Monday, April 29, 2013

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. case brief

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. case brief
509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 1993 U.S.

CASE SYNOPSIS: Petitioners appealed an order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for respondent drug company. Petitioners challenged the finding that its experts' opinions were inadmissible as unreliable where opinions were based on recalculations of study data and such recalculations had not been subjected to peer review or published.


  • The summary judgment was reversed where expert opinions were admissible to show respondent's drug caused birth defects despite the fact that the experts' analysis had not been published or subject to peer review. 
  • Petitioners were children with serious birth defects. 
  • Their parents alleged that the mothers' ingestion of respondent's drug caused defects. 
  • Respondent brought a motion for summary judgment, supported by proof that the drug did not cause defects. 
  • Petitioners responded with expert opinions that the drug did cause defects. 
  • The opinions were based on a reanalysis of previously published studies stating the drug did not cause defects. 
  • The trial court granted respondent's motion, holding petitioners' scientific evidence was inadmissible because the reanalyzed studies were not reliable where they had not been published. 
  • Petitioners appealed.

The Court vacated and remanded, holding that a technique upon which an expert opinion was based did not have to be generally accepted as reliable as a precondition to the opinion's admission as long as the standards of reliability and relevance under the federal evidence rules were met.

RULE:  See Daubert Standard.

CONCLUSION: The Court vacated and reversed the appellate court's affirmance of a judgment granting respondent summary judgment. Where petitioners' expert evidence was reliable under federal rules, the evidence was admissible. The common law standard for determining reliability of scientific evidence was inapplicable where federal evidence rules superceded the common law. Publication or peer review of the experts' recalculation was thus unnecessary.

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