522 U.S. 136 (1997), 96-188, General Electric Co. v. Joiner

Docket NºNo. 96-188
Citation522 U.S. 136, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508, 66 U.S.L.W. 4036
Party NameGENERAL ELECTRIC CO. et al v. JOINER et ux
Case DateDecember 15, 1997
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 136

522 U.S. 136 (1997)

118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508, 66 U.S.L.W. 4036

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO. et al

v.

JOINER et ux

No. 96-188

United States Supreme Court

December 15, 1997

Argued October 14, 1997

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After he was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer, respondent Joiner and his wife (hereinafter jointly respondent) sued in Georgia state court, alleging, inter alia, that his disease was "promoted" by his workplace exposure to chemical "PCB's" and derivative "furans" and "dioxins" that were manufactured by, or present in materials manufactured by, petitioners. Petitioners removed the case to federal court and moved for summary judgment. Joiner responded with the depositions of expert witnesses, who testified that PCB's, furans, and dioxins can promote cancer, and opined that Joiner's exposure to those chemicals was likely responsible for his cancer. The District Court ruled that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Joiner had been exposed to PCB's, but granted summary judgment for petitioners because (1) there was no genuine issue as to whether he had been exposed to furans and dioxins, and (2) his experts' testimony had failed to show that there was a link between exposure to PCB's and small-cell lung cancer and was therefore inadmissible because it did not rise above "subjective belief or unsupported speculation." In reversing, the Eleventh Circuit applied "a particularly stringent standard of review" to hold that the District Court had erred in excluding the expert testimony.

Held:

1. Abuse of discretion—the standard ordinarily applicable to review of evidentiary rulings—is the proper standard by which to review a district court's decision to admit or exclude expert scientific evidence. Contrary to the Eleventh Circuit's suggestion, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, did not somehow alter this general rule in the context of a district court's decision to exclude scientific evidence. Daubert did not address the appellate review standard for evidentiary rulings at all, but did indicate that, while the Federal Rules of Evidence allow district courts to admit a somewhat broader range of scientific testimony than did pre-existing law, they leave in place the trial judge's "gatekeeper" role of screening such evidence to ensure that it is not only relevant, but reliable. Id., at 589. A court of appeals applying "abuse-of-discretion" review to such rulings may not categorically distinguish between rulings allowing expert testimony and rulings which disallow it. Compare Beech Aircraft Corp. v. Rainey, 488 U.S.

Page 137

153, 172, with United States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45, 54. This Court rejects Joiner's argument that because the granting of summary judgment in this case was "outcome determinative," it should have been subjected to a more searching standard of review. On a summary judgment motion, disputed issues of fact are resolved against the moving party—here, petitioners. But the question of admissibility of expert testimony is not such an issue of fact, and is reviewable under the abuse-of-discretion standard. In applying an overly "stringent" standard, the Eleventh Circuit failed to give the trial court the deference that is the hallmark of abuse-of-discretion review. Pp. 141-143.

2. A proper application of the correct standard of review indicates that the District Court did not err in excluding the expert testimony at issue. The animal studies cited by respondent's experts were so dissimilar to the facts presented here— i. e., the studies involved infant mice that developed alveologenic adenomas after highly concentrated, massive doses of PCB's were injected directly into their peritoneums or stomachs, whereas Joiner was an adult human whose small-cell carcinomas allegedly resulted from exposure on a much smaller scale—that it was not an abuse of discretion for the District Court to have rejected the experts' reliance on those studies. Nor did the court abuse its discretion in concluding that the four epidemiological studies on which Joiner relied were not a sufficient basis for the experts' opinions, since the authors of two of those studies ultimately were unwilling to suggest a link between increases in lung cancer and PCB exposure among the workers they examined, the third study involved exposure to a particular type of mineral oil not necessarily relevant here, and the fourth involved exposure to numerous potential carcinogens in addition to PCB's. Nothing in either Daubert or the Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to admit opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. Pp.143-147.

3. These conclusions, however, do not dispose of the entire case. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the District Court's conclusion that Joiner had not been exposed to furans and dioxins. Because petitioners did not challenge that determination in their certiorari petition, the question whether exposure to furans and dioxins contributed to Joiner's cancer is still open. P. 147.

78 F.3d 524, reversed and remanded.

Rehnquist, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Parts I and II, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Part III, in which O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a concurring opinion,

Page 138

post, p. 147. Stevens, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 150.

Steven R. Kuney argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the briefs were John G. Kester, David H. Flint, Alexander J. Simmons, Jr., Henry W. Ewalt, and Gerard H. Davidson, Jr.

Deputy Solicitor General Wallace argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Acting Solicitor General Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General Hunger, Edward C. DuMont, and John P. Schnitker.

Michael H. Gottesman argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Kenneth J. Chesebro, David L. Shapiro, and Michael J. Warshauer. [*]

Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in this case to determine what standard an appellate court should apply in reviewing a trial

Page 139

court's decision to admit or exclude expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579(1993). We hold that abuse of discretion is the appropriate standard. We apply this standard and conclude that the District Court in this case did not abuse its discretion when it excluded certain proffered expert testimony.

I

Respondent Robert Joiner began work as an electrician in the Water & Light Department of Thomasville, Georgia (City), in 1973. This job required him to work with and around the City's electrical transformers, which used a mineral-oil-based dielectric fluid as a coolant. Joiner often had to stick his hands and arms into the fluid to make repairs. The fluid would sometimes splash onto him, occasionally getting into his eyes and mouth. In 1983 the City discovered that the fluid in some of the transformers was contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's). PCB's are widely considered to be hazardous to human health. Congress, with limited exceptions, banned the production and sale of PCB's in 1978. See 90 Stat. 2020, 15 U.S.C. § 2605(e)(2)(A).

Joiner was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer in 1991. He[1] sued petitioners in Georgia state court the following year. Petitioner Monsanto manufactured PCB's from 1935 to 1977; petitioners General Electric and Westinghouse Electric manufactured transformers and dielectric fluid. In his complaint Joiner linked his development of cancer to his exposure to PCB's and their derivatives, polychlorinated dibenzo furans (furans) and polychlorinated dibenzo dioxins (dioxins). Joiner had been a smoker for approximately eight years, his parents had both been smokers, and there was a history of lung cancer in his family. He was thus perhaps already at a heightened risk of developing lung cancer eventually. The suit alleged that his exposure to PCB's "promoted"

Page 140

his cancer; had it not been for his exposure to these substances, his cancer would not have developed for many years, if at all.

Petitioners removed the case to federal court. Once there, they moved for summary judgment. They contended that (1) there was no evidence that Joiner suffered significant exposure to PCB's, furans, or dioxins, and (2) there was no admissible scientific evidence that PCB's promoted Joiner's cancer. Joiner responded that there were numerous disputed factual issues that required resolution by a jury. He relied largely on the testimony of expert witnesses. In depositions, his experts had testified that PCB's alone can promote cancer and that furans and dioxins can also promote cancer. They opined that since Joiner had been exposed to PCB's, furans, and dioxins, such exposure was likely responsible for Joiner's cancer.

The District Court ruled that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Joiner had been exposed to PCB's. But it nevertheless granted summary judgment for petitioners because (1) there was no genuine issue as to whether Joiner had been exposed to furans and dioxins, and (2) the testimony of Joiner's experts had failed to show that there was a link between exposure to PCB's and small-cell lung cancer. The court believed that the testimony of respondent's experts to the contrary did not rise above "subjective belief or unsupported speculation." 864 F.Supp. 1310, 1326 (ND Ga. 1994). Their testimony was therefore inadmissible.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed. 78 F.3d 524 (1996). It held that "[b]ecause the Federal Rules of Evidence governing expert testimony display a preference for admissibility, we apply a...

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3841 practice notes
  • 389 B.R. 842 (Bkrtcy.N.D.Cal. 2008), 02-55795, In re 3dfx Interactive, Inc.
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    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Ninth Circuit
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    ...by any credible analysis-it rests only on Mr. Wagner saying it is so. An expert's ipse dixit is insufficient. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 In the securities fraud context, where damages are measured by the price at which a stock sold and the......
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    ...opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert." Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). "A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the dat......
  • 477 B.R. 40 (6th Cir.BAP 2012), 11-8072, In re Creekside Sr. Apartments, LP
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    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
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    ...appeal unless there was an abuse of discretion or unless the decision was " manifestly erroneous." Gen. Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 141-42, 118 S.Ct. 512, 517, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997); Mayhew v. Bell S.S. Co., 917 F.2d 961, 962 (6th Cir.1990). However, " a determinat......
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • May 5, 2021
    ...decides how to determine reliability as it enjoys in respect to its ultimate reliability determination.” Gen Elec. Co., 522 U.S. at 142. Moreover, “[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the......
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3646 cases
  • 389 B.R. 842 (Bkrtcy.N.D.Cal. 2008), 02-55795, In re 3dfx Interactive, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Ninth Circuit
    • April 30, 2008
    ...by any credible analysis-it rests only on Mr. Wagner saying it is so. An expert's ipse dixit is insufficient. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 In the securities fraud context, where damages are measured by the price at which a stock sold and the......
  • 447 F.Supp.3d 786 (S.D.Iowa 2019), 3:18-cv-00040, Beving v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 8th Circuit
    • August 14, 2019
    ...opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert." Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). "A court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the dat......
  • 477 B.R. 40 (6th Cir.BAP 2012), 11-8072, In re Creekside Sr. Apartments, LP
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Bankruptcy Courts Sixth Circuit
    • June 29, 2012
    ...appeal unless there was an abuse of discretion or unless the decision was " manifestly erroneous." Gen. Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 141-42, 118 S.Ct. 512, 517, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997); Mayhew v. Bell S.S. Co., 917 F.2d 961, 962 (6th Cir.1990). However, " a determinat......
  • AngioDynamics, Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 050521 NYNDC, 1:17-cv-00598 (BKS/CFH)
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • May 5, 2021
    ...decides how to determine reliability as it enjoys in respect to its ultimate reliability determination.” Gen Elec. Co., 522 U.S. at 142. Moreover, “[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the......
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42 firm's commentaries
  • Chambers Global Practice Guide: Product Liability & Safety
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • July 15, 2019
    ...to challenging methodology under Daubert, courts can review the experts’ conclusions in determining admissibility. Joiner v. G.E., 522 U.S. 136 State Courts Around half of state courts have adopted the Frye standard. Under Frye, an expert’s testimony is admissible if the expert’s methodolog......
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    ...of the United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997); Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999); and other cases in federal courts applying the standards announced by the Uni......
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    ...U.S. Supreme Court has produced several important follow-up rulings elaborating upon Daubert including: General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 118 S.Ct. 512 (1997): Holds that federal appellate courts are to apply an abuse of discretion standard in reviewing a trial judge's decision ......
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    ...Rules of Evidence is Sound; It Should Not Be Amended, 138 F.R.D. 631 (1991)). Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-94. General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146-147 (1997). Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999). Fed. R. Evid. 702. 509 U.S. 592 n. 10. 199 F.3d 158, 159 (3rd Cit. 2000......
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