Alison Currie of The Summerville Firm appeared before the Georgia Court of Appeals in a special oral arguments session on Tuesday to dispute a trial court’s rejection of an expert witness in a Federal Employers Liability Act case where an employee is suing his employer, a railroad company, after developing lung cancer. Her argument: the court should not apply non-FELA case law to a FELA case.
Previously, the State Court of Richmond County dismissed the plaintiff-appellant’s medical expert witness in the FELA case on the grounds of unreliable testimony. Currie contended this was wrong for three reasons:
Alison Currie of The Summerville Firm in Atlanta. Courtesy photo
- The trial court followed case law established by Scapa Dryer Fabrics v. Knight, a non-FELA case that establishes a different (and stricter) causation standard for reliability, known as meaningful contribution. Currie argues that in a FELA case, it’s the more-relaxed “featherweight standard of causation” that determines whether “the employer’s negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury.”
- The trial court ignored the science of the plaintiff-appellant’s medical expert witness testimony about the multiplicative effect of the toxins (silica dust, diesel and asbestos) the injured worker was exposed to when combined with the toxins he inhaled while smoking, increasing his chance of developing lung cancer.
- The trial court ignored the plaintiff’s own testimony and the industrial hygiene report conducted by one of its other expert witnesses, both of which the excluded expert used to draw his conclusions.