U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael Case
On March 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kumho Tire Co. v.
Carmichael, No. 97-1709, that all types of expert evidence
are subject to the relevance and reliability 'gatekeeping' function
that the Supreme Court had articulated with respect to scientific
evidence in Daubert v.
Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
The Court further held that trial judges have substantial discretion
or 'considerable leeway' to determine how to evaluate relevance and
reliability and to make a determination on whether to admit the expert
While this decision will make it more difficult when judges are hostile
to the type of expert testimony being offered by plaintiffs, there were
some helpful aspects to the Court's opinion that lawyers for plaintiffs
should know and emphasize:
The Court rejected arguments that all, or even one, of the four Daubert factors
(testing, peer review, error rates, and scientific acceptability)
must be satisfied for the testimony to be admissible, noting that
even in scientific evidence cases the Daubert factors
'do not all necessarily apply';
The Court endorsed the idea that expert testimony from reliable fields
of study that conforms with the standards used in that discipline
should be admissible (In doing so, the Court was allowing trial
judges to exclude testimony that uses techniques or methods not
commonly practiced within that field of expertise or testimony
based on such claims of expertise as astrology);
Although the Court rejected the tire-failure expert's testimony in Kumho,
the Court specifically noted that expert conclusions based on methodologies
consistent with the prevailing norms of that discipline would be
admissible when drawn "from a set of observations based on extensive
and specialized experience;" and,
The Court told trial judges that the discretionary authority recognized
in the opinion allows judges 'to avoid unnecessary 'reliability'
proceedings in ordinary cases where the reliability of an expert's
methods is properly taken for granted.' Thus, the Court has also
put judges and defendants on notice that experts who have traditionally
and properly testified in garden-variety cases should not be
subject to Daubert objections or expensive hearings.
The Court's full opinion can be found at here.
Article from: The Association of Trial
Lawyers of America
The Daubert factors may apply to the testimony of engineers
and other experts who are not scientists.
The Daubert "gatekeeping" obligation applies
not only to "scientific"
testimony, but to all expert testimony. Rule 702 does not distinguish
between "scientific" knowledge and "technical" or "other
knowledge, but makes clear that any such knowledge might become the
subject of expert testimony.
A trial judge determining the admissibility of an engineering expert's
testimony may consider one or more of the specific Daubert factors.
The emphasis on the word "may" reflects Daubert's
description of the Rule 702 inquiry as "a flexible one." 509
U.S., at 594. The Daubert factors do not constitute
a definitive checklist or test, id., at 593, and the gatekeeping
inquiry must be tied to the particular facts, id., at 591.
The court of appeals must apply an abust-of-discretion standard when
it reviews the trial court's decision to admit or exclude expert
testimony. General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S.
[Forensic Sciences Foundation, Inc., Academy News, March