Corp. (http://www.ck10.uscourts.gov/opinions/03/03-1471.pdf)

Court: United States Court of Appeal for the 10th Circuit; appeal from U. S. District Court for the District of Colorado

Date: February 8, 2005

Experts: Doctor—Physician—Rheumatology. Dr. Vasey and Dr. Espinoza, Plaintiff’s specialists

Issue: Whether the district court erred in excluding the testimony of the plaintiff’s medical experts and granting summary judgment to the defendant.

Summary of case: The plaintiff sued the defendant, a silicone breast implant manufacturer, for breach of warranty, negligence, misrepresentation and product liability. She claimed that a leaking silicone breast implant had resulted in “silicone-associated connective tissue disease” and “auto-immune disease.” The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Role of the expert: In order to prove her case, the plaintiff had to show that faulty silicone breast implants can cause health problems in general, and that her implant had actually caused her illness. Two medical doctors acted as expert witnesses; both testified that they believed breast implants could cause immune system disease, and they both had examined the plaintiff and testified that they believed her implants had caused her health problems.

Expert analysis: The district court did not find the testimony of the two expert witnesses persuasive in light of the defendant’s greater body of evidence that there is no generally accepted link in the medical profession between silicone breast implants and immune disease. Though the two doctors had impressive credentials, they did not address the many significant, peer-reviewed epidemiological studies that the defendant presented or offered any reason that the defendant’s evidence was not credible. The Tenth Circuit found the expert testimony was scientifically unreliable because the testimony assumed an unproven causal connection between breast implants and immune disease.