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Autism-thimerosal expert not

Posted Jul 01 2006 12:00am

In the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Judge James A. Beaty, Jr., has issued a Memorandum Opinion in a case brought by parents alleging that their child’s autism was caused by thimerosal in injections the mother received during pregnancy. Judge Beaty’s opinion addressed the question of whether experts’ testimony would be excluded from the case because the experts do not qualify as experts or used inadequate methods (“junk science”) to obtain the information. (It’s called a “Daubert analysis” and it’s explained in the judge’s memorandum; one can also learn about it from a Wikipedia entry.)

Plaintiffs John and Jane Doe 2 (“Plaintiffs”) have initiated this lawsuit based upon their contention that the thimerosal in Defendant Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Inc.’s (“Ortho-Clinical” or “Defendant”) biologic product RhoGAM caused their child’s autism. This matter is presently before the Court on three motions: Defendant’s Motion to Exclude All Testimony that Thimerosal-Containing RhoGAM Causes Autism (Document #63), Defendant’s Motion to Exclude Plaintiffs’ Expert Suzanne Parisian, M.D. (Document #65), and relatedly, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Document #94). The Court heard testimony concerning Defendant’s motions to exclude witnesses for three days at the end of May 2006. Based upon the testimony at that hearing, the Court wil grant Defendant’s Motion to Exclude All Testimony that Thimerosal-Containing RhoGAM Causes Autism. More specifically, the focus of the Court’s present Memorandum Opinion is the testimony of Plaintiffs’ expert witness, Dr. Mark Geier. Dr. Geier was the only expert offered in this case by Plaintiffs who is designated to testify as to both general and specific causation. For the reasons given by the Court herein, Dr. Geier’s testimony is specifically being excluded pursuant to Defendant’s Motion to Exclude. As such, without Dr. Geier’s testimony, Plaintiffs are unable to meet their burden to demonstrate that the thimerosal in Defendant’s RhoGAM product caused Plaintiff Minor Child Doe 2′ s autism, a result that leads directly to the failure of all of Plaintiffs’ claims. Accordingly, for the reasons detailed below, the Court will also grant Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

In pages 8-22 of his analysis, Judge Beaty systematically explains why he would not allow Dr. Mark Geier’s testimony. He found that Dr. Geier’s methods for establishing that thimerosal in RhoGAM could cause autism did not met the Daubert standard. In addition, Judge Beaty found that Dr. Geier’s assertion that the injections given to “Jane Doe” specifically caused the Doe child’s autism, because Dr. Geier did not have the expertise to perform a differential diagnosis nor did his diganostic study sufficiently rule out other possible causes of the child’s autism.

Judge Beaty’s memorandum is not yet linked from the court’s Web site, but an authentic-looking version of it is available here [updated 12 Jul 2006].

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