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10-1279 Myers v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 15, 2010//

10-1279 Myers v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//December 15, 2010//

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FELA; causation; expert testimony

The district court properly excluded the testimony of an ergonomist and treating physicians to prove that a railroad employee’s cumulative trauma disorders were caused by the railroad’s negligence.

“[T]he ergonomist could testify as an expert about how dangerous the railroad yard’s conditions were, but that does not mean he is qualified to testify about what caused Myers’s injuries. This is a scenario similar to what many plaintiffs face in toxic tort cases: an expert can testify that a chemical can cause the plaintiff’s malady but he may not be qualified to testify that this chemical caused this particular plaintiff’s malady. Claar, 29 F.3d at 504; see Golden v. CH2M Hill Hanford Group, Inc., 528 F.3d 681, 683 (9th Cir. 2008). ‘The question we must ask is not whether an expert witness is qualified in general, but whether his qualifications provide a foundation for [him] to answer a specific question.’ Gayton, 593 F.3d at 617. Here, the specific question is whether Myers’s work for the Railroad caused his ailments. Because the ergonomist could not answer that question, to avoid summary judgment Myers would have to establish evidence of specific causation from another source.”

“If a differential etiology was used and the experts were unaware of aspects of his work or medical history, that doesn’t necessarily mean the expert should be struck. On this point, we have instructed that when a medical expert has ‘relied upon a patient’s self-reported history and that history is found to be inaccurate, district courts usually should allow those inaccuracies in that history to be explored through cross-examination.’ Walker v. Soo Line R.R. Co., 208 F.3d 581, 586-87 (7th Cir. 2000). But here it’s clear that the physicians did not use a differential etiology; they knew little to nothing about Myers’s medical history or his work. They did not ‘rule in’ any potential causes or ‘rule out’ any potential causes. They simply treated Myers and assumed his injuries stemmed from his work. In other words, the basis for their opinions is properly characterized as a hunch or an informed guess. And ‘the courtroom is not the place for scientific guesswork, even of the inspired sort.’ Rosen v. Ciba-Geigy Corp., 78 F.3d 316, 319 (7th Cir. 1996). Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the testimony of Myers’s physicians. And because Myers needed expert testimony to establish causation and offered none, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment for the Railroad. Doty v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 162 F.3d 460, 463 (7th Cir. 1998).”


10-1279 Myers v. Illinois Central Railroad Co.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, McCuskey, J., Manion, J.

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