Erica A. Sabatini

Erica A. Sabatini

esabatini@willmanlaw.com

esabatini@willmanlaw.com

  
Erica A. Sabatini joined Willman & Silvaggio in 2013. Since then, her focus has been on civil defense litigation and the area of toxic torts. Ms. Sabatini earned her Juris Doctor from the Duquesne University School of Law in 2013. She was an active member of Duquesne’s Trial Advocacy team and was deemed an Outstanding Advocate for the First Year Appellate Argument Exercise. In her second year, Ms. Sabatini led her team to victory and her team was named regional champion of the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition. In the fall of that year, her team placed second at the National Civil Trial Competition.

During her time at Duquesne University, Ms. Sabatini received numerous awards including the Katie Elisabeth Westbrook, the Shalom Moot Court Award, and the Lynette Norton Memorial Award. Most notably she was chosen for membership in The Order of the Barristers — an honorary society that recognizes excellence in trial advocacy. She has previously served as a coach for the Duquesne University School of Law National Trial Advocacy Team and annually serves as a judge for mock trial competitions.

Prior to attending the Duquesne University School of Law, Ms. Sabatini graduated with honors in 2010 from Allegheny College. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and minored in French. As a result, she is fluent in the language.

Ms. Sabatini is admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar and the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2013. She was subsequently admitted to the West Virginia Bar and the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in 2014. She is an active member of the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Division.

In addition, Ms. Sabatini had the honor of being a selected as a member of 20th Anniversary Class of Fifty Finest for the Western Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She personally raised over $10,000 for research and funds to assist families with children impacted by Cystic Fibrosis. In her free time, Ms. Sabatini is an active member of her church as a lector and serves on the CORE team of her church’s youth group. She is also an avid obstacle course racer.
 
  
  
Erica A. Sabatini joined Willman & Silvaggio in 2013. Since then, her focus has been on civil defense litigation and the area of toxic torts. Ms. Sabatini earned her Juris Doctor from the Duquesne University School of Law in 2013. She was an active member of Duquesne’s Trial Advocacy team and was deemed an Outstanding Advocate for the First Year Appellate Argument Exercise. In her second year, Ms. Sabatini led her team to victory and her team was named regional champion of the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition. In the fall of that year, her team placed second at the National Civil Trial Competition.

During her time at Duquesne University, Ms. Sabatini received numerous awards including the Katie Elisabeth Westbrook, the Shalom Moot Court Award, and the Lynette Norton Memorial Award. Most notably she was chosen for membership in The Order of the Barristers — an honorary society that recognizes excellence in trial advocacy. She has previously served as a coach for the Duquesne University School of Law National Trial Advocacy Team and annually serves as a judge for mock trial competitions.

Prior to attending the Duquesne University School of Law, Ms. Sabatini graduated with honors in 2010 from Allegheny College. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in History and minored in French. As a result, she is fluent in the language.

Ms. Sabatini is admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar and the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2013. She was subsequently admitted to the West Virginia Bar and the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in 2014. She is an active member of the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Division.

In addition, Ms. Sabatini had the honor of being a selected as a member of 20th Anniversary Class of Fifty Finest for the Western Pennsylvania Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She personally raised over $10,000 for research and funds to assist families with children impacted by Cystic Fibrosis. In her free time, Ms. Sabatini is an active member of her church as a lector and serves on the CORE team of her church’s youth group. She is also an avid obstacle course racer.
 
  
Admitted to:
 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • West Virginia 
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia 
Admitted to:
 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • West Virginia 
  • United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia 
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Snizavich v. Rohm & Haas Co.: Defining Admissibility Standards for Expert Testimony In Pennsylvania

1/9/2014
By Erica A. Lombardo. The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the Plaintiff’s expert testimony was inadmissible as it failed to meet minimum admissibility requirements, because the expert was relying only on his own personal beliefs. The Superior Court sets forth the minimum standards for the admissibility of expert testimony, which includes the expert pointing to, relying upon, or citing scientific authority. The issue presented to the Superior Court in this case was whether there is a minimal threshold that expert testimony must surpass to demonstrate that the proffered testimony is an actual expert opinion and not “a lay opinion offered by an expert.” Snizavich v. Rohm & Haas Co., 2013 PA Super 315, 2013 Pa. Super. LEXIS 3192, 2013 WL 6383086 (Pa. Super. 2013). The Superior Court held that in this Wrongful Death action, the trial court properly precluded the Plaintiff’s expert report, because it failed to meet the basic admissibility requirements set forth in Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 702. Joseph Snizavich (Decedent) worked as a pipefitter for the Welsch Company. For the 13 years he was employed by the company and worked as a contractor predominately at the Rohm and Hass’ Spring House Facility (Spring House). In 2005, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and died on September 19, 2008. The following year, his wife brought a cause of action under the Wrongful Death and Survival Acts – alleging Decedent’s brain cancer was caused by chemical exposure at Spring House and therefore Rohm and Haas was liable. Rohm and Haas filed a motion for summary judgment (MSJ) and argued that the Decedent’s wife failed to provide expert testimony on the issue of causation. She then submitted the report of Dr. Thomas H. Milby, M.D., which relied upon a report from the University of Minnesota (Minnesota Report) that concerned workers at Spring House. The Minnesota Report found that there was a statistically higher occurrence of brain cancer among individuals who worked at Spring House due to the thousands of chemicals used. However, the university’s report was inconclusive as to the cause of brain cancer found in those workers and the relationship between the increased incidence of brain cancer and the chemicals. Rohm and Haas subsequently filed a Frye motion in which they sought preclusion of Dr. Milby’s report, because it did not comply with the requirements for the admission of expert testimony. The trial court heard argument on the Frye motion and in response granted both Rohm and Haas’ Frye motion and MSJ. The trial court issued an opinion stating that “it was not necessary to conduct a full Frye analysis on the report issued by Milby, as it failed both of the basic requirements of showing a coherent scientific or technical methodology to which any type of analysis could be applied…” Id. at 3. Decedent’s wife appealed. In reviewing this case, the Superior Court looked to two cases in particular. First, it discussed Checchio v. Frankford Hospital-Torresdale Div., 717 A.2d 1058 (Pa. Super. 1998). In that case, two expert’s testimonies were precluded for the Plaintiff and MSJ was awarded for the Defense. Each expert formed their opinions without referring to any outside sources; they relied solely on their own observations and experience in the field. The Court found the proposed expert testimony to be “inherently unreliable” as both experts failed to use any medical literature in opining as to the cause of the Plaintiff’s current disorders. Checchio, at 1061. The second case the Superior Court discussed was Harris v. NGK N. Am., Inc., 2011 PA Super 66, 19 A.3d 1053 (Pa. Super. 2011). Unlike the Checchio court, this one determined the proffered expert testimony met the minimum requirements as the doctor reviewed medical records, discharge summaries, and test results of the Plaintiff. He also articulated that his opinion was based upon those materials and his knowledge of the disease due to his medical training and medical literature he read. The Court acknowledge that unlike in Checchio where the experts failed to demonstrate that their opinions were based on facts, testimony, or empirical data, the Harris expert’s opinion was admissible because it referenced outside data supporting the causal relationship. The Snizavich court held that the minimal threshold expert testimony must meet is that “it must point to, rely on or cite some scientific authority – whether facts, empirical studies, or the expert’s own research.” Snizavich, at 13. If an expert’s opinion does not include such authority, then the trial court must conclude that the opinion is just personal belief. “Thus, expert testimony as to a causal relationship may be admissible, even if based solely on the expert’s review of medical records and his experience and expertise in the applicable medical field when the expert can point to some scientific authority that supports the causal connection.” Id. Furthermore, the Court articulated that like the experts in Checchio, Dr. Milby was relying solely on his own personal beliefs in forming his expert testimony. He relied upon nine documents, including Decedent’s medical history, work history, and the inconclusive Minnesota Report. However, he failed to include any scientific authority to support his conclusion of brain cancer arising from the Decedent’s work at the Spring House. The Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s decision in this matter.
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