expert testimony

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Expert testimony is an opinion stated under oath by a qualified individual during a trial or deposition. Such testimony can aid in clarifying complex concepts, presenting scientific evidence, evaluating data, and assisting in understanding the implications of certain actions or events. Expert witnesses can help the jury navigate through intricate subjects, and ultimately contribute to the establishment of accurate facts and informed decisions.

Such testimony is subject to stringent standards of admissibility. In federal court, and many state courts, the trial judge determines the reliability and relevance of expert testimony pursuant to the factors in 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) (the Daubert Standard). For expert testimony to be admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, the trial court must determine: 

  • That 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;”
  • That “the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;”
  • That “the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods;” and
  • That “the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.” 

During a court trial, the expert witness takes the witness stand to present their opinions and answer questions posed by both the party that called them, and opposing counsel. These questions aim to establish the expert's credibility, depth of knowledge, methodology, and the basis for their conclusions. Cross-examination by opposing counsel allows for a critical evaluation of the expert's testimony, challenging their assumptions, methodologies, and potential biases.

Expert testimony can have a significant impact on the outcome of a lawsuit. In cases involving complex technical or scientific issues, the clarity and insights provided by an expert witness can significantly influence the court’s understanding of the evidence and its implications. A jury, often composed of individuals without specialized knowledge, rely on expert testimony to make well-informed decisions.

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