Presently before the court is Defendants' motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' experts on dose. Specifically, Defendants seek to exclude some or all of the testimony of the following experts: Richard Webb, David A. Lochbaum, Ignaz Vergeiner, Charles E. Armentrout, James E. Gunckel, Victor Neuwirth, Vladimir A. Shevchenko, Steven B. Wing, Douglas Crawford-Brown, and Bruce Molholt. The issues have been briefed, and the court has conducted extensive in limine hearings with respect to these experts.
Accordingly, Defendants' motions in limine are ripe for disposition. In addition, the court previously issued an order, unaccompanied by a memorandum of law, with respect to the following experts: Dr. L.N. Smierennyi, Dr. Ivannovich (L.N.U.), Professor Vasilenko, Ronald Kerman, Zinovy Reyblatt, Professor Eggar, Professor Scharr, Victor Neuwirth, A. Tascev, G. Kozubov, V. Popov, A. Portman, and O. Tarasenko. This memorandum of law will set forth the court's rationale with respect to those rulings.
The events precipitating this litigation began to unfold at approximately 4:00 a.m. on March 28, 1979, within the Unit-2 reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power facility ("TMI"). The facility is located on an island in the Susquehenna River not far from Goldsboro, Pennsylvania, and the events are now known to have led to the nation's most infamous nuclear reactor accident. Despite the diligent research efforts of many persons, including persons affiliated with the instant action, many important questions remain regarding the accident. In the context of this litigation, the parties have endeavored to answer these questions by explaining the course of events that constitute the TMI accident. The in limine hearings conducted by the court in November of 1995 focused on the parties' theories regarding the dose of radiation emitted from TMI and allegedly received by Plaintiffs. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently ruled that Defendants violated the relevant standard of care by allowing radioactive releases to occur. In re TMI, 67 F.3d 1103, 1117-1118 (3d Cir. 1995). The issue that remains is that of the magnitude of release for purposes of proving causation and damages. Id. at 1119. ("Defendants violated the standard of care . . . . Plaintiffs' exposures to radiation remain relevant, but only to prove causation and damages.")
Plaintiffs posit that a "blowout" occurred within the TMI Unit-2 reactor, thereby forcing high quantities of radioactive noble gases into the atmosphere. Plaintiffs have proffered the testimony of a variety of experts in support of this theory. These experts opine on subjects as diverse as nuclear reactor physics, meteorology, chromosomal abnormalities, cancer incidence, and plant biology. Through their experts, Plaintiffs seek to demonstrate that after the blowout occurred within the reactor, winds carried a dense yet narrow plume of radioactive noble gases through the atmosphere. This plume, according to Plaintiffs, made contact with land in areas north and east of TMI, with the most significant contact occurring at higher elevations.
Supporting their theory, Plaintiffs contend, is evidence of tree damage, chromosome abnormalities in humans, increased cancer incidence rates, and evidence of radiation sickness in both humans and animals.
Defendants do not deny that some radioactive noble gases escaped from the reactor building during the accident. In re TMI, 67 F.3d 1103, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 28924, *47, ("Defendants conceded that they violated § 20.106, [therefore we find] they violated their duty of care.") However, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs cannot prove either that the release was significant and dangerous or that their alleged injuries were caused by radiation. Defendants challenge Plaintiffs' proffered expert testimony on dose as lacking scientific reliability.
II. LEGAL STANDARDS FOR THE ADMISSION OF EXPERT SCIENTIFIC TESTIMONY
In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., U.S. , 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 113 S. Ct. 2786 (1993), the Supreme Court outlined the standards and reasoning that a district court must apply in determining whether expert scientific testimony is admissible at trial. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has interpreted Daubert to characterize the district court's role as that of "gatekeeper." In re Paoli Railroad Yard PCB Litigation, 35 F.3d 717, 732 (3d Cir. 1994) ("Paoli II "). Both Daubert and Paoli II require the district court "to act as 'gatekeeper' and to assure that the scientific methodology upon which the expert opinion is founded is reliable, i.e., that the expert's conclusion is based on good grounds (the methods and principles of science)." Paoli II, 35 F.3d at 732 (discussing Daubert). This court's analysis of the proffered expert scientific testimony will be guided by the Third Circuit's exhaustive discussion and interpretation of Daubert in Paoli II.
Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence contains two basic requirements. The person proffered to testify as to scientific knowledge must be an expert, and the expert's proffered scientific opinion must be reliable. Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741-42. A proffered expert's qualifications should be evaluated under a rather liberal standard extending to the "substantive as well as the formal qualification[s]" of the expert. Id. at 741. Consequently, an expert who has little or no formal training in a given area may be found qualified based upon his life experience or extensive work history in that area. The reliability prong of the Rule 702 inquiry requires a district court to probe the scientific validity of proffered expert testimony. Id. at 742. When making this reliability inquiry, "a district court should take into account all of the factors listed by either Daubert or Downing3 as well as any others that are relevant." Paoli II 35 F.3d at 742. Specifically, the court must consider the following factors:
(1) whether the method consists of a testable hypothesis; (2) whether the method has been subject to peer review; (3) the known or potential rate of error; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique's operation; (5) whether the method is generally accepted; (6) the relationship of the technique to methods which have been established to be reliable; (7) the qualifications of the expert witness testifying based on the methodology; (8) the non-judicial uses to which the method has been put.
Id. at 742 n.8.
In addition to these factors, this court has apprised the parties that it also finds the following factors to be relevant:
Falsifiability. -- Scientific explanations must be capable of falsification; that is, the logical form of a hypothesis must make it amenable to empirical testing . . . [the factor is important enough that] the Supreme Court listed [it] first among its factors.