Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993)

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DAUBERT et ux., individually and as guardians ad litem for DAUBERT, et al. v. MERRELL DOW PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 92-102. Argued March 30, 1993—Decided June 28, 1993

Petitioners, two minor children and their parents, alleged in their suit against respondent that the children's serious birth defects had been caused by the mothers' prenatal ingestion of Bendectin, a prescription drug marketed by respondent. The District Court granted respondent summary judgment based on a well-credentialed expert's affidavit concluding, upon reviewing the extensive published scientific literature on the subject, that maternal use of Bendectin has not been shown to be a risk factor for human birth defects. Although petitioners had responded with the testimony of eight other well-credentialed experts, who based their conclusion that Bendectin can cause birth defects on animal studies, chemical structure analyses, and the unpublished "re-analysis" of previously published human statistical studies, the court determined that this evidence did not meet the applicable "general acceptance" standard for the admission of expert testimony. The Court of Appeals agreed and affirmed, citing Frye v. United States, 54 App. D. C. 46, 47, 293 F. 1013, 1014, for the rule that expert opinion based on a scientific technique is inadmissible unless the technique is "generally accepted" as reliable in the relevant scientific community.

Held: The Federal Rules of Evidence, not Frye, provide the standard for admitting expert scientific testimony in a federal trial. Pp. 585-597. (a) Frye's "general acceptance" test was superseded by the Rules' adoption. The Rules occupy the field, United States v. Abel, 469 U. S. 45, 49, and, although the common law of evidence may serve as an aid to their application, id., at 51-52, respondent's assertion that they somehow assimilated Frye is unconvincing. Nothing in the Rules as a whole or in the text and drafting history of Rule 702, which specifically governs expert testimony, gives any indication that "general acceptance" is a necessary precondition to the admissibility of scientific evidence. Moreover, such a rigid standard would be at odds with the Rules' liberal thrust and their general approach of relaxing the traditional barriers to "opinion" testimony. Pp. 585-589. (b) The Rules—especially Rule 702—place appropriate limits on the admissibility of purportedly scientific evidence by assigning to the trial


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