State News : Texas

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Un-Rea-liable evidence gets Crump-ed in Dallas Court of Appeals

After water damage to a University of Texas at Dallas building in February 2015 led to mold, which was remediated 3 months later, UT system employee Diane Bartek made an occupational disease claim for exposure to mold in her workplace. To support her claim for conditions such as “autoimmune nervous system dysfunction, immune deregulation, and toxic encephalopathy,” William Rea, M.D. produced a causation opinion which was based, in part, on an assumption that Bartek’s mold exposure lasted for 5 years and, in part, on a series of tests that were neither medically or scientifically recognized to support the claimed medical conditions. Neither a Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) administrative law judge nor the Appeals Panel fell for the junk science. Despite objections to Dr. Rea’s testimony as based on clearly erroneous assumptions and unsound testing methods, a Dallas County jury was allowed to hear Dr. Rea’s causation evidence, and they found she sustained an occupational disease injury from continuous exposure to mold.

The UT System appealed to the Dallas Court of Appeals, arguing that the jury verdict was based on unreliable medical evidence and so there was legally and factually no evidence to support the trial court’s judgment. Bartek responded by arguing that Dr. Rea was her treating doctor and was, therefore, “empowered by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act to provide a causation report.” Finding that Transcontinental Ins. Co v. Crump, 330 S. W.3d 211 (Tex. 2010), is not at all moldy, the Dallas Court of Appeals agreed with UT System for two reasons: 1) Dr. Rea’s opinion was based on an unreliable foundation; and 2) each of Dr. Rea’s testing methods were shown to be rejected by the scientific and medical communities. The court of appeals threw out the trial court judgment and rendered a take-nothing judgment in favor of UT System. 

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