EXPERT TESTIMONY ON “POSSIBILITIES” IS NOT HELPFUL TO THE JURY

Zamora v. Champion Cooler Corp.
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-16-00577-CV (January 23, 2018)
Justices Bridges, Myers (link to opinion here), and Schenck
Plaintiff Zamora’s doctor testified his reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (“RADS”) might have been caused by asthma or by chemical exposure in the workplace. The doctor acknowledged his impression that Zamora’s condition was caused by workplace chemical exposure was “speculation … a possibility.” The trial court excluded the doctor’s causation testimony and granted the employer’s summary judgment based on no evidence of causation. Zamora appealed. The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed.

A trial court’s decision to exclude expert-witness testimony is reviewed for abuse of discretion. When an expert is challenged, the proponent of the expert opinion has the burden to prove the reliability of each opinion. While the expert in this case testified that RADS is “an irritant-induced type of asthma,” he conceded he could not determine whether anything Zamora inhaled at his employer’s facility caused his lung condition. Zamora argued he should be allowed to present the doctor’s testimony that Zamora’s condition was caused either by asthma or workplace exposure and then put on other evidence that he had no prior history of asthma. But the Court of Appeals held the trial court acted within its discretion in concluding the expert’s “inability to tie Zamora’s injuries to his workplace-exposure to fumes and not to asthma made his testimony unhelpful to the jury on the subject of causation.” So the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the doctor’s causation testimony and, without expert testimony on causation, summary judgment was appropriate.

Print