Schwartz Explains Maryland Court Decision Adopting Daubert

Shook Public Policy Group Co-Chair Victor Schwartz has authored an article for the Washington Legal Foundation's Legal Opinion Letter discussing a Maryland court's decision to adopt the Daubert standard when admitting expert scientific evidence. Schwartz provides a review of evidence law and compares the Daubert standard to the Frye standard, a variant of which Maryland had previously followed.

"As Maryland’s high court recognized, the Frye rule can be overinclusive in allowing a jury to hear evidence of any “generally accepted” scientific principle or methodology, even if it produces unreliable science," Schwartz explains. "For example, it was “generally accepted” for centuries in the scientific community that the Sun rotated around the Earth until Copernicus debunked that fallacy. At the same time, the Frye rule can be underinclusive in disallowing reliable scientific evidence that has not yet obtained general acceptance in the scientific community. For example, many scientists once believed that the conditions of space precluded sending a person to the moon and back until NASA proved otherwise."

Under the Daubert standard, in contrast, "judges must make a threshold determination as to whether a proffered expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts or data, is the product of reliable principles and methods, and that the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case in a manner that will assist the jury or other factfinder. ... Unreliable scientific evidence, such as fringe theories that an exposure to a product or substance caused a specific disease in spite of no scientific support, is no longer simply presented to a jury to decide. Again, this is an important change because layperson jurors may not fully appreciate how novel and unscientific the 'expert' testimony actually is."

Schwartz also wrote about the decision in an op-ed for The Daily Record.