United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
JOHN E. HASKINS, and MARY L. HASKINS, Plaintiffs,
3M Company, et al., Defendants. JAMES WILLSON CHESHER and CHERYL ANN CHESHER, Plaintiffs,
3M Company, et al., Defendants.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on defendant Air and Liquid
Systems Corporation's (“Air and Liquid
Systems”) motion to exclude, Case No.
2:15-cv-02086-DCN, ECF No. 176, and defendant Crane Co.'s
(“Crane, ” together with Air and Liquid Systems,
“defendants”) motion in limine, Case No.
2:15-cv-2123-DCN, ECF No. 197.Although the two motions arise in
separate actions, they present very similar issues and can
therefore be decided together. For the reasons stated below,
the court grants in part and denies in part defendants'
1953 to 1956, John E. Haskins (“Haskins”) served
in the U.S. Navy as a fireman aboard the USS Coney. Haskins
ECF No. 176-2, Haskins Report 1. Haskins was diagnosed with a
form of cancer known as mesothelioma in November of 2014.
Id. Haskins and his wife, Mary L. Haskins (together
with Haskins, the “Haskins Plaintiffs”), allege
that Haskins' mesothelioma was caused by his cumulative
exposure to asbestos during his time on board the USS Coney,
including his work with and around asbestos-containing
products manufactured or otherwise distributed by Air and
Liquid Systems. Haskins ECF No. 1-1, Haskins Compl.
¶¶ 4-7. On April 17, 2015, the Haskins Plaintiffs
filed an action in the Court of Common Pleas in Charleston
County, bringing claims against Air and Liquid Systems and
other suppliers of the asbestos-containing products Haskins
allegedly encountered during his Naval career. Id.
¶¶ 3-5. The action was later removed to this court.
1968 to 1989, James Willson Chesher (“Chesher”)
served as a machinist mate and a commissioned officer in the
U.S. Navy. Chesher ECF No. 1-1, Chesher Compl. ¶ 32. For
a significant portion of his career, Chesher conducted or
oversaw maintenance and repair work on various types of
asbestos-containing equipment, including valves and
de-aerating feed tanks. Chesher and his wife, Cheryl Ann
Chesher (together with Chesher, the “Chesher
Plaintiffs”),  allege that Chesher developed mesothelioma
as a result of his exposure to this equipment. Id.
¶¶ 33-35. On April 15, 2015, the Chesher Plaintiffs
filed an action in the Court of Common Pleas in Charleston
County, bringing claims against Crane and other suppliers of
the asbestos-containing products Chesher allegedly
encountered throughout his Naval career. Id. ¶
30. This action was later removed to this court.
sets of plaintiffs offer the opinions of Carlos Bedrossian,
MD (“Bedrossian”) to provide evidence of specific
causation. Bedrossian's opinions in each case are
essentially identical. In each expert report, Bedrossian
outlines certain activities from Haskins and Chesher's
respective work histories which exposed them to asbestos
fibers. Haskins Report 1-2; Chesher ECF No. 181-1, Chesher
Report 1-2. Bedrossian later explains that “all
[asbestos] fiber types . . . cause lung cancer and
[mesothelioma], and as such should be treated with the same
level of concern due to their well-established
carcinogenicity.” Haskins Report 4; Chesher Report 4.
Bedrossian then asserts that “[m]ost cases of
[mesothelioma] occur in occupational groups subjected to
‘downstream exposure' in trades that include
working in . . . the shipbuilding industries, ” and
discusses the increased asebestos exposure associated with
work aboard U.S. Navy ships. Haskins Report 4-5; Chesher
discussing the causal link between asbestos exposure and
mesothelioma, Bedrossian asserts that:
[Malignant mesothelioma] is invariably the result of
repeated, routine and direct handling of [asbestos containing
material] . . . or of being present in close vicinity of
others doing so over a period of time which may vary
according to the individual susceptibility of the exposed
person. The carcinogenic effect of asbestos is cumulative,
regardless of the source of the exposure, which can be
occupational, non-occupational or environmental in nature.
Total cumulative dose has been consistently found to be the
best indicator of risk . . . .
Report 5; Chesher Report 5-6. Both reports offer very similar
conclusions. In Haskins's case, Bedrossian concludes that
the “total and cumulative exposure to asbestos, from
any and all products, containing any and all fiber types, was
a significant contributing factor to [Haskin's] risk of
premature death from complications of his asbestos related
cancer.” Haskins Report 6. In Chesher's case,
Bedrossian concludes that “each of the defendants'
products which contained asbestos added to the total
cumulative dose of Chesher's asbestos exposure, and
therefore, constituted the contributing factor to the
development of his [mesothelioma], and his risk of premature
death from complications from this lethal form of
occupational malignancy.” Chesher Report 8.
March 4, 2016, Crane filed a motion in limine to preclude
Bedrossian from offering specific-causation testimony in the
Chesher case. Chesher ECF No. 181. The Chesher Plaintiffs
filed a response on April 4, 2016, Chesher ECF No. 224, and
Crane filed a reply on April 14, 2016. Chesher ECF No. 229.
In the Haskins case, Air and Liquid Systems filed a motion to
exclude Bedrossian's specific causation opinions on
November 4, 2016. Haskins ECF No. 176. On November 9, 2016,
the Haskins Plaintiffs filed a response, Haskins ECF No. 179,
and Air and Liquid Systems filed a reply on November 21,
2016. Haskins ECF No. 185. The court held an evidentiary
hearing on February 28, 2017, where it took testimony from
Bedrossian. The motions are now ripe for the
Rule of Evidence 403 empowers the court to “exclude
relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially
outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following:
unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury,
undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting
cumulative evidence.” Fed.R.Evid. 403. Courts are
afforded broad discretion in deciding evidentiary matters,
particularly under Rule 403, which “requires an
‘on-the-spot balancing of probative value and
prejudice, potentially to exclude as unduly prejudicial some
evidence that already has been found to be factually
relevant.'” Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. v.
Mendelsohn, 552 U.S. 379, 384 (2008) (quoting 1 S.
Childress & M. Davis, Federal Standards of Review §
4.02, p. 4-16 (3d ed. 1999)).
Rule 702 and Daubert
Rule of Evidence 702 provides:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training, or education may testify in the form of
an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence ...