Legal Memorandum: Framework for Analyzing Proffered Expert Witness

Issue: Under federal law, what framework do courts use to analyze whether a proffered expert witness’ methodology meets the requisite level of reliability?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Proffered expert witness; Requisite level of reliability; Framework
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 35 F.3d 717; 509 U.S. 579
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 03/01/2015

Although a witness may be an expert in a related field, where the expert’s testimony crosses into an area of science where he or she lacks the full training, such testimony should be excluded.  Smelser v. Norfolk S. Ry., 105 F.3d 299, 305 (6th Cir. 1997).  As courts have made clear, there is a minimum “floor” below which an expert witness’s qualifications may not descend.  Elcock v. Kmart Corp., 233 F.3d 734, 742 (3d Cir. 2000). 

In In re Paoli R.R. Yard PCB Litig., 35 F.3d 717, 742 n.8 (3d Cir. 1994)), the Third Circuit, relying on Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993) and United States v. Downing, 753 F.2d 1224, 1238 (3rd Cir. 1985), summarized an eight-factor analytical framework a court should consider in determining whether a proffered expert witness’s methodology meets the requisite level of reliability.  Paoli, 35 F.3d 742 n.8.  The Court summed up the eight factors as follows:

Thus, the factors Daubert and Downing have already deemed important include: (1) whether a method consists of a testable hypothesis; (2) whether the method has been subject to peer review; (3) the known or potential rate of error; (4) the existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique’s operation; (5) whether the method is generally accepted; (6) the relationship of the technique to methods which have been established to be reliable; (7) the qualifications of […]


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