Allen Stewart, P.C. Wins Major Victory for Benzene Victim
Appellate Decision Describes Proper Role of Trial Judges in Ruling on the Admissibility of Scientific Evidence and Sets an Important Precedent for Victims of Disease Caused by Toxic Substances
DALLAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The law firm of Allen Stewart, P.C. has announced an important legal victory for victims of benzene-related cancer in Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products Group, Inc., No. 09-2270 (1st Cir. Mar. 22, 2011). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the district court judge overstepped the boundaries of his gatekeeping function when he excluded expert testimony that benzene could cause the plaintiff’s type of cancer. In a 33-page opinion authored by Chief Judge Sandra L. Lynch, the appellate court detailed a trial court’s duties in evaluating the admissibility of scientific testimony versus the jury’s role as fact-finder.
“This is a very important decision not only for the Milwards, but for all people who develop diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances through no fault of their own”
Steve Baughman Jensen of Allen Stewart, P.C., lead attorney for plaintiffs on the appeal, said, “When reasonable scientists may disagree, the evidence must be admitted for the jury’s consideration, and the trial court oversteps if it uses its gatekeeping role to short circuit the jury’s judgment. The Court of Appeals has now provided trial judges with needed guidance on this issue, ensuring greater fairness for victims of toxic exposures.”
Brian Milward of Massachusetts was diagnosed in 2004 with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), a sub-variant of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) caused by benzene exposure during his career as a refrigeration technician. He and his wife filed suit against several manufacturers of the benzene-containing products to which he was exposed. Dr. Martyn Smith, a leading expert on the toxic effects of chemicals on the body, offered his expert opinion that exposure to benzene can cause APL. But the trial court ruled that Dr. Smith’s opinion lacked sufficient scientific reliability and was therefore inadmissible. In a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel, the court of appeals reversed, holding that it was up to the jury and not the judge to decide whether to accept Dr. Smith’s opinion.
“This is a very important decision not only for the Milwards, but for all people who develop diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances through no fault of their own,” said Allen Stewart, founder of Allen Stewart, P.C.
The Milwards’ case will return to the federal district court for further proceedings.
Learn more about this ruling here: https://benzene.allenstewart.com/allen-stewart-pc-proudly-announces-an-important-victory