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Encyclopedia > Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals

Supreme Court of the United States Image File history File links Seal_of_the_United_States_Supreme_Court. ...

Argued March 30, 1993

Decided June 28, 1993

Full case name: William Daubert, et ux., etc., et al., Petitioners v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Citations: 509 U.S. 579; 113 S. Ct. 2786; 125 L. Ed. 2d 469; 1993 U.S. LEXIS 4408; 61 U.S.L.W. 4805; 27 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1200; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P13,494; 93 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4825; 93 Daily Journal DAR 8148; 23 ELR 20979; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 632
Prior history: Summary judgment granted to defendants, 727 F.Supp. 570 (S.D. Cal. 1989); affirmed, 951 F.2d 1128 (9th Cir. 1991); certiorari granted, 506 U.S. 914 (1992)
Subsequent history:
The Federal Rules of Evidence do not require that techniques relied upon in expert testimony have general professional acceptance or have been subjected to peer review for that testimony to be judged reliable and admissible at trial. Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded.
Court membership
Chief Justice William Rehnquist
Associate Justices Byron White, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas
Case opinions
Majority by: Blackmun
Joined by: unanimous court as to Parts I and II-A; White, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Thomas as to parts II-B, II-C, III, and IV
Concurrence/dissent by: Rehnquist
Joined by: Stevens
Laws applied
Federal Rules of Evidence 104(a), 702, 703

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals 509 U.S. 579 (1993) is the leading United States Supreme Court case on the admissibility of expert witness's opinion as evidence in federal courts in the United States. It overruled the previous test outlined in Frye v. United States, which required such evidence to be generally accepted in the scientific community. // Case citation is the system used in common law countries such as the United States, England and Wales, Canada, New Zealand Australia and India to uniquely identify the location of past court cases in special series of books called reporters. ... 1993 (MCMXCIII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and marked the Beginning of the International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (1993-2003). ... A landmark decision is the outcome of a legal case (often thus referred to as a landmark case) that establishes a precedent that either substantially changes the interpretation of the law or that simply establishes new case law on a particular issue. ... The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States... An expert witness is a witness, who by virtue of education, or profession, or experience, is believed to have special knowledge of his subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon his opinion. ... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (eg. ...


Daubert Standard

See main article: Daubert standard

The test in Daubert was later extended to merely technical evidence in Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael. Although the decision in Daubert was binding on only federal courts, many state courts now also use the Daubert test when determining whether expert opinion testimony is admissible. In its essence, Daubert expanded the type of scientific evidence that could be admitted in federal courts. However, it also allowed judges to make a determination of the admissibility of such evidence in a viva voce hearing prior to the evidence being introduced to a jury, rather than just allowing the court to speak as to the weight that should be given to that evidence. The Daubert Standard is a legal precedent set in 1993 by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses testimony during legal proceedings. ... Kumho Tire Co. ... The term federal court, when used by itself, can refer to: Any court of the national government in another country that has a federal system such as that of the United States (United States federal courts) or Mexico In some countries, a particular court, for example, the Federal Court of... The Daubert Standard is a legal precedent set in 1993 by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses testimony during legal proceedings. ... A thesis committee (or, at some universities, specifically for the doctorate, a dissertation committee) is a committee that evaluates a students thesis. ...

The Case

The plaintiffs in Daubert were parents of children born with birth defects. The theory of their case was that those defects were caused by the defendant's drug Bendectin. The matter proceeded to summary trial before a judge, who heard expert evidence from well qualified scientists on both sides. The defendant's expert testified that the scientific community was generally of the opinion that Bendectin could not have caused the defects the plaintiffs' children had suffered. However, the plaintiff's experts noted certain data in existing chemical and animal studies that could be interpreted to show that the drug could have been responsible for the defects seen. Given the rule in Frye, the court ruled that as only the defendant's theory was generally accepted, the plaintiff's expert testimony could not be admitted despite the soundness of the science behind it. As such, the trial judge ruled summarily for the defendants and dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed and the appeal reached the Supreme Court. The plaintiff, claimant, or complainant is the party initiating a lawsuit, (also known as an action). ... A congenital disorder is a medical condition or defect that is present at or before birth (for example, congenital heart disease). ... A judge or justice is an official who presides over a court. ... Filmed by PETA, Covance primate-testing lab, Vienna, Virginia, 2004-5. ...

The Supreme Court Decision

The court, in a unanimous decision, reversed the trial judge and remanded the case to the original court for a re-hearing. The court noted that Rule 702 of the Federal Rules had been passed since the Frye case was decided in 1923. That rule stated:

"If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise."

As such, the court outlined what considerations the evidence had to be given to be admissible, ruling that the "generally accepted" rule was too restrictive. The considerations outlined by the court were:

  • Whether the theories and techniques employed by the scientific expert have been tested. This required only that the theories had been subject to experimental test and not been falsified. It did not require proof that the theory or technique had been proved.
  • Whether they have been subjected to peer review and publication. As such, there was no requirement that the theory been accepted by the scientific community, only that it had been reviewed by people in the field. However, theories that had not been reviewed or published could be excluded.
  • Whether the techniques employed by the expert have a known error rate. This would require an indication that the science behind the theory had been tested and the limitations of the technique could be assessed by the trier of fact.
  • Whether the theories are subject to standards governing their application, such as a group of scientists doing similar work employing the same standards.
  • Whether the theories and techniques employed by the expert enjoy widespread acceptance. In other words, they do not need majority support of the scientific community, only a substantial minority need support the work.

Peer review (known as refereeing in some academic fields) is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of funding for research. ...


After Daubert, it was expected that the range of scientific opinion evidence used in court would be expanded. However, courts have strictly applied the standards in Daubert, and it has generally been successful in excluding "junk science" or "pseudoscience", as well as techniques that are merely experimental. Junk or bunk science is a pejorative term used to derogate purportedly scientific data, research, analyses or claims which are driven by perceived political, financial or other questionable motives. ... Phrenology is regarded today as being a classic example of pseudoscience. ...

It should be noted that the considerations in Daubert do not all have to be met for the evidence to be admitted. It is necessary only that the majority of the tests be substantially complied with.

The principle in Daubert was expanded in Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, where the evidence in question was from a technician and not a scientist. The technician was going to testify that the only possible cause of a tire blowout must have been a manufacturing defect, as he could not determine any other possible cause. The Court of Appeal had admitted the evidence on the assumption that Daubert did not apply to technical evidence, only scientific evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, saying that the standard in Daubert could apply to merely technical evidence, and that in this case, the evidence of the proposed expert was not sufficiently reliable. Kumho Tire Co. ...

See also

The Daubert Standard is a legal precedent set in 1993 by the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses testimony during legal proceedings. ...

External links

  • The case at Findlaw.com
  • Daubert on the Web
  • Daubert Institute for Science & Law



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