Legal Memorandum: Facts an expert refers to when forming an opinion, need not be admissible for evidence

Issue: Under the New Mexico Rules of Evidence, must the facts an expert refers to when forming his or her opinion be admissible as evidence?

Area of Law:
Keywords: ; Evidence; Expert; Basis for Testimony; Admissible
Jurisdiction: New Mexico
Cited Cases: 715 P.2d 1080; 494 P.2d 1400
Cited Statutes: Rule 11-703 NMRA
Date: 11/01/2015

Under Rule 703 of New Mexico evidentiary rules,

[a]n expert may base an opinion on facts or data in the case that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed. If experts in the particular field would reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject, they need not be admissible for the opinion to be admitted. But if the facts or data would otherwise be inadmissible, the proponent of the opinion may disclose them to the jury only if their probative value in helping the jury evaluate the opinion substantially outweighs their prejudicial effect.

Rule 11-703 NMRA (2015).

The admission of an expert’s conclusions is one generally not disturbed on appeal. 

Whether a witness qualifies as an expert is a decision for the trial court that will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.  Likewise, the admission or exclusion of expert testimony is discretionary with the trial court. Cantrell v. Dendahl, 83 N.M. 583, 494 P.2d 1400 (Ct. App. 1972). Expert testimony may be received if, and only if, the expert possesses such facts as would enable him to express a reasonably accurate conclusion as distinguished from mere conjecture. 

Leon v. Carver, 104 N.M. 29, 715 P.2d 1080 (1986) (some citations omitted).


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