11/03/2021 - Daubert: The Insight

Daubert in short changed the test for whether specific scientific evidence should or shouldn't be admitted.

In 1993, in the case: Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals, the U.S. Supreme Court established standards to evaluate the admissibility of expert testimony. The Supreme Court introduced a five-part test of nonexclusive factors for trial courts to consider when weighing whether scientific expert testimony should be admitted into evidence.

Importantly, the Daubert test includes whether or not a theory or technique can be tested; and whether the expert testimony is an “unjustifiable extrapolation” from an “accepted premise to an unfounded conclusion.” The upshot is a Daubert test often requires a trial judge to have at least a basic understanding of the science at issue to assess the admissibility of opinion testimony.

Importnant factors, among others, courts will decide if:
1. Whether the theory is subject to peer review or publication.
2. Whether or not a theory can be tested.
3. Whether the theory or technique is generally accepted.
4. Whether the expert has accounted for obvious alternative explanations.

The Daubert test generally gives trial courts greater discretion to admit novel expert testimony as long as it is based on sound scientific principles. A key point is adoption of Daubert encourages the opportunities for those seeking to use cutting-edge
science as a factual basis for expert opinion. In these type of cases, a Daubert analysis will likely shift the focus away from whether a test is generally accepted within a
scientific community and gravitate more on the reliability of the methodology used to arrive at the opinion.

Interesting Fact:
Maryland's highest appellate court only adopted the Daubert test as controlling law
in maryland as recently as August 2020. Instead Instead, Maryland courts relied
on a test, known as the Frye-Reed test, harking back to 1923 which looked at whether
evidence was: “generally accepted as reliable within the expert’s relevant scientific community.”