Wilson v. Ethicon, Inc. et al

Filing 71

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Daubert Motion re: William Porter, M.D.) The 50 MOTION by Ethicon, Inc., Johnson & Johnson to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert William Porter, M.D. is GRANTED in part, DENIED in part, and RESERVED in part, as more fully set forth herein. Signed by Judge Joseph R. Goodwin on 4/5/2017. (cc: counsel of record; any unrepresented party) (mek)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA CHARLESTON DIVISION IN RE: ETHICON, INC. PELVIC REPAIR SYSTEMS PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION MDL No. 2327 ______________________________________________________________________________ THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO: Tina Wilson v. Ethicon, Inc., et al. Civil Action No. 2:12-cv-02099 MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (Daubert Motion re: William Porter, M.D.) Pending before the court is the Motion to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of Plaintiff’s Expert, William Porter, M.D. [ECF No. 50] filed by the defendants. The Motion is now ripe for consideration because briefing is complete. I. Background This case resides in one of seven MDLs assigned to me by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation concerning the use of transvaginal surgical mesh to treat pelvic organ prolapse (“POP”) and stress urinary incontinence (“SUI”). In the seven MDLs, there are more than 60,000 cases currently pending, approximately 28,000 of which are in this MDL, which involves defendants Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon, Inc. (collectively “Ethicon”), among others. In this MDL, the court’s tasks include “resolv[ing] pretrial issues in a timely and expeditious manner” and “resolv[ing] important evidentiary disputes.” Barbara J. Rothstein & Catherine R. Borden, Fed. Judicial Ctr., Managing Multidistrict Litigation in Products Liability Cases 3 (2011). To handle motions to exclude or to limit expert testimony pursuant to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the court developed a specific procedure. In Pretrial Order (“PTO”) No. 217, the court instructed the parties to file general causation Daubert motions in the main MDL and specific causation Daubert motions, responses, and replies in the individual member cases. To the extent that an expert is both a general and specific causation expert, the parties were advised that that they could file a general causation motion in the main MDL 2327 and a specific causation motion in an individual member case. PTO No. 217, at 4. II. Legal Standard By now, the parties should be intimately familiar with Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert, so the court will not linger for long on these standards. Expert testimony is admissible if the expert is qualified and if his or her expert testimony is reliable and relevant. Fed. R. Evid. 702; see also Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597. An expert may be qualified to offer expert testimony based on his or her “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.” Fed. R. Evid. 702. Reliability may turn on the consideration of several factors: (1) whether a theory or technique can be or has been tested; (2) whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; (3) whether a technique has a high known or potential rate of error and whether there are standards controlling its operation; and (4) whether the theory or technique enjoys general acceptance within a relevant scientific community. 2 Cooper v. Smith & Nephew, Inc., 259 F.3d 194, 199 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592–94). But these factors are neither necessary to nor determinative of reliability in all cases; the inquiry is flexible and puts “principles and methodology” above conclusions and outcomes. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 595; see also Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 525 U.S. 137, 141, 150 (1999). Finally, and simply, relevance turns on whether the expert testimony relates to any issues in the case. See, e.g., Daubert, 509 U.S. at 591–92 (discussing relevance and helpfulness). In the context of specific causation expert opinions, the Fourth Circuit has held that “a reliable differential diagnosis provides a valid foundation for an expert opinion.” Westberry v. Gislaved Gummi AB, 178 F.3d 257, 263 (4th Cir. 1999). A reliable differential diagnosis typically, though not invariably, is performed after ‘physical examinations, the taking of medical histories, and the review of clinical tests, including laboratory tests,’ and generally is accomplished by determining the possible causes for the patient’s symptoms and then eliminating each of these potential causes until reaching one that cannot be ruled out or determining which of those that cannot be excluded is the most likely. Id. at 262 (citations omitted). “A differential diagnosis that fails to take serious account of other potential causes may be so lacking that it cannot provide a reliable basis for an opinion on causation.” Id. at 265. However, an expert’s causation opinions will not be excluded “because he or she has failed to rule out every possible alternative cause of a plaintiff's illness.” Id. “The alternative causes suggested by a defendant ‘affect the weight that the jury should give the expert’s testimony and not the admissibility of that testimony,’ unless the expert can offer ‘no explanation for why she has concluded [an alternative cause offered by the opposing party] was not the 3 sole cause.’” Id. at 265 (citations omitted). At bottom, the court has broad discretion to determine whether expert testimony should be admitted or excluded. Cooper, 259 F.3d at 200. III. Discussion Ethicon first argues that Dr. Porter did not conduct a proper differential diagnosis. I disagree. Dr. Porter is a board-certified urogynecologist, who has performed nearly 3,000 vaginal sling implant surgeries. Mot. Exclude Ex. A, at 1–2 [ECF No. 50-1]. Dr. Porter’s expert report and deposition testimony show that he conducted a detailed review of the plaintiff’s medical records. Dr. Porter considered numerous alternative causes for the plaintiff’s injuries and explained his reasons for ruling out those alternative causes. As discussed above, an expert’s causation opinions will not be excluded “because he or she has failed to rule out every possible alternative cause of a plaintiff's illness.” Westberry, 178 F.3d. at 265. Ethicon’s suggested other possible alternative causes affect the weight—not the admissibility—of an expert’s testimony, unless the expert can provide no explanation for ruling out such alternative causes at trial. See id. at 265. To the extent that Ethicon believes that Dr. Porter failed to properly consider other alternative causes, Ethicon is free to address those issues on crossexamination. Ethicon’s Motion on this point is DENIED. Ethicon next argues that I should exclude Dr. Porter’s opinions because they are not helpful to the trier of fact. However, I determine that Dr. Porter’s opinions 4 are sufficiently relevant to move forward. If relevance later becomes an issue, Ethicon is free to object at trial. Ethicon’s Motion on this point is DENIED. Ethicon next argues that Dr. Porter should not be permitted to testify regarding general causation. I agree. Neither party disputes that the plaintiff designated Dr. Porter solely as a specific causation expert in this case. Pursuant to PTO 206, the plaintiff’s expert disclosure was due on May 5, 2016. Because the time for expert disclosure has passed and the plaintiff’s expert was disclosed only as a specific causation expert, she may not offer general causation testimony. Ethicon’s Motion is GRANTED on this point, and any remaining issues are RESERVED for trial. IV. Conclusion The court ORDERS that the Motion to Exclude the Opinions and Testimony of Plaintiff’s Expert, William Porter, M.D. [ECF No. 50] is GRANTED in part, DENIED in part, and RESERVED in part. The court DIRECTS the Clerk to send a copy of this Order to counsel of record and any unrepresented party. ENTER: 5 April 5, 2017

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