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Understanding Admissibility of Expert Witness Testimony in New Hampshire

May 5, 2021

In cases involving highly technical disputes, plaintiffs often retain expert witnesses to testify on the issues at hand. When an expert testified, their testimony is considered evidence that the jury can rely on in reaching a verdict. Not every expert’s testimony, however, is always allowed in court. Sometimes, the other side may move to have your expert’s testimony excluded from the case as a matter of litigation strategy. When such an attempt happens, it is crucial that you ensure that the court applies the proper standard when deciding whether your expert’s testimony is admissible so that you can properly bring your case.

In a recent Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the court considered a product liability case involving expert testimony on a surgical device. The plaintiff underwent a robotically-assisted surgical procedure and suffered injuries after it was completed. The medical device used during the surgery was recalled a few months later. The plaintiff sued the manufacturer of the device, seeking money damages to compensate her for the injuries she sustained.

To establish her claim against the manufacturer, the plaintiff retained an expert witness who had significant experience performing the procedure the plaintiff received but with different tools. The manufacturer moved to exclude the expert’s testimony because the expert did not use the instruments at issue in the case, and the district court entered summary judgment in favor of the manufacturer. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals sided with the plaintiff and claimed that the district court erred in its application of the Daubert standard, the legal doctrine used to evaluate expert witness testimony admissibility. The court held that the expert the plaintiff retained was qualified to testify competently regarding the matters in the case, contrary to the district court’s finding. The district court claimed that the expert could not adequately describe the differences used in robotic surgery versus traditional surgery, which amounted to a lack of qualifications. The district court wrongly perceived that these deficiencies meant that the expert was not qualified when they actually simply go to the reliability of the expert’s opinion.

New Hampshire law also follows the Daubert test to determine the admissibility of expert witness testimony. The test, which focuses on the methodology used by the expert, requires the reviewing court to examine the process the expert employs rather than the conclusions that they come to. Under Daubert, the court considers (1) whether the results are capable of being tested, (2) whether the use of different methodology has been peer-reviewed or published, (3) the error rate of the methodology, and (4) whether there is general acceptance of the methodology in the scientific community.

When using this test, the reviewing court should not view these factors as rigid but should instead use each factor to guide its analysis. This means that if an expert’s methodology is unable to meet all four factors, it does not automatically mean that the expert will be unable to have their testimony included or admitted.

Do You Need a New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been recently injured in a personal injury accident in New Hampshire, contact the attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates today. We handle all types of claims, including New Hampshire medical malpractice and defective product lawsuits. Our team of lawyers has years of experience and will work diligently to help you pursue the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 1-800-804-2004.