Atlantic Legal Challenges Junk Science in Maryland Asbestos Case


Atlantic Legal has filed a friend of the court brief in Dixon v. Ford Motor Company, an important case involving the admissibility of medical causation testimony in Maryland.

The case arises from claims that Joan Dixon developed pleural mesothelioma as a result of her exposure to asbestos from different products during the early 1960s and the mid-late 1970s. She claims to have been directly exposed to asbestos while personally performing drywall sanding work and cleaning up after renovation projects at her home and other construction projects. Mrs. Dixon also claims to have been secondarily exposed to asbestos-containing dust brought home in work clothes worn by her husband while he worked as a construction worker and auto repair mechanic. Mr. Dixon testified that 95% of the cars he and his friend worked on were Ford cars and that all of the replacement brakes were purchased from a Ford dealer.

The Foundations brief addressed the "junk science" that the trial court allowed into evidence from plaintiff’s causation expert, namely, that "every exposure is a substantial contributing factor." This is the same issue which the Foundation briefed in the Betz (PA), Coyne (IL) and Ruben (CA) cases, described elsewhere on this web site. Maryland jurisprudence employs the "regularity, frequency, and proximity" test or substantial factor proximate causation in asbestos cases. Eagle-Picher Industries v. Balbos, 326 Md. 179, 604 A.2d 445 (1992) is the seminal case from the Maryland Court of Appeal. Maryland also is a Frye-Reed state (so-called after Reed v. State, 283 Md. 374, 391 A.2d 364 (1978)), not a Daubert state, with respect to admissibility of expert testimony, although Maryland has recently articulated criteria that go beyond general acceptance and echo Daubert, see Blackwell v. Wyeth, 408 Md. 575, 971 A.2d 235 (2008).

In our brief, we argued that there is no scientific basis for the every exposure theory, that there are numerous epidemiological studies contradicting that theory, and that even notoriously cautious government agencies, such as EPA, have found that the type of asbestos used in automobile brakes has an almost zero probability of causing mesothelioma.

To view the Foundations brief, please click here.