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Sweredoski v. Alfa Laval, Inc.

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 9, 2017

ROSIE K. SWEREDOSKI, as Personal Representative of the Estate of DOUGLAS A. SWEREDOSKI, and Individually Recognized as Surviving Spouse, Plaintiff,
v.
ALFA LAVAL, INC., et al., Defendants.

         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Robert J. Sweeney, Esq.; Donni E. Young, Esq.

          For Defendant: David A. Goldman, Esq.; Kendra A. Bergeron, Esq.

          DECISION

          GIBNEY, P.J. JUSTICE.

         Plaintiff Rosie K. Sweredoski (Plaintiff) filed the instant Motion in Limine to Preclude the Testimony of Defendant Crane Co.'s (Defendant) Expert Witness, Dr. Michael Graham (Dr. Graham). The Plaintiff argues that Dr. Graham is not qualified to provide expert testimony regarding the causation of asbestos-related diseases and that, under Rhode Island Rule of Evidence 702 (Rule 702), the Court should preclude the witness from testifying to matters outside the scope of his expertise. The Defendant contends that Dr. Graham is a qualified pathologist with relevant experience in matters of asbestos-related diseases and causation. The Defendant maintains that this Court should not preclude Dr. Graham's testimony under Rule 702 or, in the alternative, should withhold ruling until trial when the expert witness can provide his qualifications to the Court. This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-14.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         Mr. Sweredoski was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma on December 2, 2010. He died on January 22, 2013 as a result of his illness. His wife, the Plaintiff, brings the above-captioned action against companies that manufactured or distributed asbestos-containing products, including the Defendant, Crane Co. The Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Sweredoski's mesothelioma was caused by his exposure to the Defendant's asbestos-containing products.

         The Plaintiff has moved in limine to preclude the testimony of Defendant's expert witness, Dr. Graham. The Plaintiff anticipates that Dr. Graham will be called to testify that Mr. Sweredoski's exposure to products manufactured and/or supplied by the Defendant did not contribute to the cause of his mesothelioma.

         II

         Parties' Arguments

         The Plaintiff contends that while Dr. Graham is an expert pathologist, an expert medical examiner, and an expert at determining causes of death, he is not an expert regarding the causation of asbestos-related diseases. The Plaintiff maintains that, of all Dr. Graham's publications, only one references asbestos or mesothelioma. The Plaintiff argues that under Rule 702, Dr. Graham's testimony is not relevant, appropriate, or of assistance to a jury. The Plaintiff argues that the matter at hand should be treated like a medical malpractice case, where experts are limited to fields in which he or she is specifically qualified.

         The Defendant contends that Dr. Graham's work and experience as a pathologist makes him qualified to provide expert testimony regarding the causation of Mr. Sweredoski's mesothelioma. The Defendant provides the background, history, and expertise of Dr. Graham to argue that, under Rule 702, Dr. Graham is qualified to testify. The Defendant maintains that Dr. Graham, a board certified pathologist, has been studying asbestos-related ...


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