Clinical Medical Evidence of Causation in Toxic Tort Cases: Into the Crucible of Daubert
61 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2011
Date Written: 2001
In the years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided its trio of cases on the admissibility of scientific, technical, and other expert evidence in the federal courts – Daubert (1993), Joiner (1997), and Kumho Tire (1999) – numerous issues have arisen as to how the Daubert rule applies to various types of causation evidence in toxic tort cases. Most toxic tort plaintiffs rely, at least in part, on the testimony of treating physicians regarding the injuries suffered and the likely cause of those injuries. These opinions have been formed through the process of differential diagnosis in the clinical setting, and in the context of the physicians’ broader experience and expertise. This type of evidence is distinguishable from the laboratory science that was sought to be introduced in both the Daubert and Joiner cases. Accordingly, how should the rules of admissibility apply to clinical medical evidence of causation? In Kumho Tire, the Supreme Court stated that the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert apply to all expert evidence subject to Rule 702. To the extent that Daubert does not provide workable factors to assist the court in ruling on the reliability and relevance of a particular type of evidence, the court may develop its own set of factors appropriate to the evidence. This article argues that a properly conducted process of differential diagnosis in the clinical setting which results in an opinion regarding the cause of the plaintiff’s condition would meet the requirements of reliability and relevance under the Federal Rules and Daubert.
Keywords: scientific evidence, evidence, Daubert, toxic torts, tort law, clinical medical evidence
JEL Classification: K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation