Daubert Standard

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The “Daubert Standard” provides a systematic framework for a trial court judge to assess the reliability and relevance of expert witness testimony before it is presented to a jury. Established in the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), this standard transformed the landscape of expert testimony by placing the responsibility on trial judges to act as "gatekeepers" of scientific evidence. 

The Daubert case introduced a more comprehensive approach that requires judges to scrutinize not only the expert's methodology but also the underlying scientific principles. This shift aimed to curtail the admission of pseudoscientific or unreliable expert testimony. Judges are required to assess the methodology and reasoning behind an expert's opinions, rather than simply relying on the expert's credentials or reputation.

Under the Daubert Standard, the trial court considers the following factors to determine whether the expert’s methodology is valid: 

  1. Whether the technique or theory in question can be, and has been tested; 
  2. Whether it has been subjected to publication and peer review; 
  3. Its known or potential error rate; 
  4. The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation; and 
  5. Whether it has attracted widespread acceptance within a relevant scientific community.

The Daubert Standard supplanted the Frye Standard, which focused primarily on the general acceptance of scientific evidence within a particular field. See Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). While some state courts still adhere to the Frye Standard, the Daubert Standard is used in all federal courts.   

Subsequent U.S. Supreme Court cases have clarified the Daubert Standard. In General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that an appellate court may still review whether a trial court abused its discretion to admit or exclude expert testimony

In Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael 526 U.S. 137 (1999), the Supreme Court ruled that the Daubert Standard may apply to non-scientific testimony, meaning "the testimony of engineers and other experts who are not scientists."  Along with Daubert, these cases are often referred to as the “Daubert Trilogy.” Federal Rule of Evidence 702 was modified based on these cases.  

To challenge expert testimony as inadmissible under the Daubert Standard, opposing counsel may bring a pretrial motion, including a motion in limine.  Usually, a motion attacking the admissibility of expert testimony will be brought after the close of discovery, with a hearing held prior to trial.   

[Last updated in August 2023 by Jim Robinson, Esq., JurisPro Expert Witness Directory]