Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Admissibility of Expert Witness Testimony

In Washington, the admissibility of expert opinions at trial is governed by a legal standard known as the Frye test. As relates to Life Sciences, this may arise when a patient claims to have suffered serious side effects from a drug under study. Expert medical testimony is required under Washington law in these types of cases to prove causation. Not all expert opinion testimony is admissible under Frye. While courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs. If the theory underlying a proffered opinion has not gained general acceptance in the medical community, it will not be admissible.

For instance, in February of this year the Washington Court of Appeals rejected a novel theory that insertion of a stainless steel stent could cause a severe and long lasting allergic reaction in a patient allergic to nickel. Eakins v. Huber, 154 Wash. App. 592 (2010).