Sunday, October 20, 2013

Toxicology Expert Witness Can Affect Case Outcome

In a companion case of Exxon Mobil v. Ford et al, both sides must have been nervous when a toxicology expert witness testified. After all, $1.65 billion in compensation was at stake. Although the toxicology expert was just one of the many experts called at that time, his testimony surely have contributed to the outcome of the case.

As a background: dozens of Jacksonville, MD households had sued Exxon Mobil for an undetected gas leak from one of its service stations that contaminated water wells in the area. The households filed two lawsuits against Exxon Mobil, including the $1.65 billion companion case. After the oil company lost both cases, they elevated them to the Maryland Court of Appeals.

In a legal case involving chemicals, a toxicology expert is generally called in to support or refute any evidence presented. He or she examines affected individuals, reviews medical reports, and works with legal authorities, among others. In this case, the toxicology expert recommended annual tests for certain ailments that costs up to $2,000 per year for each respondent.

However, the Maryland Court of Appeals also found that the “expert testimony generalized that all Respondents faced a significantly increased risk of developing a future disease, without providing individual assessments of any Respondent.” That finding partly contributed to the Court’s reversing the decision of the $1.65 billion companion case and sending it back to the lower court for a new trial. 

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