Daubert is Dead (Supreme Court Ruling for Qualification of Expert Witnesses)
To begin with, what or who is Daubert? And what is an expert witness and why should he or she need to be qualified? As Daubert deals directly with the qualification of an expert witness asked to give testimony, this blog will start with a legal definition of “expert witness.”
According to Legal Dictionary|Law.com, an “expert witness is a person who is a specialist in a subject, often technical, who may present his\her expert opinion without having been a witness to any occurrence relating to the lawsuit or criminal case.” In Family Law, an expert witness could include someone such as a child psychologist, a forensic specialist, or family therapist.When the judge needs to be informed of specific information relating to the parties in question and such information can only be given by an expert the testimony is vitally needed.
And so, it is the law that provides guidelines for someone to be qualified in order to be used as an expert witness.This is where “Daubert” comes in. Actually “Daubert” is a standard of accountability so named for a Supreme Court case in 1993, Daubert verses Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. Up to this point, dating back to 1923 a standard termed the Frye Standard was used to determine the guidelines for testimony from an expert witness.
The Frye Standard, often referred to as “the general acceptance standard.” uses the principle that the evidence an expert witness will testify to is scientifically or professionally proven to be correct. Evidence on the fringe of or not yet proven to be accurate cannot be used.
In comparison to the rigidity of the Frye Standard the Daubert Standard is flexible.The court is allowed to consider the admissibility of an expert witness’s testimony based on guidelines found in The Federal Rules of Evidence 702 which state:
- The expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
- The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
- The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
- The expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case,
Thus the judge rather than science has the final say regarding the admission of expert testimony.
The Federal Government uses the Daubert Standard,and so do a number of states. In 2013 Florida became one of the states using
The Daubert Standard. However, on October 16, 2018, the Florida Supreme Court establishedthat the Frye Standard was to again govern the admission of expert testimony. This includes all pending cases which require expert testimony as well as future cases. Yes, for now, in Florida the Daubert Standard is dead.