United States: Florida Appellate Court Reverses Verdict Against Valve Manufacturer In Asbestos Case

Robert Rogers III is a Senior Counsel in our Orlando office.


  • Manufacturers of products that contained chrysotile asbestos won a major victory in Crane Co. v. DeLisle in September, when Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a verdict entered against a gasket manufacturer on grounds that the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting an expert's testimony.
  • The appellate court ordered that a verdict be directed for the defendant, where the only proof of causation was expert testimony that was not supported by scientific data and therefore should not have been admitted.
  • An "expert opinion is inadmissible when the only connection between the conclusion and the existing data is the expert's own assertions."
  • The appellate court's detailed opinion confirmed the scrutiny that judges must apply before admitting expert testimony, and it largely discredited opinions that exposure to chrysotile causes disease in humans.

Manufacturers of products that contained chrysotile asbestos won a major victory in Crane Co. v. DeLisle on Sept. 14, 2016, when Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal (Fourth DCA) reversed a verdict entered against a gasket manufacturer on grounds that the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting the testimony of Dr. James Dahlgren. The appellate court's detailed opinion not only confirmed the scrutiny that judges must apply before admitting expert testimony but largely discredited opinions that exposure to chrysotile causes disease in humans.


In Crane Co. v. DeLisle, plaintiff Richard DeLisle sued Crane Co., as well as the successors to cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds, for causing him to contract mesothelioma through products they manufactured that contained asbestos. Crane had manufactured gaskets containing chrysotile asbestos that DeLisle claims he handled while working for a paper company from 1962 to 1966, whereas R.J. Reynolds made Kent cigarettes, which had filters containing crocidolite asbestos when he smoked them from 1952 through 1956. Chrysotile asbestos is widely considered throughout the scientific community to not cause diseases like mesothelioma that may be caused by other forms of asbestos.

At trial, to link his mesothelioma to the chrysotile asbestos found in Crane's gaskets, DeLisle presented the opinion of Dahlgren that "every exposure" to any kind of asbestos above background level would be a substantial contributing cause of mesothelioma. The trial court admitted Dahlgren's testimony over Crane's objection, and later denied Crane's motion for directed verdict. The jury then awarded DeLisle $8 million in damages and apportioned Crane as 16 percent at fault. On appeal, the defendants challenged the trial court's admission of each expert.

Appellate Decision

In determining that the trial court had "abused its discretion" by admitting Dahlgren's testimony, the Fourth DCA affirmed a trial court's duty under Daubert to look beyond an expert's credentials and scrutinize the data and methodology upon which he relies: "Although Dahlgren may be an expert in the field of occupational medicine and evaluation of mesothelioma, the record does not in any way support a finding that his opinions were supported by sufficient data or based upon reliable principles and methods under a proper Daubert analysis."

Critically, Dahlgren could not identify any study or scientific data demonstrating an association between chrysotile asbestos and disease in humans. Instead, he pointed only to "mixed" studies, which examined exposure to chrysotile and other more potent forms of asbestos. Said the court: "[E]ven if the methodology was appropriate, it was not supported by any data." Furthermore, Dahlgren's "opinion that every asbestos exposure level above background level is a substantially contributing factor has been repeatedly rejected by courts as insufficiently supported by data or testing to satisfy Daubert."

An "expert opinion is inadmissible when the only connection between the conclusion and the existing data is the expert's own assertions," the Fourth DCA said in its decision, adding that courts must "affirmatively prevent imprecise, untested scientific opinion from being admitted." The decision also said, "Dr. Dahlgren's testimony was more of the nature of ipse dixit, i.e. that it should be reliable merely because he is an expert. This is insufficient to satisfy Daubert."

Because DeLisle furnished no proof that exposure to chrysotile causes mesothelioma other than Dahlgren's inadmissible opinion, the Fourth DCA reversed the denial of Crane's motion for directed verdict and ordered that a verdict be entered in Crane's favor. The court also held that the trial court improperly admitted the testimony of Dr. James Crapo and James Rasmussen related to crocidolite asbestos, and it ordered a new trial for R.J. Reynolds.

Key Takeaways

Crane is a victory for manufacturers sued in Florida for alleged defective products based upon unreliable scientific theories of causation. Crane demonstrates that trial judges applying Daubert must do more than merely wield a rubber stamp. Professional expert witnesses cannot merely cite a laundry list of studies and articles in their reports and then opine generally that the products at issue caused the plaintiffs' diseases; they must explain which studies support their opinions and why, regardless of their credentials or how many times their testimony has been admitted in the past.

Crane is also particularly helpful for manufacturers of products containing chrysotile asbestos. Crane largely discredits the notion that chrysotile causes diseases in humans, and it laid out a blueprint for attacking the testimony of the handful of plaintiffs' experts who offer such opinions. Furthermore, in ordering a new trial against R.J. Reynolds, the Fourth DCA noted "that the $8 million award was substantially higher than any previous award for a victim of mesothelioma and asbestosis."

It also suggested that "where product use is contested, as it was in this case, a targeted instruction to the jury to determine this issue first would be appropriate." Product use is routinely contested in asbestos cases, where such use is alleged to have occurred decades before trial and proof that the plaintiff used specific products that contained asbestos (as opposed to similar products that did not contain asbestos) is often unreliable.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions