Court Finds Independent Medical Examinations Conducted Years After Chemical Exposure Useless


Internal Medicine ExpertCourt: Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Aaron v. McGowan Working Partners
Citation: 2017 La. App. LEXIS 1105

In this case, the court found that there is no good cause as per La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann. art. 1464 with respect to independent medical examinations undertaken 9 years after chemical exposure to hydrogen chloride.

Facts

In this mass tort lawsuit, which arose from a hydrochloric acid leak, the defendants filed a motion to reverse the trial court’s decision excluding the testimony of their internal medicine expert witness.

The Internal Medicine Expert Witness

The defendants’ internal medicine expert witness was a doctor specializing in internal medicine and infectious diseases. In addition to owning a private practice, the internal medicine expert served as Chief Health Officer of New Orleans for 13 years and Vice-Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Orleans Parish Communications District. He was a regular expert guest of news stations and has frequently contributed articles related to health in journals such as the New Orleans Magazine.

The Internal Medicine Expert’s Testimony

The defendants retained the internal medicine expert witness to perform independent medical examinations of the plaintiffs and to provide an opinion as to whether the claims of each plaintiff regarding the alleged time and location of exposure as well as the resulting symptoms were compatible with known and accepted scientific concepts applicable to low-level HCl exposure.

The trial court noted that good cause must exist in order to allow independent medical examinations because examinations carried out 9 years after the incident occurred could not help the court. The trial court also claimed that its analysis of the internal medicine expert’s findings suggested that they dealt with credibility issues and discrepancies in the plaintiff’s evidence more than they did with medical opinions. It was also illegal to testify about the examinations.

Arguments Against Exclusion

The defendants argued that the trial court erred by banning the expert from performing the tests because obtaining a medical history is an important part of the medical evaluation. The defendants also argued that the trial court erred by banning the expert from addressing “time and concentration components” in relation to each of the plaintiffs of the case, claiming that the limitations placed on his testimony deprived them of the chance to defend the specific allegation of causation.

Discussion

The court noted that the courts have broad discretion to control the discovery before trial, the discretion of which will not be impaired on appeal if there is no direct evidence of abuse (citing Oliva v. Winn-Dixie La). It found that the trial court had not abused its discretion by barring further examinations due to a lack of good cause to perform one 9 years after the incident.

Additionally, the court observed that the plaintiffs did not have complex injuries, and that the expert had access to extensive information about each plaintiff through their litigation forms, depositions, testimony, and medical records. The court also noted that the trial court had allowed the expert to discuss his opinions on the lack of evidence of specific cause and effect with respect to the plaintiffs who showed anomalies in showing primary symptoms of HCl exposure. Furthermore, the court was of the opinion that there was no need for a specific causation expert witness testimony to establish or compare reported exposure times of patients with the occurrence of HCl exposure.

Held

The defendants’ motion to reverse the trial court’s exclusion of testimony of the internal medicine expert witness was denied.

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