On February 3, 2022, a judge in Los Angeles County, California concluded a preliminary hearing centered on the opinions of four of plaintiff’s experts in one of the nation’s first lawsuits involving allegedly metal-contaminated baby food. toxic. In what is called in California a Sargon During the hearing, the defendants asked the court to assess “whether there is reliable scientific evidence that lead, arsenic and/or mercury (the ‘heavy metals’) can cause autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and whether lead can cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” Notably, this hearing comes before any discovery in the case, as the defendants have argued that they should not be compelled to spend time and money on discovery when they would eventually prevail over a challenge to causation.
The case in question involves a seven-year-old minor plaintiff represented by his mother, who alleges that he was diagnosed with ASD at the age of two years and nine months, and with ADHD four years later. The plaintiff alleges that these conditions were caused by the consumption of baby food containing heavy metals. The catalyst for the plaintiff’s lawsuit? The widely reported and widely publicized February 2021 U.S. House of Representatives report concludes that several “commercial baby foods are contaminated with significant levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury”.
The plaintiff filed his lawsuit in June 2021, four months after the report was published, against seven baby food manufacturers and a retailer, alleging they knowingly sold baby food that “contains dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals – mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. His complaint relates to strict product liability (on the theories of warning defect, design defect, and manufacturing defect) and negligence (on the theories of defect in negligent warning, negligent product design, negligent manufacture, negligent misrepresentation).
In early January 2022, the defendants filed a formal memorandum seeking to exclude the opinions of the plaintiff’s four experts, which included two epidemiologists, a toxicologist and a pediatric neurologist. Generally speaking, with respect to the four experts, the defendants argued that research into environmental exposures to heavy metals has continued in recent years, but there is nothing close to a scientific consensus that exposure to heavy metals causes ASD. Additionally, the defendants argued that no regulatory or judicial body had ever come to such a conclusion and said the court in this case would be the first in the nation to find a causal link between postnatal exposures to the heavy metals and ASDs.
In opposition, the plaintiff argued that there was overwhelming evidence from scientists and regulators linking toxic heavy metals to the development of ASD and/or ADHD. The plaintiff pointed out that the court’s role as gatekeeper in a Sargon the hearing was to “determine whether, for reasons of logic, the studies and other information cited by the experts adequately support the conclusion that the general theory or technique of the expert is valid”, and further argued that the defendants’ motions improperly invite the court to “enter into a scientific debate” about environmental exposures and the development of ASDs.
The court heard testimony from the plaintiff’s experts over four days, via Zoom, with the defendants having the opportunity to cross-examine each. Then, defense experts are expected to testify in early March, after which the court is expected to issue an opinion on whether the case can proceed to discovery. If the court decides the science is valid, the defendants in this case and other baby food makers and retailers referenced in the 2021 House of Representatives study could face a flood of lawsuits nationwide. countries as the prevalence of ASD continues to rise.