Testimony of occupational medicine expert found admissible in employment discrimination case

Court confirms the admissibility of the testimony of occupational medicine expert in employment discrimination case  

This case involved a lawsuit filed by David Meza against his former employer, Union Pacific Railroad Co., alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Meza worked as a carman for Union Pacific until his employment was suspended after a fitness-for-duty exam.  

Meza retained Kevin Trangle as an expert witness to support his ADA discrimination claim. Trangle intended to testify that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Medical Examiner Handbook relied on by Union Pacific in evaluating Meza’s fitness for duty contained outdated medical information and was removed from the FMCSA website for that reason.  

Union Pacific filed a Daubert motion to exclude parts of the occupational medicine expert witness’ proposed expert testimony. Specifically, Union Pacific argued Trangle should not be permitted to: 

  • Craft a factual narrative about the FMCSA’s decision to remove the 2014 Medical Examiner Handbook from its website. 
  • Opine or infer why the FMCSA removed the Handbook, including claiming its removal signaled the guidelines were outdated or unreliable.  

Union Pacific insisted on the scientific validity of the Handbook and contended that Trangle’s testimony to the contrary was unsupported and inadmissible. Union Pacific asserted that testimony from its own experts Brian Morris, M.D., J.D., M.B.A., M.P.H. and Joel T. Cotton established the reliability of the Handbook. 

Occupational Medicine Expert Witness 

Dr. Kevin Trangle has over 40 years of experience as a board-certified physician in internal medicine, occupational medicine, and preventive medicine. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1978 and also holds an MBA in healthcare management from Case Western Reserve University. He has served as a medical director for numerous corporations and organizations. His experience encompasses all aspects of occupational medicine including diagnosis and treatment of work-related injuries, disability evaluations, return to work assessments, corporate wellness programs, and substance abuse programs. Trangle has provided expert consultation services for attorneys, government agencies, and insurers. He has given dozens of presentations to professional organizations on occupational health topics and has published extensively in medical journals. Trangle has particular expertise regarding workplace chemical exposures, having worked extensively with the chemical industry and conducted research on industrial solvents and chemical sensitivity issues. He has also managed corporate drug testing and substance abuse programs. In summary, Trangle has comprehensive credentials and experience at the highest level in occupational and environmental medicine. 

Discussions by the Court 

The Court began by explaining that the admissibility of expert testimony in federal court is governed by Federal Rule of Evidence 702. Under this rule, expert opinion testimony is admissible if the expert’s knowledge will help the jury understand the evidence, the testimony is based on sufficient facts, it is the product of reliable methods, and the methods were reliably applied to the case facts. The Court acts as a gatekeeper, ensuring only relevant and reliable scientific evidence is admitted. However, the Court must not invade the role of the jury in weighing evidence and resolving credibility issues. Rule 702 favors admissibility, and expert testimony should only be excluded if it is so unsupported it cannot assist the factfinder.   

Union Pacific sought to bar occupational medicine expert witness Trangle from opining that the Handbook was unreliable and was removed from the FMCSA website for containing outdated information. Union Pacific argued Trangle had no basis to testify the information was outdated and his opinions were unsupported. It asserted testimony from its own experts establishes the Handbook remains current and reliable. 

Meza responded that the 2014 Handbook’s current validity was relevant evidence, Trangle was qualified to opine on the medical science being outdated, and his opinion was reliable. Meza pointed to indications the Handbook was no longer in use and was removed for containing obsolete information. Meza contended competing expert views on the Handbook should be resolved through advocacy and jury findings rather than exclusion. 

In support of their argument, Meza cited two key pieces of evidence. Firstly, they pointed to a watermark prominently displayed on the front of the Handbook, which unequivocally stated that it was “No longer in use.” This watermark served as a clear indicator that the handbook had been rendered obsolete and was no longer considered a reliable or current source of information.

Secondly, Meza referenced a notice of proposed regulatory guidance published in the Federal Register. This notice provided crucial context by explaining that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) withdrew the Handbook in 2015. The reason behind this withdrawal, as stated in the notice, was that certain information contained within the handbook had become outdated or was overly prescriptive in nature.

The Court found Trangle’s opinions on Union Pacific’s reliance on the Handbook were not so unsupported as to be completely unhelpful to the jury. While not indisputable, his testimony could assist the jury to some degree and should be tested by the adversary process rather than excluded outright.  

The Court stated Union Pacific’s proposed exclusions were too restrictive. Trangle should be able to explain why he believes Union Pacific should not have relied on the Handbook, even if Union Pacific disagrees. His opinions were not speculative or unsupported enough to be inadmissible. Union Pacific was permitted to challenge Trangle through its own experts and cross-examination rather than exclusion. 

Union Pacific argued the FMCSA never found the Handbook guidelines unreliable. But the Court found Trangle should be able to tell the jury why he believes Union Pacific should not have relied on the Handbook. The Court preferred to let the adversary process test Trangle’s opinion rather than the Court excluding it upfront.  

The Court explained it was not proper for the Court to weigh competing expert opinions or determine their correctness. Issues with Trangle’s testimony were better addressed by the adversary process with competing expert testimony and cross-examination. Where an expert opinion had sufficient grounds to assist the jury, it should be tested by competing evidence rather than be excluded outright. 


The Court denied Union Pacific’s motion to limit Trangle’s testimony about the Handbook being outdated and unreliable. The Court ruled that he could generally opine that the Handbook was outdated and unreliable, though more specific objections may be raised at trial. The validity of the Handbook would be resolved through competing expert views rather than the Court prohibiting testimony at the outset. The adversarial process is the appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.

The Court has not arrived on an outcome for this case since the remaining issues involved in this case still await resolution.

Key Takeaways  

This case demonstrates several important principles regarding expert witness testimony.

  • The Court emphasized its role as a gatekeeper in evaluating reliability under Daubert, but cautioned against invading the province of the jury to weigh competing expert opinions.
  • The standard for admissibility is fairly low – expert testimony should be admitted unless it is so unsupported it cannot help the factfinder at all.
  • Doubts about usefulness should be resolved in favor of admission rather than exclusion. Fourth, weaknesses in expert opinions are better addressed through cross-examination and contrary evidence rather than outright exclusion.
  • Disagreements between experts on key facts illustrate the need to let the adversarial process test competing views.
  • The Court should not determine which expert is correct on disputed factual issues.
  • While specific objections may arise, experts should generally be permitted to offer opinions within their expertise that have potential to assist the jury.