Mississippi Supreme Court Follows Urging of American Coatings Association in Major Daubert Ruling

September 8, 2011

The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a $7 million jury verdict against Sherwin-Williams in a lead paint case, holding that the trial court erred in failing to exclude plaintiffs’ expert causation witnesses. In the Firm’s role as lead counsel for the American Coatings Association’s (ACA) formal Amicus program, Hollingsworth LLP filed an amicus brief with the Court focusing on the Daubert issues in the case (among the numerous other errors that Sherwin-Williams raised on appeal).  In its ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court expressly cited to ACA’s amicus brief in admonishing trial courts to more faithfully exercise their gatekeeping responsibility:

We are urged by amici to instruct trial judges that consideration of the “relevance and reliability” of an expert’s opinion (and not simply the expert’s qualifications) is a necessary part of the trial court’s duty as gatekeeper….  Amici urge that we instruct trial courts to make particularized findings as to the admissibility of expert opinions, when those challenges are raised before trial….  Our trial judges work exceedingly hard and have discretion in how they discharge the gatekeeping duty, but we take this opportunity to reiterate that such duty includes making sure that the opinions themselves are based on sufficient facts and or data and are the product of reliable principles and methods.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruling is a major victory, not only for the defendants in this litigation, but for the continued strength of Daubert as a bulwark against junk science, both in Mississippi and elsewhere.

Sherwin-Williams Co. v. Gaines, 75 So. 3d (Miss. 2011) (Hollingsworth LLP participated as amicus)