The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a lower court properly excluded certain testimony by the plaintiff’s treating physicians and upheld the lower court’s dismissal of product liability claims against a medical device manufacturer. Williams v. Mast Biosurgery USA, Inc., No. 10-12578 (11th Cir., decided June 30, 2011). The product involved was intended to prevent post-surgical adhesions, a problem that the plaintiff had experienced from previous surgery. Ongoing complications following the use of the medical device led to the discovery of stiff, hard and brittle pieces of plastic in the plaintiff’s colon or embedded in the colon wall. These foreign bodies were later removed along with damaged sections of her colon.
The lower court determined that parts of the treating physicians’ testimony, i.e., regarding the medical device’s performance and whether the foreign body removed from the plaintiff was the medical device, could not be admitted under the standards established in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Noting “the great care and circumspection” that must be accorded the testimony of treating physicians, the appeals court determined that the district court’s analysis was sound. According to the court, the proffered testimony of treating physicians can often go beyond a simple “account of their experience of providing care to their patients” and instead “purport to provide explanations of scientific and technical information not grounded in their own observations and technical experience,” as was the case here.