Superior Court reinstates cancer case against Bayer; Widow of Pittsburgh-area golf course employee pursuing the case

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 5, 2018

HARRISBURG — The Superior Court of Pennsylvania sent a wrongful death case filed by the administrator of the estate of a golf course employee who died in February 2009 back to a trial court for further proceedings, ruling that the trial court made an error in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants, including Bayer Cropscience.

The appeal was heard by judges John Bender, Mary Jane Bowes and Eugene Strassburger. Bowes wrote the majority opinion, and Bender dissented.

According to the Superior Court's June 20 opinion, Thomas Walsh was a groundskeeper and golf course superintendent at several golf courses around Pittsburgh. Walsh used chemicals and pesticides for 40 years as part of his job.

The court said Walsh was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, and his oncologist thought that the extensive chemical exposure throughout his career was one of the reasons he contracted the disease.

Judge Mary Jane Bowes   PA Courts

Richard Thomas Walsh, as executor of Thomas Walsh's estate, filed the wrongful death lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment in the defendants' favor in connection with claims related to more than 25 of the "allegedly defective pesticides" Thomas Walsh used in his work.

After Bayer sought to exclude expert testimony in 2013, the trial court ruled in 2016 that Richard Walsh did not prove that the pesticides were linked to Thomas Walsh's leukemia.

However, the Superior Court acknowledged the connection between pesticides and cancer in its opinion.

"We find considerable support for executor’s position that the link between pesticides and cancer has crossed the threshold from novel to general acceptance," Bowes said in the Superior Court ruling. "The record reveals that more than 700 articles and studies have been published examining the connection."

In his dissenting opinion, Bender said he agreed with the trial court that the studies that were noted in the suit needed to be properly cited.

"In this case, I believe that the trial court gave adequate reasons for why it found that the cited articles did not support Dr. [Nachman] Brautbar’s conclusions and, consequently, I would not determine that it abused its discretion in precluding the testimony of appellant’s experts," Bender said.

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