Products Liability Law Daily Lack of expert causation testimony defeats claim that Liquid Roof caused injuries
Friday, January 24, 2020

Lack of expert causation testimony defeats claim that Liquid Roof caused injuries

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

A restoration specialist was required to present expert medical testimony to prove that his use of Liquid Roof could and did cause oromandibular dystonia.

The absence of testimony from a medical expert linking Liquid Roof to the specific injury developed by a recreational vehicle restoration specialist who had used the product over the course of three years was detrimental to his products liability cause of action, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled in an unpublished opinion, affirming a Florida trial court’s grant of summary judgment (McCasland v. Pro Guard Coatings, Inc., January 23, 2020, per curiam).

The restoration specialist, who had used Pro Guard Coatings, Inc.’s Liquid Roof product to repair recreational vehicle roofs during a three-year period, developed a number of health problems, including arrythmia and involuntary movements of his tongue and mouth. After seeking treatment for these symptoms from a series of physicians over the course of approximately two years, he was diagnosed with oromandibular dystonia. The restoration specialist filed a products liability lawsuit against Pro Guard, alleging that the manufacturer had failed to adequately warn of the risks posed by Liquid Roof. The trial court granted Pro Guard’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the restoration specialist had failed to present expert testimony to establish that Liquid Roof was capable of causing and, in fact, did cause his medical conditions [see Products Liability Law Daily’s, November 6, 2018 analysis). The restoration specialist appealed.

Causation. To prove causation in a toxic-tort case, a plaintiff must show both general and specific causation. Furthermore, in those cases in which a jury was asked to assess complex medical or scientific issues that fell outside the scope of a layperson’s knowledge, expert testimony was required to prove that the product caused the plaintiff’s injury. Although the restoration specialist’s expert presented some evidence that Liquid Roof generally was hazardous and could cause nervous system damage, the expert failed to provide any evidence that the product was capable of causing the restoration specialist’s particular condition—oromandibular dystonia.

The appellate court rejected the restoration specialist’s argument that a reasonable jury could find a link between the product and his condition as a result of logical thinking. The restoration specialist pointed to his own testimony that he had developed medical problems only after using Liquid Roof and breathing its fumes regularly and that his symptoms matched the symptoms described on the product’s warning label. He also claimed to have engaged in extensive research on the issue. However, his lay opinion on the matter was insufficient to withstand summary judgment because the question whether Liquid Roof was the cause-in-fact of his injuries remained a matter "beyond the understanding of the average lay person," and his personal research did not qualify him as an expert.

Right to jury trial. Similarly, there storation specialist’s argument that the trial court’s decision violated his right to a jury trial was rejected by the appellate court. Even though granting summary judgment prevented the parties from having a jury rule upon the facts, there was no need to go forward with a jury trial when the pertinent facts were obvious and indisputable from the record and the only remaining truly debatable matters were legal questions that a court was competent to address.

The case is No. 18-15065.

Attorneys: John McCasland, pro se; David Lanier Luck (Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP) for Pro Guard Coatings, Inc.

Companies: Pro Guard Coatings, Inc.

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