JUNK SCIENCE: May Be Barred by Judges, SCOTUS Rules
The Supreme Court yesterday gave trial judges greater authority to filter out "fausse" expertise and "junky" science from malpractice, defective liability and personal injury suits. The Washington Post reports that the ruling means judges must scrutinize expert witnesses to ensure their testimony is "relevant and reliable." Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Stephen Breyer said judges should ensure that experts employ "the same level of intellectual rigor" in the courtroom that is required by their "relevant field." He added, however, that judges have a great deal of liberty in deciding the credibility of experts' methods and conclusions. The Post reports that insurance groups, manufacturers, scientists, trial lawyers and academic groups all filed amicus briefs, highlighting the "high stakes" for groups that are sued and people who sue them. Lawyers representing business interests "praised the expanded 'gatekeeper' role" for judges. "Basically, what the Supreme Court has been trying to do is prevent experts from testifying that the Earth is flat or that we can predict the future using astrology," said Robert Charrow, an attorney representing groups favoring limits on lawsuits. Trial lawyers focused on Breyer's opinion allowing judges greater leeway in determining soundness of the experts' methods and conclusion. "If the courts read this as an instruction from up above to sue some common sense and flexibility, that's going to help us," said Jeffrey Robert White of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (Biskupic, 3/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.