Is Mark Geier finished as an expert witness in the vaccine court?

10 Dec

Dr. Mark Geier is a name which has come up frequently in the autism/vaccine discussion, and in alternative medical therapies (such as Lupron) of autism. Dr. Geier has been an expert witness for petitioners in the vaccine court for about two decades. He has been criticized by the court for almost as long. Dr. Geier has recently had his medical license suspended.

Mark Geier and his son David have worked for the Petitioners Steering Committee (the lawyers handling the plaintiffs’ cases in the Autism Omnibus). But their relationship seems a bit strained. They filed suit asking for $600,000 in payment. The Geiers have had previous requests for fees drastically reduced or denied, including one where they expected the Court to cover $20,000 as their costs (and hourly rate, including while sitting on planes) to attend conferences in Italy and France. The court called this “a complete abdication of billing judgment.”

In a recent court decision, Dr. Geier has been criticized again. Thoroughly. But this very strong statement from the special master makes it clear that Dr. Geier’s future as an expert witness or consultant will be very restricted:

I will not likely be inclined to compensate attorneys in any future opinions for consultant work performed by Mark Geier after the publication date of this opinion.

The decision focused on expenses the Petitioner’s Steering Committee (PSC) charged in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding for Mark Geier, his son David Geier and their colleagues. Much of these charges resulted from a study they published, Thimerosal exposure in infants and neurodevelopmental disorders: An assessment of computerized medical records in the Vaccine Safety Datalink. Epiwonk (a former professional epidemiologist for the CDC) discussed the paper in New Study on Thimerosal and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: I. Scientific Fraud or Just Playing with Data?

The study noted in the acknowledgements that the study was funded by the PSC:

This study received funding from the Autism Petitioners’ Steering Committee of the no-fault National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP).

The Geier/Young team billed the PSC, and the PSC billed the vaccine injury trust fund vaccine court. As you can read, they just weren’t successful.

The Geiers tried some fancy footwork to get the Young-Geier study paid for by our tax dollars.  Including an apparent attempt to get the non-doctor David Geier compensated by charging work at their company, “medcon”, rather than naming David Geier as the recipient.

Bottom line–the PSC asked for $440k to compensate the people who worked on the Young-Geier study.  They got $33k, and a strong statement that Geier will be unlikely to be compensated by the program in the future.

If you are curious about the value of the study itself, there is a whole section of the decision titled “The Young-Geier article itself did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation case.”

In their application, the PSC sought a total of $7,202,653 for interim fees and costs. with $1.35M for costs, primarily expert witness costs (note that the Geiers did not actually serve as witnesses, so they are part of the “costs”)

Out of $1,350,000 in costs one might ask how much of this was for the Young-Geier study?

As noted above, this Decision on Remand concerns the PSC’s claim for compensation for amounts paid, or to be paid, to four experts/consultants: Dr. Mark Geier, David Geier, Dr. Heather Young and Dr. Robert Hirsch. Conceptually, this claim can be broken into two parts. First, petitioners seek $447,004.02 to compensate all four of those individuals for work on an original medical article that was published in 2008. Second, petitioners seek $197,823.94 more for miscellaneous additional services provided by Mark Geier and David Geier between 2003 and 2008.

$447K. One third of the total. A large number of expert witnesses actually produced reports and testified, but the Geier team was to receive 1/3 of the total. If you take a high rate of $500/hour, this works out to 22 full time man weeks. For a study where they didn’t have to collect data, just analyze it. I find it difficult to believe this study took 22 weeks (or more, as the $500/hour is a very high estimate).

The Geiers were not slated to get the majority of the money. Heather Young, an associate professor at George Washington University, was to get the lion’s share. About a quarter of a million dollars:

Petitioners would receive $248,636.91 to compensate Dr. Young, $157,407.11 for the two Geiers, and $41,000 for Dr. Hirsch

Unless GWU pays their associate professors much more than is common, this represents well over one year’s pay for Prof. Young.

Thankfully HHS (respondent) argued against this request:

Respondent argues strenuously, in response, that it would be wholly unreasonable for the Program to provide compensation to these individuals for their efforts concerning the article.

Is it reasonable to charge for studies created for litigation? Are they of high value to the case?

I note that the Supreme Court has expressed the view that medical studies produced expressly for litigation purposes should be viewed with skepticism.

and

The views of these courts, then, reinforce the concern that if a lawyer involved in a Vaccine Act case chooses specific experts and pays them to carry out a study, the potential is great for bias in the study, toward the outcome that would assist the clients of the lawyer paying for the study. Thus, it is arguable that, as the respondent contends, it would be poor public policy, in general, for special masters to award public funds for such original studies.

and

Rather, I conclude that under all the specific circumstances of this case, it would not be reasonable for me to compensate the named individuals for the production of this particular article.

The PSC argued that the paper was not “litigation driven”.  The SM didn’t accept the argument:

As to the former point, I am simply not persuaded by the suggestion that the article was not litigation-driven….The mere fact that the PSC lawyers contributed or promised monetary support for another article co-authored by the Geiers, concerning the topic of whether thimerosal-containing vaccines can cause autism, is itself strong evidence that the article was litigation-driven.

Further, the very fact that the petitioners are now seeking Vaccine Act funds for the cost of producing the article is a very strong indication that the article was litigation-driven.

If that wasn’t enough, the PSC argument backfired in another way:

If the article was produced “completely apart from [Dr. Geier’s] involvement in this [Vaccine Act] litigation,” and would have been produced even absent that litigation, that would seem to contradict the petitioners’ claim that paying the cost of producing the article was a necessary and reasonable cost of the Vaccine Act litigation.

How was the Young-Geier study used in the Omnibus? Was it persuasive? Answer: it wasn’t really used and it wasn’t persuasive.

The HHS/DOJ’s experts were critical of the Young-Geier study:

Perhaps the strongest factor leading to my result here is my conclusion that the Young-Geier article itself did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation presentation in this case. Two epidemiologic experts, both of them testifying for respondent, testified at the trial in this case concerning the merits of the Young-Geier article, and both testified that the article was deeply flawed.

Even the PSC’s own experts were not impressed by the Geiers in general:

And, very significantly, none of the petitioners’ five medical experts who testified at the trial offered any testimony in support of the validity of the Young-Geier article. It is especially striking that among petitioners’ experts was an expert who has excellent credentials in epidemiology, Dr. Sander Greenland. Dr. Greenland in fact testified negatively about the Geiers’ prior epidemiologic articles concerning the vaccine-autism controversy, describing those studies as“deficient in methodology.”

Prof. Greenland didn’t speak to the Young-Geier article directly, just their methods in other studies.  But the special master points out that this appears to be a trick on the part of the PSC to avoid having to defend the Young-Geier study on cross examination:

Yet they [the PSC] put Dr. Greenland on the witness stand in this King case on May 12, 2008 (Tr. 69-135), did not ask him about the article, and did not reveal the existence of the article to the special masters and respondent until May 16 (see fn. 6 above), thus ensuring that no one could ask Dr. Greenland about the Young-Geier article. From these circumstances, the most reasonable inference is that petitioners’ counsel deliberately intended to avoid any questioning of Dr. Greenland, their epidemiologic expert, about the Young-Geier article.

The special master concludes that the study did not add any value to the PSC’s case and “no rational hypothetical paying client” would have agreed to pay for the production of such a “flawed study”:

In short, the Young-Geier study itself was severely criticized by respondent’s experts, who articulated persuasive reasons for that criticism. In my own analysis, the Young-Geier study also appears flawed. And the other special masters who reviewed that article reached the same conclusion. Clearly, no rational “hypothetical paying client” of the PSC would have agreed to pay for the production of such a flawed study. Thus, the fact that the Young-Geier article did not add any value to the petitioners’ causation presentation in this case is a very strong reason why I should decline to compensate the PSC for the cost of producing the article.

The Special Master notes that given the long history of the Geiers in the vaccine program, it would be unreasonable to expect the program to pay for the cost of the study:

A review of prior legal opinions discussing the Geiers casts strong doubt on the reasonableness of compensating the cost of an article co-authored by them.

The Special Master then goes into detail of those decisions , with an entire section  of the decision dedicated to “Vaccine Act opinions concerning the general credibility of Dr. Geier as an expert witness” including subsections “Criticisms of Dr. Geier for offering testimony outside his area of medical specialty” and “Opinions questioning Dr. Geier’s honesty, candor, or veracity” and “Opinions declining compensation or substantially reducing compensation for Dr. Geier’s services”

If you get the time, read through those. They are highly critical. A condensed version of 20 years of highly critical comments about the actions of the Geiers in the vaccine program (mostly Mark Geier):

Criticism of the Geiers is not limited to their activities in the Vaccine Court. In “Judicial opinions outside of the Vaccine Act” they quote decisions stating “federal appellate court concluded that Dr. Geier gave erroneous testimony” and “state court found Dr. Geier’s testimony to be “unsubstantiated” and unpersuasive” and “federal court was “unimpressed with the qualifications, veracity, and bonafides” and, lastly, “federal judge stated that he was “unconvinced” that Dr. Geier was qualified to offer testimony concerning certain vaccine safety issues.”

The Special Master went into detail about previous flawed studies by the Geiers on vaccines and autism.  He also notes that the assertion that Dr. Geier is qualified as an epidemiologist is not supported:

Thus, Dr. Geier does not appear to have had any formal academic training or degrees or medical faculty experience in epidemiology, and his medical experience has been chiefly in genetics rather than epidemiology. Thus, it is unclear why he was named a “Fellow” of the American College of Epidemiology, and it is doubtful whether he should be considered an expert in epidemiology. I conclude that the petitioners have failed to shoulder their burden of demonstrating that Dr. Geier should be considered an expert in epidemiology.

and

Further, a number of judges and special masters have also examined Dr. Geier’s credentials, and have specifically concluded that Dr. Geier should not be considered an expert in epidemiology.

He awards fees, as a consultant not expert, for Mark Geier’s other efforts on the Omnibus:

Accordingly, I awarded $33,130.35 (147.246 hours times $225 per hour) for the services of Dr. Geier.

No mention of payment for David Geier or Heather Young.

The Special Master makes it clear that even this amount was grudgingly awarded. Given that *in the past* it was reasonable to hire Mark Geier as a consultant:

I note that it is not an easy judgment whether to award any funds for the services of Dr. Mark Geier in this case. On balance, I conclude that, in light of the cases awarding funds to Dr. Geier as a consultant (see p. 33 above), it was not unreasonable in this instance (several years ago) for the PSC to employ Dr. Geier for consultant services.

But, after 20 years, the vaccine program may have had enough of Mark Geier:

I will not likely be inclined to compensate attorneys in any future opinions for consultant work performed by Mark Geier after the publication date of this opinion.

(emphasis added)

If the court won’t pay his fees, the career of Mark Geier as an expert for vaccine injury cases is over. His son David is not likely to be taking his place, as he has not been considered even viable as a consultant by the special masters. As noted above, Mark Geier’s license to practice medicine has been suspended (in multiple states). David Geier was charged with practicing medicine without a license. One has to wonder if or how the Geiers will re-emerge on the autism/vaccine scene.

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26 Responses to “Is Mark Geier finished as an expert witness in the vaccine court?”

  1. Clay December 10, 2011 at 09:47 #

    The Geiers themselves are deeply flawed.
    Their actions clearly constitute fraud.
    They should be condemned to Hell, by Gawd!

    (Eh, I gave it a shot.) ;-)

  2. MikeMa December 10, 2011 at 15:08 #

    Geiers go boom. Excellent. Very little money, relative to expectations, and further deterioration of their already declining reputations. Flawed is a nice start. Fraud might be next. Jailed would be a great finish.

  3. _Arthur December 10, 2011 at 16:16 #

    “The Geiers tried some fancy footwork to get the Young-Geier study paid for by our tax dollars.”

    The NVICP fund are not “tax dollars” as such. The money comes from a levy on each vaccine dose.
    But I agree, it is quite close to be a governmental organism.

    • Sullivan December 10, 2011 at 18:19 #

      _Arthur

      The NVICP fund are not “tax dollars” as such.

      I corrected the post above. The money for the Omnibus Autism Proceeding came from a line item in the U.S. budget (2010 as I recall), not from the NVICP funds. I meant to edit the statement about “our tax dollars” as it is very U.S.-centric.

      It has a Kathleen Seidel style.

      Don’t I wish! I wrote the above, and comparing it to Kathleen Seidel’s style is the nicest thing anyone as ever said about my writing.

  4. _Arthur December 10, 2011 at 16:19 #

    —Are you the author of this report, Sullivan ?
    It has a Kathleen Seidel style.

  5. Brian Deer December 10, 2011 at 17:15 #

    For rough comparison, in the Wakefield case fees claimed were the equivalent of about ten years of his salary, and the court allowed about eight years.

    But then Wakefield was a bowel surgeon, and the theory of causation they made up invoked the bowels.

    To really make progress on billing for the Geiers, the PSC might have done better to invoke a causation theory for autism involving an area where he had at least paper evidence of expertise… uhm… genetics.

    • Sullivan December 10, 2011 at 18:15 #

      I forgot to include this bit from the decision:

      It is also noteworthy that the petitioners in their remand brief acknowledged that they sought assistance from the Geiers in clarifying the Geier billing entries, as Judge Horn requested, but the Geiers declined to cooperate

  6. Science Mom December 10, 2011 at 19:22 #

    I think the Geiers are finally washed up in vaccine court and high time too. It is preposterous to think that they should receive such compensation for generating a study and have that study taken seriously by anyone. Thanks for this information Sullivan, it’s new to me.

  7. MikeMa December 10, 2011 at 19:38 #

    Isn’t David, the non-doctor son, still under investigation for impersonating a doctor? Something about Lupron consultation when dad wasn’t around.

  8. Kathleen Seidel December 10, 2011 at 20:18 #

    Now isn’t that a slapdown at the trough?

    It looks to me like Dr. Young has already succeeded in doubling her yearly pay:

    p. 30: “… it worthy of a brief mention that Dr. Young and Dr. Hirsch have already been fully or almost fully paid by the PSC for their work. Thus, it appears that the burden of my denial of compensation will not fall upon Drs. Young and Hisch, but upon the PSC attorneys, who made the extremely ill-advised decision to team Drs. Young and Hirsch with the Geiers.”

    But I don’t think we need to feel too sorry for the PSC; they’re making out okay.

    There’s a rescheduled scheduling hearing coming up on January 20 in the Geier v. PSC lawsuit. Interestingly, the notice of the hearing date sent to the PSC was returned as undeliverable. Guess a few folks aren’t BFF’s anymore.

    • Sullivan December 11, 2011 at 05:20 #

      “It looks to me like Dr. Young has already succeeded in doubling her yearly pay”

      Wow. Not a good use of the PSC’s money, in my opinion. She was paid $250,000 to produce a study they could use in court. The term “tobacco science” gets thrown around far too much in the autism/vaccine discussion, but this has the hallmarks.,

  9. Julian Frost December 12, 2011 at 07:15 #

    @MikeMa, that’s my understanding. In fact, I believe he’s been formally charged.
    @Science Mom, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the Special Masters to boot them.
    @Clay, nice little rhyme.

  10. MikeMa December 12, 2011 at 15:02 #

    Thank you Julian for the update.

  11. Bob December 12, 2011 at 21:44 #

    As far as the special masters and autism omnibus hearings, “the trial was a pig circus they [the vaccine injured kids] never had a chance”.

  12. MikeMa December 12, 2011 at 21:52 #

    @Bob,
    Bad science rarely results in good outcomes. Good thing too.

  13. Bob December 12, 2011 at 22:06 #

    You’re right MikeMa. One of the Omnibus trials had to do with the safety of injecting babies with bolus doses of a short-chain alkyl-mercury solution. The last time I looked there was about 45,000 published, peer reviewed papers covering the toxicity of mercury.

    Sullivan, why won’t the special masters release copies of Clarkson’s and Magos’s mercury report? They were paid using my tax dollars. Why was their report hidden?

    For anyone not following me, the governemnt hired the top 2 published mercury scientists in the world but then didn’t like what they had to say and did not let them testify. Their report never saw the light of day. Even my Senator can’t get a copy.

    • Sullivan December 12, 2011 at 22:51 #

      Bob,

      stick to one pseudonym, please.

  14. Neuroskeptic December 13, 2011 at 14:16 #

    Bob: There are only 33,000 papers on PubMed mentioning “mercury” at all, and only 5,000 mentioning mercury + toxicity.

    Are you sure you’re not counting Age of Autism posts as peer-reviewed papers?

  15. MikeMa December 13, 2011 at 14:24 #

    @Bob,
    You mention papers on alkyl-mercury. That, if my college organic chemistry memory serves, includes both methyl (one carbon) and ethyl (two carbon) alkanes. Lumping those together is a bad idea as methyl mercury is far more toxic and longer lasting in humans than is ethyl mercury.

  16. _Arthur December 15, 2011 at 23:11 #

    During the Omnibus proceedings, one expert mentionned that the toxicity difference between methyl-mercury and ethyl-mercury was comparable to the toxicity difference between methyl-alcohol and ethyl-alcohol.
    One is used in antifreeze and fondue burners, and can make you blind if ingested; the other is in your beer and wine, and is delicious when drinked with moderation.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Is Mark Geier finished as an expert witness in the vaccine court? – Left Brain/Right Brain | Expert Witness Center - December 11, 2011

    [...] Is Mark Geier finished as an expert witness in the vaccine court?Left Brain/Right BrainDr. Geier has been an expert witness for petitioners in the vaccine court for about two decades. He has been criticized by the court for almost as long. Dr. Geier has recently had his medical license suspended. In a recent court decision, Dr. Geier has … [...]

  2. The Geiers’ Second Home « Left Brain Right Brain - February 2, 2013

    [...] single study they assisted in preparing for the Omnibus was billed at $440k, even though it was of low quality and was not useful in the case. The special master was very [...]

  3. A fishing expedition at Vaccine Court | Left Brain Right Brain - July 14, 2013

    […] (the attorneys arguing for the families in the Omnibus Autism Proceeding). A paper for which the PSC was charged $250,000. A paper which was of such poor quality that it was not used by the PSC in the […]

  4. Geiers lose case against PSC | Left Brain Right Brain - October 20, 2013

    […] in the vaccine court have made it clear that neither Geier is qualified to act as an expert or a consultant. And, now, the Geiers have burned bridges with many of the attorneys in the vaccine court. […]

  5. Harpocrates Speaks: For Graduate Practicum, George Washington University Earns an F - January 2, 2014

    […] looking at thimerosal (one in 2008 and one in 2010) and whose 2008 paper with the Geiers was submitted as expert evidence joined Geier as an expert witness in the Geiers' attempt at being expert witnesses in the Omnibus […]

  6. The antivaccination cult’s idea of what constitutes “peer-reviewed” | Skeptical Raptor's Blog - June 17, 2014

    […] work performed by Mark Geier after the publication date of this opinion.” Incredibly, Mark and David Geier tried to bilk the Vaccine Court out of nearly $200,000 to pay for bogus articles that they published to try to support the cause of those trying to win […]

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