Underscoring the importance of expert testimony regarding health risks in toxic tort cases involving potential exposure issues, a Mississippi federal judge allowed expert testimony on health risks posed by alleged contamination even though the plaintiffs had not alleged personal injuries. See Hollingsworth v. Hercules, Inc., 2:14-CV-113-KS-MTP (S.D. Miss. Jan. 3, 2017).
Plaintiffs owned property near a former chemical plant that Defendant operated from the 1920s until about 2009. The landowners asserted counts of negligence, gross negligence, nuisance, and trespass, and claimed that they suffered property damage, loss of income, and emotional distress due to Defendant’s allegedly improper disposal of hazardous waste products at the chemical plant. Plaintiffs did not assert a personal injury claim.
Plaintiffs moved to exclude opinions from two defense experts on health risks from exposure to various chemicals. Plaintiffs argued that because they had not asserted a personal injury claim, expert testimony about health risks was not relevant to the case. The court disagreed and allowed the testimony, finding the experts’ opinions were relevant to Plaintiffs’ damages claims, including claims of lost rental income and decreased property values. Implicit in the court’s decision is that the merit and value of Plaintiffs’ damage claims were tied to the health risks posed by the alleged contamination, even though, as the court acknowledged, health effects were not relevant in evaluating Defendant’s liability.