How Are Expert Testimonies Used in Mass Tort Cases?
Mass tort cases are civil lawsuits that bring together a group of people who have suffered similar injuries due to the actions of the same defendant or defendants. Common types of mass tort claims include defective drugs, toxin exposure, and other dangerous products that cause injury or illness to another person.
Like many injury lawsuits, mass torts rely on expert testimony and scientific evidence to establish direct causation between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiffs’ injuries. These experts may include medical professionals, scientific researchers, and engineers familiar with the subject of the lawsuit. However, mass tort attorneys in San Diego must seek the court’s approval before an expert witness can testify.
What Is the Daubert Standard?
Before an expert witness can testify in a mass tort case, the court will need to evaluate him or her using the Daubert Standard. This two-pronged test assesses the expert witness’s credibility and relevance; if the expert witness fails one or both parts of the test, the court will not allow him or her to testify. The court will assess the expert witness in a separate hearing prior to trial, but after the discovery period ends. At this stage, both sides know what evidence each party intends to present.
Assessing Credibility Using the Daubert Standard
The first part of the Daubert Standard measures credibility and reliability. The court will not allow an expert witness to testify if he or she does not bring real, credible evidence based on accepted scientific standards to the courtroom.
Essentially, any evidence or studies that the expert witness provides must be supported with existing evidence and accepted by other members in the witness’s field of expertise. The purpose of this test is to ensure that the expert does not provide false or misleading information that could confuse the jury and lead to an uninformed verdict.
The court may assess the following factors.
- Additional, official opinions from other experts in the witness’s field about the evidence that he or she intends to present to the court
- Peer-reviewed journal articles that discuss the evidence the expert witness is relying on
- Published studies that may contradict or support the opinion of the expert witness
Evidence Relevance Under the Daubert Standard
The second part of the Daubert Standard involves relevance, or whether the information that the expert intends to present to the court is relevant to the mass tort claim. The purpose of this part of the test is to prevent the admission of extraneous or confusing testimony to the court, which can affect the jury’s decision.
For example, say that plaintiffs developed cancer after taking a certain medication. The expert witness intends to submit a study that evaluates the effect of this drug on rats, but not humans. The court may determine that this evidence is not relevant to the plaintiffs’ case and will not allow the witness to present the study in court. Additional studies involving humans, however, are more likely to pass this specific test.
Will the Daubert Standard Impact Your Case?
The Daubert Standard keeps unreliable witnesses out of the courtroom and lends greater credibility to your case. If you hire an attorney with experience in your case’s practice area, he or she will likely have relationships with several valid experts he or she can ask to provide testimony on your behalf.
The bottom line is that if you plan to file a mass tort claim, you need a lawyer on your side to connect you with the resources you need. Contact a mass tort attorney as soon as possible following your injury to discuss your options and initiate the claims process.