Gatekeeping in Allen v. Martin Surfacing — Postscript

Back in November 2012, I wrote a review and analysis of a district court’s handling of Rule 702 challenges to expert witness opinions, in a case involving a tragic ALS death, Allen v. Martin Surfacing, 263 F.R.D. 47 (D. Mass. 2009).  See Bad Gatekeeping or Missed Opportunity – Allen v. Martin Surfacing (Nov. 30, 2012).

I received correspondence from one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, Dr. Marcia Ratner, who was not entirely happy with my discussion of the Allen case.  Suffice it to say, on the medico-legal issues, we do not have much common ground for agreement.  Dr. Ratner, however, asked me to update my post by noting two facts:

1.  First, plaintiffs’ counsel had asked her to testify that solvent fumes, including toluene, had caused Mr. Allen’s ALS, and she refused.  She was unwilling to acquiesce in their request, and she testified only about acceleration of onset.

2.  Second, Dr. Ratner objected to my including the colorful comments about her brush with the law.  My report was factual and documented, but I am sympathetic.  Dr. Ratner would have me note that she is a registered Republican and a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights; her arrest result when she “inadvertently stepped into a liberal trap when [she] came down [to Massachusetts] from Vermont.”

As a lawyer, I am indeed sympathetic to anyone who has truly stepped into a trap.  As for the Allen case, the matter settled, and so there never was a chance to see how a jury would react to the various theories in the case.  More important, there never was appellate judicial review of the gatekeeping efforts.

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