New Jersey Supreme Court Holds That Daubert Factors Apply to Evaluating Expert Testimony in Civil Cases

Lauren E. O’Donnell

On August 1, 2018, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that civil trial courts should look to the factors set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993), in assessing the reliability of expert testimony. The opinion—In re: Accutane Litigation—adopted the Daubert factors, but specifically stopped short of declaring New Jersey a “Daubert jurisdiction.”

In the early 1990s, the New Jersey Supreme Court shifted away from the “general acceptance” standard for testing the reliability of scientific expert testimony in civil cases enunciated in Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923). It instead endorsed a methodology-based approach. See Landrigan v. Celotex Corp., 127 N.J. 404, 414 (1992); Rubanick v. Witco Chem. Corp., 125 N.J. 421, 447 (1991). The Court reasoned that parties should be permitted to present novel scientific evidence of causation if the trial court acts as a rigorous gatekeeper when reviewing an expert’s reliability and ultimately finds that the expert’s reasoning and methodology are sound. Two years later, in Daubert, the United States Supreme Court also abandoned the “general acceptance” test in favor of a methodology-based approach that entrusted trial courts with the role of gatekeeper. Thus, beginning in the early 1990s, New Jersey state courts considered similar factors to those in Daubert when evaluating expert testimony. Despite these similarities, the New Jersey Supreme Court never formally adopted Daubert or endorsed the factors identified in Daubert for state trial courts to use when performing the gatekeeper role. Continue reading “New Jersey Supreme Court Holds That Daubert Factors Apply to Evaluating Expert Testimony in Civil Cases”