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A Mississippi federal court has held expert testimony regarding
health risks posed by exposure to the disposal of a hazardous waste is
admissible, even though plaintiffs did not assert claims for personal
injuries. Hollingsworth v. Hercules,
Inc., 2:14-cv-KS-MTP (S. D. Miss. Jan. 3, 2017). The testimony was offered by two experts for
the defendant, a company that operated a chemical plant in Hattiesburg,
Mississippi from the 1920s until 2009.
Plaintiffs owned property near the chemical plant and
brought claims for negligence, gross negligence, nuisance and trespass.
Plaintiffs alleged the defendant’s improper disposal of hazardous waste
products at the plant resulted in lost rental income, decreased property value
and emotional distress.
Experts for the company offered opinions regarding the human
health risks of exposure to the contaminants and testing results which showed
the presence of contaminants below the detection reporting level. Plaintiffs moved to exclude the experts’
testimony as irrelevant because the landowners did not seek damages for
The Court disagreed and found the health risk posed by the
alleged contaminants was relevant to the value of the properties at issue. The
Court held the testimony at the very least created a factual dispute for the
In reaching its conclusion, the Court noted plaintiffs’ own testimony and expert’s appraisals demonstrated the relevance of the human health risks of exposure to the value of plaintiffs’ properties. The Court acknowledged the parties were not foreclosed from requesting a limiting instruction at trial as to evidence of human health risk posed by the contaminants.