General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company v. Grenier , (Del. Supr., Feb. 4, 2009), read opinion here.
This Delaware Supreme Court decision demonstrates the importance on appeal of rulings at a pre-trial Daubert hearing. Delaware’s High Court remanded the case for the judge who decided the Daubert motion to reconsider the admissibility of the expert opinions of the plaintiff’s expert. See generally Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); see also Weisgram v. Marley Co., 528 U.S. 440 (2000).
Before trial in this case, GM and Ford joined in a motion by Chrysler to exclude the testimony of plaintiffs’ experts that related to exposure to friction products causing lung disease. The motion judge conducted a four-day hearing to consider the reliability of the plaintiffs’ evidence concerning whether certain products caused the physical injuries alleged. The motion judge ultimately concluded that the “plaintiffs’ medical and scientific evidence . . . is sufficiently reliable to pass through the Daubert filter, and the proper manner by which to challenge the plaintiffs’ theories, and to expose their weaknesses, is through vigorous cross-examination of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses."
The standard of review used by the Supreme Court to analyze the motion judge’s findings of fact was: “to determine if they are supported by the record and are the product of a logical and orderly reasoning process.” In this decision, the Supreme Court determined that the trial judge made a factual error in his decision on the Daubert motion, but the Supreme Court did not hold that there was any abuse of discretion.
Specifically, moreover, the Supreme Court determined that the characterization by the motion judge of the expert analysis was not supported by the factual record, and that the testimony of the expert at the hearing contradicted the characterization by the motion judge of the expert opinion.
The Supreme Court reasoned that an expert’s methodology must be not only reliable intrinsically but also it must be reliable as applied to the facts of the specific case. The Supreme Court remanded to the motion judge to determine whether “notwithstanding the mischaracterizations of the record, Dr. Dodson’s opinion was sufficiently reliable.” See D.R.E. 702; see also, e.g., McClain v. Metabolif International, 401 F.3d 1233, 1245 (11th Cir. 2005).
In addition, the Supreme Court determined that a remand was necessary regarding the decision of the motion judge to allow testimony of a second expert on which the first expert relied, in order to reassess whether the opinion was “grounded in reliable science,” in connection with the association between the opinions.
In sum, the Supreme Court determined that it was unclear whether the motion judge’s characterization of his factual findings colored his ultimate decision to admit the expert opinion regarding general causation. Thus, the case was remanded for reconsideration and clarification consistent with the opinion.