Tenth Circuit Unanimously Affirms Plaintiff’s Expert Testimony Not Scientifically Reliable

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma entered summary judgment for Firm client Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corp., holding that plaintiff’s proffered expert testimony, that the drug Parlodel caused her stroke, was not scientifically reliable under the standards of Daubert, a decision affirmed by the Tenth Circuit. Plaintiff’s causation evidence in Parlodel cases had also been rejected by the 8th Circuit and by six federal district courts.

Highlights from the opinion:

  • Differential diagnosis and general causation: The Tenth Circuit held that the plaintiff’s experts’ differential diagnosis methodology was not scientifically reliable, because “[i]n order to ‘rule in’ Parlodel as a scientifically plausible cause of Ms. Hollander’s stroke, the Hollanders’ experts would need to present reliable evidence that the drug can cause strokes,” which they had not done.
  • Aggregation of evidence rejected:  Plaintiff argued that the district court had improperly rejected each category of evidence that she offered, without considering the evidence as a hole.  The Tenth Circuit rejected this “bricks in a wall” argument (as plaintiff characterized it), holding that “in our view, this argument is inconsistent with Daubert.”  The court explained that “[t]o suggest that those individual categories of evidence deemed unreliable by the district court may be added to form a reliable theory would be to abandon ‘the level of intellectual rigor’ of the expert in the field.”
  • Speculative leaps in causation opinions: The Tenth Circuit concluded that plaintiff’s experts had made “several speculative leaps” in reaching their causation conclusions.
  • Specific categories of evidence rejected by the Tenth Circuit: To prove causation, plaintiff relied, inter alia, on anecdotal case reports including dechallenge/rechallenge reports, the fact that bromocriptine is an ergot alkaloid and thus purportedly behaves like other ergot alkaloids, animal studies, epidemiological studies, and FDA findings and actions.  The Tenth Circuit reviewed and rejected each of these categories of evidence, holding that they did not constitute reliable grounds under Daubert and did not raise questions of fact on causation.

Hollander v. Sandoz Pharm. Corp., 289 F.3d 1193 (10th Cir. 2002)