Thousands of Michigan Asbestos Lawsuits Could be Dismissed after Expert is Excluded

Over 2,000 asbestos lawsuits filed in Michigan by individuals who claim that they have been diagnosed with mesothelioma and other injuries, could be dismissed after a state court Judge excluded the expert-testimony from a doctor who diagnosed these individuals with an asbestos-related disease.

Asbestos is a mineral which was widely used until the mid-1970s for insulation, fireproofing and a number of other purposes.

Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause a deadly form of cancer known as mesothelioma, as well as other life-threatening injuries. In the United States, over 600,000 asbestos lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers of products containing asbestos since 1929, and some experts have speculated that the total cost of asbestos litigation for manufacturers could eventually reach $200 billion.

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In a ruling that could have ramifications nationwide, a judge in Wayne County, Michigan ruled last week that the testimony of Dr. R. Michael Kelly, an internist and occupational medicine specialist, should be excluded based on arguments that he is not a radiologist or certified to read x-rays. The ruling found that his expert testimony did not meet the standards of reliability set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys for defendants argued that Dr. Kelly was not qualified to diagnose asbestos diseases. They claimed that independent radiologists had offered evidence contradicting the testimony of the internist, and found no evidence of asbestos related disease in the x-rays of the plaintiffs.

According to the Detroit Free Press, at least 2,131 cases in which Dr. Kelly has been designated as an expert could be subject to dismissal if the lawyers representing the plaintiffs do not name a new expert who can offer expert testimony at trial establishing that the injuries were caused by asbestos exposure.

Throughout the country, there is a growing trend that is increasing the level of proof that plaintiffs must establish in asbestos lawsuits, limiting the percentage of cases that are ultimately going before a jury.

Last month, over 30,000 asbestos lawsuits in Ohio were dismissed following a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court which allowed a 2004 state law imposing strict requirements on plaintiffs to be applied retroactively.

The Ohio law, which was designed by the legislature to reduce the amount of asbestos litigation in the state, requires plaintiffs to provide testimony from medical experts at trial who personally treated the claimant. The law also only allows cases to proceed if there is specific medical evidence that asbestos exposure caused mesothelioma or another asbestos disease.


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