The Cassidy Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Admitting Expert Witness Testimony in NJ

What is the standard for admitting expert witness testimony in New Jersey?

Expert witnesses will often form the cornerstone of your personal injury, product liability, or medical malpractice case. The testimony of an expert witness will at times prove essential in meeting the elements of your cause of action. Given the great weight that jury members often afford to the testimony of expert witnesses, it is the role of the judge to ensure any expert witness presented is trustworthy and offers reliable evidence. If you are considering introducing expert witness testimony in your personal injury, product liability, or medical malpractice case in New Jersey, it is important to review the rules of evidence for expert witnesses in the state.

New Jersey Rule of Evidence 702

N.J.R.E. 702 provides that plaintiffs or defendants can present a qualified expert to offer opinion testimony if the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the judge or jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact in issue. Under Rule 702, before expert witness testimony can be admitted, the following three criteria must be met:

  1. The testimony concerns a subject matter that is beyond the knowledge of the average juror;

  2. The field testified to by the expert is state of the art such that the expert’s testimony could be deemed reliable; and

  3. The expert witness has sufficient expertise to offer his or her intended opinion.

Expert witnesses are required when the subject matter at issue in the case cannot be readily understood by the average juror. In medical malpractice actions, for example, an expert witness is almost always needed to establish the standard of care. The judge will exercise his or her sound discretion in determining whether to admit expert testimony, and the appellate court will only reverse if the decision is a clear abuse of discretion.

Federal Rules of Evidence Regarding Expert Witnesses

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 largely mirrors the New Jersey state standard. Federal Rule of Evidence 702 was born out of the Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. The case replaced the previous test for expert testimony, found in Frye v. United States. Frye had held that expert testimony must be based on scientific principles generally accepted in the relevant field. Some states, like New York, still utilize the Frye standards. Consult with a personal injury attorney in your area for more information on how you can successfully introduce the testimony of an expert witness to assist in your case.

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