Product Liability Expert Witness Cases Part 2

In Positive Trend for Defendants in Product Liability, Nick Rees of interviews Jim Beck, of counsel at Dechert LLP in the mass torts and product liability group.
PNW: How has the use of expert witnesses evolved?

BECK: Daubert v. Merrrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. really brought a revolution in expert witnesses. It’s created a willingness of courts to act as gatekeepers and view expert witnesses critically. Basically, the other side can cross examine expert witnesses at trial. It used to be a hands-off attitude by the court, but now they have to evaluate the reliability of the testimony as well as several other factors. It doesn’t matter what standard that you apply, the simple act of applying that standard, given how poor a lot of these expert opinions are, has had a very beneficial effect.

PNW: Has the federal pleading standard changed to help defendants?

BECK: The Supreme Court, back in 1957, issued an interpretation of the federal pleading rule – Rule 8 – that let just about anything go. As long as there’s any conceivable set of facts, that was sufficient pleading.

Starting in 2007 and again this term, they’ve tightened that standard from an initial very liberal interpretation of it. The court felt that it was no longer appropriate to have this broad and vague pleading standard that let anything go. I’d give the current pleading standard an A-minus only because it’s a recent development, which makes it sort of incomplete. The courts are starting to enforce this and it’s looking quite beneficial for my clients.