United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
IN RE ETHICON INC. PELVIC REPAIR SYSTEMS PRODUCT LIABILITY LITIGATION THIS DOCUMENT RELATES TO: Cases Identified in the Exhibit Attached Hereto
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (DAUBERT MOTION
RE: SARAH COLLINS, M.D.)
R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the Plaintiffs' Daubert
Motion to Preclude or, in the Alternative, to Limit the
Opinions and Testimony of Sarah Abbie Collins, M.D. [ECF No.
3605] filed by plaintiffs on April 13, 2017. The Motion is
now ripe for consideration because briefing is complete.
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
16, 000 cases currently pending, approximately 10, 000 of
which are in this MDL, which involves defendants Johnson
& Johnson and Ethicon Inc. (collectively
“Ethicon”), among others.
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. 243, the court instructed the parties
to file only one Daubert motion per challenged
expert, to file each motion in the main MDL-as opposed to the
individual member cases-and to identify which cases would be
affected by the motion. PTO No. 243, at 4.
plunging into the heart of the Motion, a few preliminary
matters need to be addressed.
compelled to comment on the parties' misuse of my
previous Daubert rulings on several of the experts
offered in this case. See generally Sanchez v. Bos. Sci.
Corp., No. 2:12-cv-05762, 2014 WL 4851989 (S.D. W.Va.
Sept. 29, 2014); Tyree v. Bos. Sci. Corp., 54
F.Supp.3d 501 (S.D. W.Va. 2014); Eghnayem v. Bos. Sci.
Corp., 57 F.Supp.3d 658 (S.D. W.Va. 2014). The parties
have, for the most part, structured their Daubert
arguments as a response to these prior rulings, rather than
an autonomous challenge to or defense of expert testimony
based on its reliability and relevance. In other words, the
parties have comparatively examined expert testimony and have
largely overlooked Daubert's core considerations
for assessing expert testimony. Although I recognize the
tendency of my prior evidentiary determinations to influence
subsequent motions practice, counsels' expectations that
I align with these previous rulings when faced with a
different record are misplaced, especially when an expert has
issued new reports and given additional deposition testimony.
of my role as gatekeeper for the admission of expert
testimony, as well as my duty to “respect[ ] the
individuality” of each MDL case, see In re
Phenylpropanolamine Prods. Liab. Litig., 460 F.3d 1217,
1231 (9th Cir. 2006), I refuse to credit Daubert
arguments that simply react to the court's rulings in
Sanchez and its progeny. Indeed, I feel bound by
these earlier cases only to the extent that the expert
testimony and Daubert objections presented to the
court then are identical to those presented now. Otherwise, I
assess the parties' Daubert arguments anew. That
is, in light of the particular expert testimony and
objections currently before me, I assess “whether the
reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is
scientifically valid” and “whether that reasoning
or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in
issue.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93. Any
departure from Sanchez, Eghnayem, or
Tyree does not constitute a “reversal”
of these decisions and is instead the expected result of the
parties' submission of updated expert reports and new
objections to the expert testimony contained therein.
I have attempted to resolve all possible disputes before
transfer or remand, including those related to the
admissibility of expert testimony pursuant to
Daubert. Nevertheless, in some instances I face
Daubert challenges where my interest in accuracy
counsels reserving ruling until the reliability of the expert
testimony may be evaluated at trial. At trial, the expert
testimony will be tested by precise questions asked and
answered. The alternative of live Daubert hearings
is impossible before transfer or remand because of the
numerosity of such motions in these seven related MDLs. As
these MDLs have grown and the expert testimony has
multiplied, I have become convinced that the critical
gatekeeping function permitting or denying expert testimony
on decisive issues in these cases is best made with a live
expert on the witness stand subject to vigorous examination.
course of examining a multitude of these very similar cases
involving the same fields of expertise, I have faced
irreconcilably divergent expert testimony offered by
witnesses with impeccable credentials, suggesting, to me, an
unreasonable risk of unreliability. The danger-and to my
jaded eye, the near certainty-of the admission of “junk
science” looms large in this mass litigation.
parties regularly present out-of-context statements,
after-the-fact rationalizations of expert testimony, and
incomplete deposition transcripts. This, combined with the
above-described practice of recycling expert testimony,
objections, and the court's prior rulings, creates the
perfect storm of obfuscation. Where further clarity is
necessary, I believe it can only be achieved through live
witness testimony- not briefing-I will therefore reserve
ruling until expert testimony can be evaluated firsthand.
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.
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