Betz v. Pneumo Abex LLC (majority)Annotate this Case
The civil action underlying this appeal was selected as a test case for the admissibility of expert opinion evidence to the effect that each and every fiber of inhaled asbestos is a substantial contributing factor to any asbestos-related disease. The inquiry has proceeded under principles derived from 'Frye v. United States' (293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923)). Upon its consideration of the evidence presented by both sides, the trial court sustained the Frye challenge and precluded the plaintiffs from adducing the 'any exposure' opinion. Focusing upon methodology, the judge found no support for the any exposure theory of specific causation in any of the sources upon which the expert relied. The Superior Court majority was very critical of the trial court's treatment of the Frye challenge on several fronts. While finding error in the threshold determination, the Superior Court nevertheless proceeded to review the trial court's finding as to general acceptance, concluding that the judge had abused his discretion. At the outset, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court's decision to conduct a Frye hearing concerning the any-exposure opinion to be appropriate. While the Superior Court was correct that the trial court judge did not embellish his opinion with specific citations to the record, his findings and conclusions were 'amply supported throughout that record nonetheless.' The Court concluded that the trial court did not abuse his discretion in its Frye assessment. The order of the Superior Court was reversed, and the case was remanded for consideration of whether there were remaining, preserved issues on appeal which were obviated by the intermediate court's approach to the common pleas court's ruling.