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Supreme Court Upholds Application of Daubert Rules

Posted In Business Torts
Bowen v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. Inc. C.A. No. 580, 2005 (Del. Supr. September 15, 2006). The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of the Delaware Superior Court that rejected the testimony of an expert for the plaintiffs in a major toxic tort suit arising out of Benlate exposure to humans. The plaintiffs claimed that as a result of exposure to benlate while pregnant that their children had suffered serious birth defects. The plaintiffs' theory depended on the testimony of an "expert" that skin exposure would cause the fetus in turn to be exposed to benlate. The Superior Court after an exhaustive hearing ruled that the plaintiffs' expert testimony failed to meet the standards set for by the United States Daubert decision. It was this ruling that the Supreme Court affirmed. There are two particularly important issues that the Supreme Court opinion resolves. First, that Court continues to uphold that the standard of review of a trial court Daubert decision is whether that court has abused its discretion. This gives great weight to the decision of the trial judge and means that these evidentiary issues need to be fought out at that level. Secondly, the Supreme Court exhibited its willingness to examine and understand the complex scientific issues that such Daubert rulings involve. It would have been easy for that Court to say that it was for the jury to decide how much weight to give to so-called expert testimony. However, rather than duck the hard call, the Supreme Court carefully examined the science involved and signaled that Delaware courts are obligated to act as gatekeepers in such matters before any such evidence gets to a jury.