January 19, 2021

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Clarifies the Trial Court’s Role in Determining the Admissibility of an Expert’s Opinion

On July 27, 2020, a divided (5-2) Pennsylvania Supreme Court  issued a significant opinion defining the trial court’s role in determining the admissibility of an expert’s opinion testimony in Pennsylvania. The majority’s opinion limited the trial court’s role to solely determining whether the expert had applied “generally accepted methodology” in reaching his/her opinion(s), thus precluding the trial court from even examining whether the expert’s proposed opinion(s) was consistent with the studies the expert reportedly relied upon in reaching his/her opinion(s). Walsh v. Basf Corp., 2020 Pa LEXIS 3794 (Pa., Jul. 27, 2020).

The Walsh case involved a lawsuit brought against numerous pesticide manufacturers for the death of Thomas Walsh who had a 40-year occupational exposure as a golf course groundskeeper and superintendent at Pittsburgh area golf courses to various pesticides, some of which contained carcinogens and teratogens. Walsh was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AMI) in 2008 and subsequently died in February 2009. Walsh’s estate brought suit against numerous pesticide manufacturers alleging that the chemical exposure was a substantial contributing factor to Walsh’s death from AML.

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