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Trial Courts Have Great Leeway in Allowing Scientific Evidence
Description Supreme Court upheld the decision of a district court judge to exclude expert testimony that the court found to be unreliable. The court held that trial courts have great leeway as "gatekeepers" of expert testimony.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence, Expert Testimony
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts After he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Joiner sued the makers of PCBs and electrical transformers in tort, claiming that his exposure to PCBs in the workplace was the cause of his cancer. When the producers moved for summary judgment, Joiner responded with depositions from expert witnesses who testified that PCBs can cause cancer and they were the likely cause of Joiner's cancer. The district court granted summary judgment, finding that the link between PCBs and lung cancer claimed by the experts did not rise above "subjective belief or unsupported speculation." The court of appeals reversed, holding that the expert testimony should not have been excluded. GE appealed.
Decision Reversed. The "abuse of discretion" standard applied to the district court in its decision to exclude expert testimony. The court did not abuse its discretion in excluding testimony based on studies indicating that infant mice exposed to massive doses of PCBs developed cancer. The trial judge is the "gatekeeper" to screen evidence to insure that it is relevant and reliable. The court of appeals failed to give the trial court sufficient discretion.
Citation General Electric Co. v. Joiner, ---S.Ct.--- (1997 WL 764563)
or
118 S. Ct. 512 (1997)

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