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In re Taxotere (Docetaxel) Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

August 23, 2019

IN RE TAXOTERE (DOCETAXEL) PRODUCTS LIABILITY LITIGATION This document relates to: Barbara Earnest, 16-17144

         SECTION: “H” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony of Dr. Laura Plunkett (Doc. 6155) filed by Defendants Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Sanofi U.S. Services, Inc. (collectively, “Sanofi” or “Defendants”). For the following reasons, the Motion is DENIED IN PART and DEFERRED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs in this multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) are suing several pharmaceutical companies that manufactured and/or distributed a chemotherapy drug, Taxotere or docetaxel, [1] that Plaintiffs were administered for the treatment of breast cancer or other forms of cancer. Plaintiffs allege that the drug caused permanent alopecia-in other words, permanent hair loss. Plaintiffs bring claims of failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, and more. The first bellwether trial of Plaintiff Barbara Earnest (“Plaintiff”) is set to begin September 16, 2019.[2]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which provides as follows:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.[3]

         The current version of Rule 702 reflects the Supreme Court's decisions in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc.[4] and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael.[5]The threshold inquiry in determining whether an individual may offer expert testimony under Rule 702 is whether the individual has the requisite qualifications.[6] After defining the permissible scope of the expert's testimony, a court next assesses whether the opinions are reliable and relevant.[7] As the “gatekeeper” of expert testimony, the trial court enjoys broad discretion in determining admissibility.[8]

         First, to assess reliability, a court considers whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the expert's testimony is valid.[9] The party offering the testimony bears the burden of establishing its reliability by a preponderance of the evidence.[10] Courts should exclude testimony based merely on subjective belief or unsupported speculation.[11] Courts must, however, give proper deference to the traditional adversary system and the role of the jury within that system.[12] “Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.”[13] After assessing reliability, a court evaluates relevance.[14] In doing so, a court must determine whether the expert's reasoning or methodology “fits” the facts of the case and will thereby assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence.[15]

         LAW ...


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