Is the Daubert Reliability Test the Most Radical Change in the Law of Evidence?

Given the extreme importance of expert testimony to litigation, is the reliability test for expert testimony set out in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals the most radical and consequential change in the modern law of evidence? Before Daubert, most courts in most circumstances required only that an expert witness be at least marginally qualified to testify on the subject at hand, and that his testimony be relevant to an issue in the case. Many courts applied the general acceptance test set out in Frye to limited categories of scientific evidence, primarily in criminal cases. Even in Frye jurisdictions, generally testimony was allowed in most areas of expertise.

Many argue that the Daubert standard takes the issue of sufficiency of evidence and turns it into issues of admissibility. (See Richard D. Friedman: Squeezing Daubert Out of the Pciture) However, aren’t jurors and fact finders wise enough not to be misled by expert’s opinions? Those who ask this question would certainly point out that there are not similar reliability standards for lay witnesses, and for other types of evidence.

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