Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2006


When Justice Blackmun wrote Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the assignment was to reconcile the standards governing the admissibility of expert testimony with Federal Rule of Evidence 702. As Justice Blackmun recognized, Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), had long served as the polestar for determining the admissibility of expert testimony in litigation. Although the test developed by the Frye court was ultimately rejected when the Supreme Court announced new rules regarding the admissibility of expert testimony, the Frye court’s recognition of the purpose behind admitting expert testimony remains instructional:

[O]pinions of experts or skilled witnesses are admissible in evidence in those cases in which the matter of inquiry is such that inexperienced persons are unlikely to prove capable of forming a correct judgment upon it, for the reason that the subject-matter so far partakes of a science, art, or trade as to require a previous habit or experience or study in it, in order to acquire a knowledge of it. When the question involved does not lie within the range of common experience or common knowledge, but requires special experience or special knowledge, then the opinions of witnesses skilled in that particular science, art, or trade to which the question relates are admissible in evidence.1

It is, in the final analysis, necessary for the trier of fact, as the factfinder, to have sufficient information to carry out his or her duty to decide the submitted issues.2 Expert testimony can supply this information.