Saturday, July 16, 2005

Wyoming Supreme Court Applies Daubert Calculus to Septic System (and Mentions Copernicus in the Process)

The Wyoming Supreme Court has issued a major opinion on the appropriate application of the Daubert calculus. The case involved allegations that defendants' negligence in trenching a water line caused a "leach field" (part of a septic system) to fail. The trial court excluded the opinions of plaintiff's engineers for want of adequate testing. That was error, concluded the Wyoming Supreme Court (it unduly fetishized testing). But the testimony's exclusion was warranted on alternative grounds, said the court, because the engineers did not sufficiently rule out other potential causes for the leach field's failure, and did not sufficiently explain how their experience supported their conclusions.

We like this opinion, because it mentions Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Karl Popper in the course of resolving a dispute over a septic system malfunction. Apparently our undergraduate liberal arts degree did help to prepare us for the legal profession. See Hoy v. DRM, Inc., No. 04-46 (Wyo. Sup. Ct. July 13, 2005).


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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.