General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 96188

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation522 U.S. 136,139 L.Ed.2d 508,118 S.Ct. 512
Docket Number96188
Decision Date15 December 1997
PartiesGENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, et al., Petitioners, v. Robert K. JOINER, et ux

522 U.S. 136
118 S.Ct. 512
139 L.Ed.2d 508
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Robert K. JOINER, et ux.

No. 96-188.
Supreme Court of the United States
Argued Oct. 14, 1997.
Decided Dec. 15, 1997.
Syllabus*

After he was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer, respondent Joiner sued in Georgia state court, alleging, inter alia, that his disease was "promoted'' by his workplace exposure to chemical "PCBs'' 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 PCBs, furans, and dioxins can promote cancer, and opined that Joiner' 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 PCBs, 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 PCBs 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, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469, 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, 113 S.Ct., at 2794-2795. 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. 153, 172, 109 S.Ct. 439, 451, 102 L.Ed.2d 445, with United States v. Abel, 469 U.S. 45, 54, 105 S.Ct. 465, 470, 83 L.Ed.2d 450. 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. P. ___.

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 PCBs 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 PCBs. Nothing in either Daubert or the Federal Rules of Evidence requires a district court to admit opinion evidence which is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert. Pp. ___-___.

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. ___.

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. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Steven R. Kuney, Washington, DC, for petitioner.

Lawrence G. Wallace, Washington, DC, for United States as amicus curiae.

Michael H. Gottesman, for respondents.

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 court's decision to admit or exclude expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (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-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 (PCBs). PCBs are widely considered to be hazardous to human health. Congress, with limited exceptions, banned the production and sale of PCBs in 1978. See 90 Stat.2020, 15 U.S.C. §2605(e)(2)(A).

Joiner was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 1991. He1 sued petitioners in Georgia state court the following year. Petitioner Monsanto manufactured PCBs 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 PCBs and their derivatives, polychlorinated dibenzofurans (furans) and polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (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 PCBs "promoted'' 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 PCBs, furans, or dioxins, and (2) there was no admissible scientific evidence that PCBs 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 PCBs alone can promote cancer and that furans and dioxins can also promote cancer. They opined that since Joiner had been exposed to PCBs, 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 PCBs. 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 PCBs 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 (N.D.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 particularly stringent standard of review to the trial judge's exclusion of expert testimony.'' Id. at 529. Applying that standard, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court had erred in excluding the testimony of Joiner's expert witnesses. The District Court had made two fundamental errors. First, it excluded the experts' testimony because it "drew different conclusions from the research than did each of the experts.'' The Court of Appeals opined that a district court should limit its role to...

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    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
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    ...Id. at 1216. In the final analysis, there are only Mr. Fleming's ipse dixits. And that is not enough. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997); Wendler & Ezra, P.C. v. American Intern. Group, Inc., 521 F.3d 790, 791 (7th Cir.2008); Daubert v. Mer......
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    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • July 21, 2011
    ...on which their experts base their opinions is scientifically valid and properly applied to the facts in issue. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 144–45, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997) (holding that animal studies can be a proper foundation for an expert's opinion but that those......
  • Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475.
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    ...for abuse of discretion. "[D]eference," we have explained, "is the hallmark of abuse-of-discretion review." General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 143, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). Although equitable remedies are "not left to a trial court's `inclination,'" they are left to th......
  • US v. Rhynes, No. 97-4465 to 97-4470
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • October 26, 1999
    ...district court's evidentiary rulings and reversal may occur only where there has been an abuse of discretion. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 141, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). This deference is especially appropriate where, as here, the district court's actions are desi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4169 cases
  • Pampered Chef v. Alexanian, No. 10 C 1399.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
    • July 14, 2011
    ...Id. at 1216. In the final analysis, there are only Mr. Fleming's ipse dixits. And that is not enough. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997); Wendler & Ezra, P.C. v. American Intern. Group, Inc., 521 F.3d 790, 791 (7th Cir.2008); Daubert v. Mer......
  • In re Heparin Prods. Liab. Litig., Case No. 1:08HC60000.MDL No. 1953.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • July 21, 2011
    ...on which their experts base their opinions is scientifically valid and properly applied to the facts in issue. Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 144–45, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997) (holding that animal studies can be a proper foundation for an expert's opinion but that those......
  • Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475.
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • April 27, 2010
    ...for abuse of discretion. "[D]eference," we have explained, "is the hallmark of abuse-of-discretion review." General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 143, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). Although equitable remedies are "not left to a trial court's `inclination,'" they are left to th......
  • US v. Rhynes, No. 97-4465 to 97-4470
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • October 26, 1999
    ...district court's evidentiary rulings and reversal may occur only where there has been an abuse of discretion. General Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 141, 118 S.Ct. 512, 139 L.Ed.2d 508 (1997). This deference is especially appropriate where, as here, the district court's actions are desi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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