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1 Introduction IIn 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharma- ceuticals, Inc., laid out a new test for federal trial judges to use when determining the admissibility of expert testimony. In the Daubert case, the Court recognized that issues requiring expert testimony are, by definition, outside the realm of an ordinary juror's scope of knowledge. The Court ruled that judges should act as gatekeepers in the courtroom, assessing the reliability of the scientific methodol- ogy and reasoning that supports expert testimony as a condition of allowing such testimony to be presented to the jury. The resulting judicial screening of expert testimony has been particularly conse- quential in toxic tort litigation. The crucial contested issue in these cases is whether the defendant's product or emission caused the plaintiff's injury--a proposition that often cannot be proved without expert testimony. Consequently, how courts evaluate the admissi- bility of evidence of causation determines whether such cases end with a grant of summary judgment for the defendant--if the court excludes plaintiffs' expert testimony so that plaintiffs cannot meet their burden of proof--or continue and are heard and determined by a jury. In short, decisions on the admissibility of expert testi- mony can often determine the outcome of litigation. While the Supreme Court sought to bring better science into the courtroom, questions remain about whether the lower courts' application of Daubert accords with scientific practices. Supported with a grant from the Common Benefit Trust, the Committee on Science, Technology, and Law of the National 1
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DISCUSSIONS OF THE COMMITTEE ON DAUBERT STANDARDS Academies convened an ad hoc committee to consider the impact of Daubert and subsequent Supreme Court opinions and to identify questions for future study. During its meetings, the Committee did not seek to reach consensus and thus no recommendations are made in this summary report. The committee included individuals with expertise in scientific evidence, litigation, epidemiology, toxicology, and other areas of science and law. This document summarizes the committee discussions held in January and March of 2005. 2