Legal Memorandum: Requirements for Expert Testimony

Issue: Under federal law, should a trial court permit a party’s expert’s to testify to an opinion that is not based on any reliable or applicable facts or standards?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Expert testimony; Relevant and reliable; Scientifically valid
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 509 U.S. 579; 962 F. Supp. 313; 896 F. Supp. 100; 61 F.3d 1038
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2001

In 1993, the United States Supreme Court determined that the trial court functions as a “gatekeeper” for expert testimony.  Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmateceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 592-93 (1993).  The court’s role is to ensure that any scientific testimony is relevant and reliable.  Bunt v. Altec Indus., Inc., 962 F. Supp. 313, 317 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing Daubert, 509 U.S. at 589, 597).  

In a case where a party’s expert admits in his report that there are no industry standards relative to his area of expertise and admits that he has no education or experience in the specific area and admits that his opinion is not based on any facts specific to his area of "expertise," it seems incredulous to admit such a witness to testify as an expert. 

In exercising its role as gatekeeper, the court should assess “‘whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and . . . whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts at issue.'”  Id. at 317 (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593).   Although there is no one factor that the court must use to make this assessment, the court’s focus should remain on the “principles and methodology, not on the conclusions that they generate.” Becker v. National Health Prods., Inc., 896 F. Supp. 100, 103 (N.D.N.Y. 1995) (quoting Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593).  The court should “ensure that an expert’s testimony both […]

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