Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Court Upholds Testimony Linking Plutonium Exposure with Leukemia

A reader has passed along news of an April 23 decision by Judge Richard G. Stearns of the District of Massachusetts involving expert testimony on "whether a scientifically reliable hypothesis supports plaintiff’s claim that chronic low-level exposure to inhaled or ingested plutonium and americium alpha emitters can cause the onset of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in human beings" (as the opinion puts it). The court's conclusion:

While I can see a benefit to a rule empowering judges to act as the ultimate arbiters of scientific disputes, at least insofar as they may impact on the conduct of litigation, it would be a difficult rule to reconcile with the constitutional delegation of the fact-finding duty to juries. I cannot dismiss plaintiff’s experts as poseurs or witnesses for hire. They are serious scientists with controversial views that are in many respects on the periphery of the mainstream, but views that are not so divorced from a scientific method of investigation that they can be dismissed as quackery or armchair conjecture. Hence, as I understand Daubert, my role is over, and the role of the jury begins.
See Smith v. General Electric Co., No. 91-12912-RGS (D. Mass. Apr. 23, 2004).
Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.