It is incumbent on an expert to connect the data relied on and his or her opinion and to show how that data is valid support for the opinion reached," authoring Justice Phil Johnson wrote.
Austin (Vocus) December 15, 2009
The Texas Supreme Court (Case No. 08-0175) has reversed a jury verdict awarding $14 million for a fatal fire after finding as scientifically unreliable an expert’s testimony the blaze was caused by a clothes dryer manufactured by Whirlpool Corp. Haynes and Boone, LLP represented the company on appeal.
In the unanimous decision issued Friday, the court said the expert’s evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. With interest, the value of the jury’s original verdict had accrued to about $19 million.
“We have always had confidence that, given proper evaluation of the evidence, this verdict would not stand,” said Lynne Liberato, who along with fellow Houston partners Alene Ross Levy and Mark Trachtenberg, led the Haynes and Boone Whirlpool team. “The evidence that tied our client’s product to this tragedy was simply not valid.”
The case stemmed from a 2003 mobile home fire in which the teenage son of Santos and Margarita Camacho was killed. The Camachos’ expert blamed the fire on Whirlpool’s use of a corrugated tube in the dryer’s air circulation system, even though the fire marshal had concluded that the fire did not start in the dryer drum.
The court determined that when an expert’s theory is susceptible to testing and but is not tested – as was the case with the Camachos’ expert – the expert’s opinion generally should be deemed unreliable and inadmissible. “It is incumbent on an expert to connect the data relied on and his or her opinion and to show how that data is valid support for the opinion reached,” authoring Justice Phil Johnson wrote.
Haynes and Boone, LLP is an international corporate law firm with offices in Texas, New York, California, Washington, D.C., Mexico City and Moscow, providing a full spectrum of legal services. With almost 550 attorneys, Haynes and Boone is ranked among the largest law firms in the nation by The National Law Journal. The firm has been recognized as one of the "Best Corporate Law Firms in America" (Corporate Board Member Magazine, 2001-2009), as one of "The Best 20 Law Firms to Work For" (Vault.com, 2009), and as a Top 100 law firm for both diversity (MultiCultural Law Magazine, 2009) and women (Women 3.0, 2008).