Expert Testimony in Mississippi Silicosis Cases

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Persuasive expert testimony can be critical to a silicosis personal injury claim. Your attorney will retain experts with excellent reputations who can be personable on the stand. It is important to retain an expert who is extremely knowledgeable, but who is also able to explain technical concepts to a lay person. In silicosis cases, the expert may have to testify as to several different elements.

To prove negligence, a plaintiff has to show (1) duty, (2) breach, (3) causation, and (4) damages. An industrial hygienist expert may be especially helpful on issues of breach and causation. An industrial hygienist anticipates and recognizes work hazards that can result in injury or illness, or affect the health of a group of workers.

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently decided a case involving silicosis. The case was brought by an employee of the Illinois Central Railroad against Mississippi Valley Silica, Inc. He sued for lung injuries based on inhaling silica while employed as a brakeman and then conductor. As a brakeman, he would have to keep his head out the window and was exposed to sand and dust used for wheel traction.

The plaintiff never wore respiratory protection. When he became a conductor, the conditions for sand exposure were the same. He also worked for eight years at the switchyard and claimed asbestos exposure and silica exposure from sandblasting. However, he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 42 years before getting heart surgery. He was diagnosed with fibrosis.

The case was dismissed without prejudice in 2006. I was re-filed against 32 defendants in 2007.

The plaintiff died in 2010. His widow was substituted in the case as a wrongful death beneficiary. She sought wrongful death and survival damages.

Valley was the only defendant left when the trial commenced. Valley supposedly sold the sand that injured and killed the plaintiff. At trial, a certified industrial hygienist testified about the total silica exposure, explaining that the traction sand was pulverized into a fine dust between the train’s wheels and the track.

Valley also offered testimony from a certified industrial hygienist who countered this testimony. He explained that the plaintiff’s expert’s studies didn’t measure respirable silica, the only one that caused lung damage. He also disputed the accuracy of the total dust measurements. He testified that the decedent’s exposure to sandblasting was brief.
The jury found Valley 15% at fault and awarded both economic and noneconomic damages. The latter were $1.5 million.

The trial court determined that 2002 law applied because that was when the original complaint was filed. It found the statutory caps placed in 2004 were not applicable, and Valley was jointly and severally liable for 50% of the damages. Valley appealed.
The appellate court found the plaintiff had not presented enough evidence to identify Valley’s sand as a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Further, it ruled that the plaintiff had not brought forward enough evidence from which a jury could conclude any amount of silica had been supplied by Valley. It reversed the verdict of the lower court.

If you are hurt due to somebody else’s negligence The knowledgeable Mississippi personal injury attorneys of Coxwell & Associates may be able to help recover the damages you deserve and need.

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Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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