Dr. Hedge conducted no such analysis. He did not observe Mrs. Reiff's typing technique or posture, question her about her work habits, determine the configuration of her workstation, or evaluate the kind of material she typed at her computer keyboard. See Defendants' Ex. 3 at 99-101 (Hedge Deposition). As a result, Dr. Hedge gave no consideration to alternative ergonomic causes of Mrs. Reiff's carpal tunnel syndrome. Cf. Defendants' Exs. 25-26 (Hedge Articles) (examining posture among other factors contributing to carpal tunnel syndrome). Indeed, without knowing how hard Mrs. Reiff types, Dr. Hedge could not accurately determine whether defendants' keyboard or Mrs. Reiff's own typing technique was more responsible for the keyforces she expended typing.
In Diaz v. Johnson Matthey, Inc., 893 F. Supp. 358 (D.N.J. 1995), this Court held an expert opinion on specific causation unreliable where an expert similarly failed to account for possible alternative causes of a plaintiff's illness. See id. at 360 (citing Paoli, 35 F.3d at 760). Like the precluded experts in Paoli and Diaz, Dr. Hedge has offered "no reasonable explanation as to why he . . . still believe[s] that the defendants' [computer keyboard was] a substantial factor in bringing about [Mrs. Reiff's] illness." Paoli, 35 F.3d at 360; Diaz, 893 F. Supp. at 360. Like the precluded expert in Diaz, he "ignores or is unable to satisfactorily discount [alternative causes]" and "did little, if anything, to rule [them] out." Diaz, 893 F. Supp. at 360 (internal quotation marks omitted). In view of this glaring deficiency in Dr. Hedge's methodology, this Court holds his testimony on specific causation unreliable under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The Court will preclude it accordingly.
2. Goldstein Opinion
Dr. Goldstein's causation opinion fails to identify defendants' computer keyboard as a substantial cause of Mrs. Reiff's upper extremity condition. After determining that Mrs. Reiff has no predisposing factors to carpal tunnel syndrome, he generally opines that Mrs. Reiff's "work activity" largely caused her injuries. See Defendants' Ex. 77 at 7 (Goldstein Report dated May 14, 1996). However, "work activity" is not a synonym for "computer keyboard." As Dr. Goldstein's conclusion fails to provide any insight as to the specific cause of Mrs. Reiff's injuries--her keyboard, her chair, her posture, her workstation configuration, or her typing technique--this Court will preclude his causation testimony as unhelpful to the trier of fact. See Fed. R. Evid. 702; Paoli, 35 F.3d at 741-43.
IV. OTHER CLAIMS
A. Negligence and Breach of Warranty Claims
Under New Jersey products liability law, negligence and breach of warranty are no longer viable as separate claims for harm caused by a defective product. See New Jersey Products Liability Act, N.J.S.A. § 2A:58-C1; Tirrell v. Navistar Intern. Inc., 248 N.J. Super. 390, 398, 591 A.2d 643, 647 (App. Div. 1991) ("Common-law actions for negligence or breach of warranty are subsumed within the new statutory cause of action."), certif. denied, 126 N.J. 390, 599 A.2d 166 (1991). Because plaintiffs' negligence and breach of warranty counts allege harm caused by defendants' allegedly defective product, it falls squarely within the Products Liability Act. See N.J.S.A. § 2A:58-C1 (delimiting the scope of the Products Liability Act). Therefore, plaintiffs' negligence and breach of warranty counts are subsumed by their products liability count. The Court will grant defendants summary judgment as to plaintiffs' negligence and breach of warranty counts accordingly.
B. Conspiracy Claim
To establish a civil conspiracy claim, plaintiffs must show the existence of an agreement between defendants and another to commit an unlawful act or a lawful act by unlawful means, and an overt act in furtherance of the agreement resulting in damages to plaintiffs. See Hampton v. Hanrahan, 600 F.2d 600, 620-21 (3d Cir. 1979). Neither an unlawful act nor unlawful means used to commit a lawful act can reasonably be gleaned from the submitted pleadings, affidavits, and depositions. Accordingly, this Court will grant summary judgment to defendants on plaintiffs' conspiracy count as well.
C. Loss of Consortium Claim
Loss of consortium is a derivative claim which depends for its sustenance upon a viable tort claim of the spouse. See Reilly v. Prudential Property & Casualty Ins. Co., 653 F. Supp. 725, 735 (D.N.J. 1987). Because this Court has granted defendants summary judgment on each of Mrs. Reiff's claims, Mr. Reiff, as her husband, has no foundation from which to derive a loss of consortium claim. Accordingly, this Court will also grant summary judgment to defendants on plaintiffs loss of consortium count.
Science coexists uneasily with litigation's adversary system, as the imperatives of partisan advocacy coupled with powerful economic incentives often seem to overwhelm good science. Lawyers, judges, and forensic experts sometimes engage in what literature teachers call willing suspension of disbelief. Scientific propositions that would cause even laymen to gasp in disbelief are routinely argued in courts of law. Such are the dangers of a legal system allowing partisan expert testimony.
Imposing carpal tunnel syndrome liability based on alleged defects in keyboard design would result in a nationwide explosion of litigation at societal costs which are almost unimaginable. In a recent case sent to the jury by Judge Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York, a jury awarded damages in excess of five million dollars. See Keyboard Maker is First to Lose RSI Case, Nat'l L.J., Dec. 23, 1996, at B2 (reporting on Geressy v. Digital Equip. Corp., 950 F. Supp. 519). Presumably Daubert and Paoli permit a trial court to be sure that this avalanche of litigation is based on something at least resembling good science. The evidence proffered in this case does not cross that threshold.
Because much of plaintiffs' proffered expert testimony fails to meet the standards set by the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Court will grant defendants' motion to preclude expert testimony in part. Because without this testimony plaintiffs cannot sustain their products liability, civil conspiracy, and loss of consortium causes of action, this Court will grant summary judgment on all counts in defendants' favor and dismiss this action in its entirety. An appropriate order will issue on even date herewith.
Date: February 28, 1997
JOSEPH E. IRENAS, U.S.D.J.