In this opinion, the Delaware Supreme Court addresses issues related to whether or not the trial court properly allowed expert testimony after a Daubert hearing that lasted 4 days. Delaware’s High Court confirmed that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Daubert and its progeny are followed in Delaware regarding the admissibility of expert evidence, and that Delaware Rule of Evidence 702 regarding expert evidence is based on the federal counterpart.
This decision addresses other issues relating to jury trials in asbestos cases that are beyond the scope of this blog (that focuses on corporate and commercial litigation), and will not be covered in this short overview. Rather, I want to highlight the introductory section of the court’s opinion that demonstrates why this is an important decision for those engaged in business litigation in Delaware involving the introduction of expert evidence. The following quote from the Court’s opinion is instructive:
In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (fn 5), the United States Supreme Court held that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 superseded the Frye standard for determining the admissibility of expert scientific testimony. Rule 702 provides a more flexible framework under which the trial court, as “gatekeeper,” must decide “whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and . . . whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue.” (fn 6)
Daubert identified several factors the trial court should consider, including “testing, peer review, error rates, and ‘acceptability’ in the relevant scientific community . . . .” (fn 7). But the trial court has “broad latitude” to determine whether any or all of the Daubert factors are “reasonable measures of reliability in a particular case . . . .” (fn 8). The trial court’s decision to admit or exclude expert evidence is reviewed for abuse of discretion, and “[t]hat standard applies as much to the trial court’s decisions about how to determine reliability as to its ultimate conclusion.” (fn 9). Because Delaware Rule of Evidence 702 (fn 10) is identical to the federal rule, this Court adopted Daubert, and its progeny, as the law governing the admissibility of expert evidence. (fn 11).
5. 509 U.S. 579 (1993).
6. Id. at 592-93.
7. Kumho Tire Co, Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137, 141 (1999).
8. Id. at 153.
9. Id. at 152.
10. D.R.E. 702 provides: “If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”
11. M.G. Bancorporation, Inc. v. Le Beau, 737 A.2d 513, 521 (Del.1999).
This opinion is also notable for the fact that it is a rare example of the Delaware Supreme Court issuing a less than unanimous decision, in this case including a dissent from the Chief Justice.