Parker v. Mobil Oil Corporation, et al.

Admissibility of Expert Testimony to Prove Causation

U.S. Chamber's Position: 

The New York Court of Appeals considered whether its test for admission of expert testimony, Frye v. United States, applies to the introduction of testimony related to causation in complex products liability and toxic tort matters. In this case, the expert did not quantify the level of benzene exposure suffered by the plaintiff, nor did the expert explain the connection between the level of exposure and the condition the plaintiff incurred. In its brief, NCLC argued that establishing a connection between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury is too complicated without the help of expert testimony. Courts must screen out unreliable testimony presented by unqualified witnesses, otherwise lay juries will find difficulty in evaluating witness' testimony.

Case Outcome: 

New York’s highest court affirmed that plaintiffs must submit more than an expert’s conclusory and subjective assertions to establish causation. While the court declined to apply its test articulated in Frye v. United States, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, it reiterated that there must be an appropriate foundation laid for expert testimony, like all other testimony.

Procedural History: 

Amicus brief filed 6/15/06. Oral argument held 9/5/06. Decided 10/17/06.