The energy industry has been granted victory in a case that may have far reaching effects on potential claims of personal injury in the state of Texas.
Marathon Oil Corporation and Plains Exploration & Production were granted victory against plaintiffs Michael and Myra Cerny in San Antonio Court of Appeals on Oct. 7.
The Cerny’s suit claimed their family suffered both personal injury and property damage as a result of oilfield activity near their Karnes City home.
In anticipation of trial, the plaintiffs chose not to present expert medical testimony, citing their injuries as understandable to a layperson. That decision, according to Attorney Julie Hardin who studied this verdict, was a deciding factor in the case.
Hardin told the Southeast Texas Record there are a couple reasons why plaintiffs may choose not to include expert medical testimony as part of their case.
“First, to be admissible at trial, an expert’s medical causation opinion must be based on reliable science, which includes excluding other causes of the person’s alleged injuries. That is a high burden to satisfy,” Hardin told the Record. “Second, retaining a qualified medical expert to testify costs money.”
In the original lawsuit filed in 2013, the Cernys claimed they experienced a litany of medical issues they say were caused by oilfield activity, including headaches, rashes and chest pain.
According to an article Hardin wrote on the case, the Cernys failed to abide by requirements of Merrel Dow v. Havner, a 1997 case that held a causation opinion must to be based on statistically significant evidence.
Hardin told the Record she believes the decision in the Marathon case will “serve as a disincentive to plaintiffs who otherwise may have pursued personal injury claims that a medical expert would not support.”
Hardin also believes the defendant companies should be commended for refusing to settle.
“This decision is a win for the industry that otherwise may have faced increasing numbers of similar claims.”
The Cernys could further appeal, but it would be likely the Texas Supreme Court would reach the same conclusion, Hardin told the Record.