Expert Advice on Silicone Implants: Hall v. Baxter Healthcare Corp.
37 Jurimetrics Journal 113–128 (1997)
17 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 1997 Last revised: 19 Jun 2019
On December 26, 1996, a federal district court in Oregon made legal history. In Hall v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., Judge Robert E. Jones excluded all testimony to the effect that silicone-gel breast implants (SGBI) cause autoimmune system disorders. The court reached this result after calling on four independent experts to advise it on the state of scientific knowledge. "This is just an extraordinary, major blow to plaintiffs' lawyers," crowed a senior vice president and general counsel of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., one of three defendants in the cases. Lawyers around the country representing women with breast implants were less exuberant. "This judge is playing super scientist or super-juror," complained a New York plaintiffs' lawyer. "That isn't his role." This article locates the Hall opinion within the context of the ongoing dispute surrounding the scientific evidence linking implants to autoimmune system disorders, describes the process that led to the ruling in Hall, and examines the analysis of causation given in the court's opinion. It identifies limitations in the expert reports and gaps between the reasoning in the opinion and those reports. The opinion, we argue, is factually dense - it responds to specific features of the expert testimony that plaintiffs produced. This is an appropriate if not essential aspect of a court's treatment of a factual question, but it leaves room for other courts to reach a different result with different expert witnesses. We anticipate that a national panel of experts already appointed in other cases will reach more generally applicable conclusions based on a more complete analysis of the scientific literature, and that those conclusions will shape the course of the implant litigation.
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation