Expert Testimony in Nevada Liability Lawsuits: Black Robes or White Coats?
When a Nevada family tries to bring a lawsuit against a major company for wrongful death, injury from a defective product, or some other instance of corporate irresponsibility, the defendant company has available — and often uses — a variety of legal obstructions and other strategies. These tactics include filing baseless motions to dismiss, “shopping around” for a favorable judge or jurisdiction, and attacking the admissibility of expert testimony as evidence.
In the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals , the Supreme Court issued a ruling intended to settle several contradictory approaches to the use of expert witnesses in personal injury cases. A trial court judge is given the responsibility of filtering out evidence, arguments, and testimony that are not relevant to addressing the issues at trial. Judges have at their disposal a variety of case precedent decisions as well as Rules of Evidence appropriate to the case’s jurisdiction. Because both the outcome of a negligence, property liability, or other suit and the nature of the damages awarded are so vital to the future of the plaintiff family, judges have a duty to exercise this power appropriately.
In Daubert, the Court was scrutinizing decisions made by the trial court and the appellate body that affirmed the original ruling. The issue was the admissibility as evidence of eight expert witnesses who testified of the likely links between a pregnancy drug called Bendectin and certain birth defects that affected the plaintiffs. Despite the salience and breadth of this testimony, the judge refused to admit it into the trial. The judge reasoned that the testimony did not prove a link between use of Bendectin and the birth defects, and therefore the evidence would be confusing to the jury and devoid of any hope of shining light on the topics at issues. The result was to effectively permit judges to trade their black jurists’ robes for the white lab coats of scientist, placing them center-stage in Nevada product liability lawsuits.
The Supreme Court decided that this enhancement of judicial influence was not appropriate and that the judge’s role should be limited to deciding the relevance, robustness, and apparent rigor of the testimony or evidence rather than judging whether or not s/he found it to be personally convincing. The jury is the audience to be convinced, not the judge. If you have a Nevada personal injury case with unique legal issues, contact us to find out how we can make use of expert testimony to support your case.