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Jo Belle Baldonado v. Wyeth and Its Division

April 30, 2012

JO BELLE BALDONADO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WYETH AND ITS DIVISION, WYETH PHARMACEUTICALS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jo Belle Baldonado has sued Defendant Wyeth alleging that Wyeth's hormone replacement therapy products, including Prempro, caused her breast cancer. In advance of trial, Defendant asks the Court to preclude Plaintiff from introducing the expert opinions of Dr. Michael Maloney, an economist designated to testify regarding punitive damages. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is granted in part. A Daubert hearing will take place consistent with this Order on May 30, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

BACKGROUND

On May 27, 2003, Plaintiff Jo Belle Baldonado commenced this action against Defendant Wyeth and others in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, alleging that Defendant's hormone therapy products caused Plaintiff to develop breast cancer. In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims that include negligence, strict products liability, failure to warn, breach of express warranty, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and gross negligence. (R. 1 at 15-57, Am.Compl.*fn1 ) Defendant removed the action to this Court on June 28, 2004 on the basis of diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332, 1441, 1446. (R. 1at 1-7, Not. of Removal.) Thereafter, on July 27, 2004, Defendant filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint, denying that Defendant's products caused Plaintiff's breast cancer and contending that the products were appropriately tested, labeled, and marketed. (R. 9, Answer.)

On September 8, 2004, the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation (the "MDL Panel") conditionally transferred this action to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas (the "MDL Court"), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407, for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings with over two hundred similar hormone therapy actions. (R. 13, Conditional Transfer Order, at 1 (citing In re Prempro Prods. Liab. Litig., 254 F. Supp. 2d 1366 (J.P.M.L. 2003) (designating transferee court for individual, class action, and other federal cases arising out of the sale or use of prescription hormone therapy medications).) Following more than seven years of litigation in the MDL Court, the MDL Panel remanded the action to this District on January 26, 2011, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. The case was reassigned to this Court on January 25, 2012. A jury trial is scheduled to begin on October 9, 2012.

LEGAL STANDARD

"The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and the Supreme Court's opinion in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993)." Lewis v. CITGO Petroleum Corp., 561 F.3d 698, 705 (7th Cir. 2009). "The district court functions as a gatekeeper with respect to testimony proffered under Rule 702 to ensure that the testimony is sufficiently reliable to qualify for admission." Mihailovich v. Laatsch, 359 F.3d 892, 918 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 147, 119 S. Ct. 1167, 143 L. Ed. 2d 238 (1999)). See also Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, Inc., 663 F.3d 887, 893 (7th Cir. 2011) ("It is the district courts' role to enure that expert testimony is both relevant and reliable."). Whether to admit expert testimony rests within the discretion of the district court. See, e.g., Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner. 522 U.S. 136, 118 S. Ct. 512, 139 L. Ed. 2d 508 (1997). Indeed, a district court has "wide latitude in performing its gatekeeping function and determining both how to measure the reliability of expert testimony and whether the testimony itself is reliable." Bielskis, 663 F.3d at 894.

Under Rule 702, "[a] witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if: (a) the expert's scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case." Fed. R. Evid. 702; see also Ortiz v. City of Chicago, 656 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir. 2011). The inquiry under Rule 702 is "flexible." Bielskis, 663 F.3d at 894.

District courts employ a three-part analysis before admitting expert testimony: (1) the expert must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; (2) the expert's reasoning or methodology underlying his testimony must be scientifically reliable; and (3) the expert's testimony must assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or to determine a factual issue. See Myers v. Illinois Central R.R. Co., 629 F.3d 639, 644 (7th Cir. 2010). "The goal of Daubert is to assure that experts employ the same 'intellectual rigor' in their courtroom testimony as would be employed by an expert in the relevant field." Jenkins v. Bartlett, 487 F.3d 482, 489 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Kumho Tire Co., 526 U.S. at 152).

ANALYSIS

Defendant moves to exclude the testimony of Dr. Michael Maloney, whom Plaintiff has designated to testify regarding punitive damages. Dr. Maloney has an undergraduate and masters degree in economics, and also holds a Ph.D. in economics. He is a tenured professor at Clemson University, where he teaches courses in economic theory, financial economics, industrial organization, and managerial economics. Dr. Maloney has published numerous articles on economics and has offered expert opinion in litigation on corporate net worth and valuation.

In its present motion, Defendant does not challenge Dr. Maloney's expert qualifications, but instead argues that Dr. Maloney's proposed testimony is misleading and fails to satisfy the standards of Rule 702 and Daubert. Specifically, Defendant challenges Dr. Maloney's opinions regarding 1) the measurement for punitive damages and 2) Wyeth's net worth.

I. Measurement of Punitive Damages

Defendant argues that Dr. Maloney's opinions regarding the proper measure of punitive damages are improper, irrelevant ...


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