Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. 1993 is a U.S. Supreme Court Case meant to decide on the standard for qualifying expert evidence in court cases (Daubert v. Merrell Dow 1993). The appeal case was a result of a petition filed by Jason Daubert, Eric Schuller, and their parents against Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. Daubert and Schuller were both born with congenital deformities. Thus, in collaboration with their parents, they sued the pharmacy, claiming that the birth defects emanated from their mothers’ prenatal consumption of anti-nausea drug Bendectin sold by the firm. The respondent quickly reacted by obtaining an affidavit from Doctor Steven H. Lamm, a renowned epidemiologist and physician, who was an accredited expert on the risks of chemical substances. The doctor claimed that he had done a literature review of more than 30 studies concerning the relationship between the drug in question and congenital deformities. Consequently, he found the drug incapable of causing the problem in unborn babies. On the other hand, the plaintiffs also obtained scientific evidence from accredited experts who had conducted Fallopian tube tests, reviewed live animal studies, and made a conclusion that Bendectin is harmful. However, the juries dismissed the evidence arguing that it does not meet the standards of “general acceptance” for it to be used in court cases. Furthermore, they stated that the evidence should have significance in the scientific community (Bernstein, 2008). However, there are numerous reasons as to why legal system should adopt the use of such evidence in court cases.
Earlier on in 1923, in the Frye v. the U.S. case, the court had ruled that scientific testimony could only be used in court if the methodology involved is widely accepted by scientists. This concept of “general acceptance” is what the judges used in the Daubert’s case despite the Congress having come up with the Federal Rules of Evidence in 1975 that overturned the Frye standard of “general acceptance”. Therefore, Daubert and other plaintiffs were forced to appeal several times against the decision until the case landed in the U.S. Supreme Court (McDorman, 2010). The Court ruled in favor of Daubert by accepting that the Federal Rules of Evidence overturned the Frye standard of 1923. Therefore, the latter and its principle of “general acceptance” became inapplicable. Consequently, the scientific evidence was allowed to be admissible in court cases (Gottesman, 1994).
Forensic evidence entails facts tested and found to be true or potentially true as opposed to perceptions and attitudes. Therefore, the Supreme Court was right to allow its admissibility in court cases. Scientific research also allows further analysis and refinement by the same or different researchers. Thus, before dismissing such evidence, more research should be done concerning the same issue. Furthermore, consequent testing of facts should be the determinant of whether the researcher was logical or not. Science and technology are also dynamic: hence, the research methods and techniques keep on evolving. Therefore, people cannot only rely on traditional techniques of conducting tests and experiments. Consequently, every new scientific idea must be given room for being tested scientifically and proven right or wrong. There are numerous reasons as to why the Supreme Court is deemed right in its judgments and justifications.
The notion of “general acceptance” is neither present nor compatible with the Federal Rules of Evidence that govern the creation and use of scientific evidence in courts of law. As mentioned earlier, the concept had been adopted in 1923 during a case filed by Frye against the United States. However, after the Congress adopted the rules governing the use of evidence, the issue of being widely accepted was not captured or mentioned anywhere Thus, the Frye standard became obsolete and dysfunctional. Furthermore, science involves the facts, which cannot be debated on unless scientific research is done to establish that they hold no logic. Science involves innovations and discoveries, and, therefore, acceptability is not applicable to any discovery or scientific procedure unless further tests are done to make it acceptable or unacceptable. Thus, the use of “general acceptance” as a rule governing forensic evidence is backward and is against the principles of science that allows for new innovations and discoveries to keep at the same pace with the technologically evolving world. Overall, the ruling by the Supreme Court that allowed the admissibility of forensic evidence was rational and beneficial not only to the plaintiffs but also scientists. The Court acknowledged the latter’s handwork, and, therefore, gave them the zeal to do more research.
The Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence indicates that scientific, technical or any specialized knowledge that enables a judge to understand a fact or the logic in it, qualifies an expert to testify in court cases. Expertise derived by witnesses from education, knowledge, training, or experience also makes them eligible to give testimony in court according to the law. This rule implies that the juries who had ruled in favor of the principle of “general acceptance” in the Daubert’s case acted against the law and were biased. The Rule 702 does not mention anything to do with “general acceptance” and, therefore, all the judgments delivered based on the principle were blind and illegal. The Supreme Court’s decision to allow the admissibility of forensic was lawful and well informed because it was based on the law that the Congress adopted. Thus, the decision promoted the rule of law that should guide court verdicts.
The Supreme Court argued that after the Federal Rules were enacted in 1975, the Frye Principle of “general acceptance” became inapplicable. When the new rules are made, the existing ones are either incorporated into the new ones or are scrapped off. The Federal Rule never mentioned the Frye principle anywhere. Consequently, the moment the rules came into place, the notion of “general acceptance” became obsolete. The judges seem to have lived in the wrong era because as late as 1975, they were still making judgments based on a law that was operating in 1923. Therefore, the judges can be accused of incompetence because they did not acknowledge the changes in law, yet they are supposed to be the custodians of the same rules.
Prior to the Supreme Court case, the judges used to make summary judgments by referring to the Frye principle based on the general agreement without even giving scientists the chance to examine the facts in question. Once the evidence was brought in court, the juries hastily gave verdicts throwing out the evidence based on the “general acceptance” notion. At the same time, they ignored the possible validity of the research that could be determined by examining the results. The scientists who were in objection of the evidence were supposed to conduct further research or repeat the one done by the proponents of the evidence. By doing so, they could link the drug with congenital deformities to establish the truth behind the claim. The Supreme Court was right to authorize the admissibility of research findings in court cases. Hence, the court deserves credit as it allowed scientists to justify their research findings in court as opposed to the times when the courts used to dismiss them.
As mentioned above, science and technology are dynamic; therefore, the issue of “general acceptance” can be applicable only if more intensive research is done on the issue in question. However, there also exists the room for disagreements because new discoveries are made day by day. During Frye v. the U.S., the court rejected Frye’s findings derived from systolic blood pressure, arguing that the method is not widely accepted. It was a naïve decision of the juries who assumed that science and technology were static and justified their “status quo” mentalities without giving Frye’s method a fair examination to determine its validity. The same retarded reasoning was used to dismiss Daubert’s argument without giving his experts time to justify and defend their findings. Therefore, the U.S. Supreme Court can be applauded for acknowledging the dynamism of technology.
The Supreme Court judges stated that where common rules differed from the provision of the Federal Rules, the enactment of the latter is capable of supplanting the common law. In the previous cases, juries used to ignore the superiority of the Federal Rules over the common law and, thus, they continued to deliver biased judgments. The Supreme Court made this superiority clear for everyone to understand. Hence, its decision over the admissibility of forensic evidence in court cases is a blessing in the field of both law and science.
As mentioned earlier, the Federal Evidence Rules have a provision of scientific knowledge being admissible in courts (Federal Rules of Evidence, 1993). It implies that evidence must possess scientific qualities and be based on knowledge. Science entails coming up with new theoretical explanations that can be tested or modified in the future by either the proponents of these theories or others as well. When scientific evidence is availed in court, the juries are supposed to allow the owners of the evidence to justify its validity. Furthermore, they should give room for other experts to test the truth of the evidence as opposed to dismissing it simply because not all scientists concur with the evidence. Therefore, the Supreme Court was justified to allow the use of scientific evidence in courts and it was a step towards protection of consumers of products whose chemical safety is questionable.
The Federal Rules also state that the knowledge found in the evidence must help the Trier of the fact (juries or judges) in understanding the evidence. Moreover, they assist in establishing the truth in it (Federal Rule of Evidence, 1993). It implies that any forensic evidence based on knowledge qualifies to be admissible in court. Thus, the judges and other scientists involved have the duty of using the knowledge to test the validity of scientific evidence as opposed to dismissing it. In Daubert’s case, the scientific evidence produced by the experts had been arrived at through test tube experiments and live animal studies and, thus, it had some knowledge in it. The juries ought to have used the knowledge to establish the truth and encourage other scientists to test the evidence. However, instead, they abused their powers by throwing out the evidence without a fair examination. Therefore, the Supreme Court was justified to rule in favor of Daubert because justice is what he was searching for.
Furthermore, the Federal Evidence Rules identify that the judge is responsible for determining the threshold of the evidence in question. The judgment is not supposed to be based on perception and belief but on initial assessment to establish whether the methodologies used to arrive at the evidence are valid. In the Daubert’s case, the judges rejected the evidence by citing the principle of “general acceptance” that implies that the whole community of scientists must concur with that evidence. Thus, the judges forgot that scientists do not have equal capabilities and the same ability to discover new things. The juries were supposed to examine the Daubert’s dossier before dismissing or accepting it. Moreover, the issue of “general acceptance” should not have featured in any way. Consequently, the Supreme Court professionally handled Daubert’s appeal and, thus, its decision was the right outcome.
Discoveries are made and improved and instead of Daubert’s evidence being rejected, other scientists should have been called to examine it and determine its weaknesses if any and rectify them. The judges were supposed to acknowledge that technology evolves day by day and, therefore, rudimentary scientific research methods cannot be used throughout to determine the truthfulness of the matter. Numerous discoveries in the world have been modified and improved through research and still more discoveries are being made. Thus, the judges ought to have acknowledged that the field of scientific discovery is dynamic and new methods of testing are becoming prominent and will soon replace the existing ones. When a law created more than half a decade ago is used to argue against a new discovery without proper tests being done, it shows blindness and backwardness. Before declining to allow the admissibility of Daubert’s evidence, the judges ought to have examined the facts stated by the experts behind the evidence and if possible consult other scientists. Therefore, the Supreme Court judges were rational in their decision to consider the evidence admissible.
In conclusion, the judges of the lower courts who had dismissed Daubert’s argument based on the notion of “general acceptance” were incompetent in their work. They never took the time to think about the tests that had led to the conclusion that Bendectin caused deformities in fetuses. On the other hand, the Supreme Court decision to allow the admissibility of such decision was rational because the juries acknowledged the evolving dynamic scientific discovery. Furthermore, they considered the Federal Rules of Evidence that allowed scientific evidence to be used in courts. This decision became a turning point for the plaintiffs (especially the product consumers) whom the scientific research was aimed at cushioning from the risks of chemical components of consumable products. It was also a moral support to the scientific researchers as it acknowledged their hard work and motivated them to work even harder. By being the most powerful court in the U.S., the Supreme Court executed its mandate properly by acting differently from the lower courts. It gives confidence to the American citizens that the judicial system is competent.