June 14, 2019 Articles

Regulatory Emissions Standards: Unreliable Proof of Causation

Regulatory standards are intentionally overprotective and thus “unreliable predictors” of when exposures to regulated substances become harmful.

By David Weinstein, Christopher Torres, and Ryan Hopper

In Williams v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit recently held that regulatory emissions standards are “unreliable predictors” of the dose at which exposures to emissions become harmful to human health. 889 F.3d 1239, 1248 (11th Cir. 2018). The opinion teaches toxic-tort practitioners the valuable lesson that expert general-causation testimony grounded in overprotective regulations might not pass Daubert scrutiny.

Background

Williams involved a Floridian’s allegations that a fertilizer facility’s emissions—particularly, sulfur dioxide—had traveled to her home and caused her to develop adverse pulmonary conditions, including obstructive pulmonary disease. 

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