Expert Article Library

Determining Data Requires a Solid Scientific Foundation

Case Name: Rink et al. v. Cheminova, Inc. (http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200410160.pdf)

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, on appeal from the District Ct. of Florida

Date: February 24, 2005

Expert: Chemical Engineering. Dr. Jack Matson, PhD (Plaintiff).

Issues: Exposure to an allegedly defective pesticide from aerial spraying

Summary of case: The pesticide Malathion (brand name Fyfanon) was sprayed over Tampa, Florida and nearby counties to eradicate the presence of the Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly). After the spraying, suburban residents became ill due to the spraying of the allegedly defective pesticide and filed lawsuits against the pesticide manufacturer for product liability, negligence, and toxic trespass.

Role of the expert: The malathion was shipped from Denmark and subsequently stored at sites in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Plaintiff’s expert was to testify that the malathion was stored above recommended temperatures, causing it to break down into its toxic components, malaoxon and isomalathion.

Expert analysis: Plaintiff alleges the district court erred in excluding their expert’s testimony, because it was based upon the expert’s general personal credibility. The Eleventh Circuit disagreed, affirming the trial court’s decision that the expert’s methodology did not meet the Daubert standard. The expert had no experience with malathion prior to being retained as expert, and had visited only one storage site and measured the upper limit temperature, but did not visit the other storage sites to take into account differences in the way the chemical may have been stored or how long they may have been stored. Expert determined that atmospheric conditions at each storage facility were similar and therefore concluded chemical decomposition must have occurred at each facility. The methods the expert used in transferring temperature data from Texas to Florida and in finding the temperature difference between the stored liquid and the air was not based upon tested, peer reviewed or generally accepted methods.

Summary prepared by J. Price, Student, University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall)