Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993)
Daubert and Schuller were born with birth defects. They
claimed that the problems were caused by their mothers' use of a drug
called Bendectin, made by Dow.
At trial, Dow made a motion for summary judgment, claiming
that Daubert was unable to come up with any admissible evidence that
Bendectin causes birth defects.
Dow offered an affidavit by an epidemiologist named Lamm
that claimed that there was no link between Bendectin and birth defects.
Epidemiology is the study of statistics related to
In response, Daubert offered affidavits from eight
experts, all claiming that there was a link.
Daubert's experts based their findings on pharmacological
studies of the chemical structure of Bendectin, not on epidemiological
Basically, they said that the chemical structure of
Bendectin was similar to the structure of other chemicals known to cause
birth defects, so there was a good chance Bendectin caused birth defects
The Trial Court granted the motion for summary judgment
and dismissed the case. Daubert appealed.
The Trial Court found that scientific evidence is only
admissible if the principle upon which it is based is "sufficiently
established to have general acceptance in the field to which it
Basically, the Court felt that epidemiological data,
which was based on decades of data, was stronger than the chemical
structure argument, which was based on really recent discoveries.
The Appellate Court affirmed. Daubert appealed.
The Appellate Court agreed that expert testimony must
come from a "generally accepted technique."
The US Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case back
The US Supreme Court noted that the standard for expert
testimony has been the Frye Test.
The Frye Test, (from Frye vs. United States
(293 F. 1013 (DC Cir 1923)), basically says that a scientific method
must have "gained such standing and scientific recognition among
authorities as would justify the courts in admitting expert testimony
deduced from the discovery, development, and experiments thus far
The US Supreme Court found that the common law
application of the Frye Test had been superceded the adoption of FRE
FRE 702 says that expert testimony shall be
admitted if it will assist the trier of fact to understand evidence or
to determine a fact at issue.
Nothing in FRE 702 establishes a "general
The Court noted that under FRE 702, the Trial
Judge still had an obligation to ensure that all scientific evidence was
not only relevant, but also reliable. So not every crackpot idea was
going to be admissible. The Court suggests several factors that a Trial
Judge can look at to determine if the science should be admitted:
Whether the theory is generally accepted,
Whether the theory or technique has been tested,
Whether it has been subjected to peer review and
The scientific technique’s known potential error rate,
The existence and maintenance of standards controlling