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Federal Judge Rejects Popular Asbestos Theory

One of the most commonly heard arguments in an asbestos litigation case is the theory known as the “any exposure theory,” which indicates that any level of asbestos exposure, no matter how small or short-lived, is enough to cause malignant mesothelioma. Countless personal injury cases have relied upon expert testimony to this effect. But in a federal court in Chicago, a judge barred testimony to that effect by an expert witness, indicating that the theory that the expert was testifying to was not sufficiently supported by medical science.

The lawsuit involved plaintiff Charles Krik, whose lawsuit named several companies as being at fault for his illness. Included as defendants was ExxonMobil, and that company’s attorneys argued that the amount of asbestos exposure that Mr. Krik would have received from their product was too small to cause his illness. Krik’s attorneys called expert witness Dr. Arthur Frank to set form the “any exposure” theory, which argues that because there isn’t a known safe threshold for asbestos exposure, even a single dose could be dangerous. Mr. Krik’s case relies upon the notion that his illness, lung cancer, was a result of multiple small doses over an extended period of time, making multiple defendants responsible. Had the judge accepted this line of thought then even with no proof that Mr. Krik had been exposed to asbestos on ExxonMobil property, he could have proceeded with the charge.

Though the “any exposure” argument has been used frequently and advanced by experts in asbestos medicine, Mr. Krik’s case was the first to introduce the theory in federal court. The Chicago court was asked to make a decision on whether the “any exposure” theory is reliable enough to be used to support a lawsuit, and after extensive consideration, the court made the decision that it does not. They excluded all testimony that relied on the expert witness’ contention that lung cancer could be caused by any small exposure to asbestos. They will however, permit testimony about specific exposure that an expert witness could connect to his lung cancer.

Despite the ruling, the federal court did not rule out the use of the “any exposure” theory in the future. They indicated that the expert in Krik’s case spoke too generally and lacked specific evidence, but that a more strategic expert opinion could still incorporate the theory successfully.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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