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Engineering and the law. Science in the Supreme Court: round two

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2 Author(s)
Richards, E.P. ; Sch. of Law, Missouri Univ., Kansas City, MO, USA ; Walter, Charles

Since the United States Supreme Court's 1993 decision in the Daubert case, federal judges have been looking more carefully at the scientific basis of the expert testimony presented in their courtrooms. Medical-device litigation, especially that over the alleged harm caused by breast implants, has been at the center of this rethinking of the role of the court in assessing scientific evidence. Cases that were about to settle for a total of more than $4 billion are now being seen as potentially groundless. One judge in Oregon dismissed a group of breast-implant cases. Finding there was no scientific basis for the plaintiff's claims. Another court, overseeing a large group of cases, has appointed an independent panel of experts to determine if the plaintiff's experts will be allowed to testify. As in the Oregon breast-implant cases, the exclusion of a plaintiff's expert witness often means the court must also dismiss the plaintiff's case. Plaintiffs have appealed these decisions, arguing that since the trial court's exclusion of their expert's testimony ends their case, the appeals courts should strictly review the correctness of the trial court's decision. In GE vs. Joiner, decided December 1997, the United States Supreme Court established the proper standard for appellate review of decisions by trial courts to exclude evidence.

Published in:

Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:17 ,  Issue: 2 )