gavel on table

Missouri Legislature Votes to Tighten Expert Witness Rules

In late April, Missouri legislators approved a bill that would it make more difficult for expert witnesses in Missouri state court trials to be allowed to testify. The bill, passed 85-68 by the Republican-controlled House, would change the requirements for expert testimony to be admissible by requiring a judge to determine that the testimony is:

  • Based on sufficient facts;

  • Based on reliable principles and methods; and

  • Reasonably applied to the facts of the case.

The current standard in Missouri state court for admitting expert testimony is only that the testimony be based upon methods “reasonably relied upon by experts in the field” (Frye-like).

In addition, the bill would also prevent expert witnesses in criminal cases from attributing a defendant’s action to a mental status, thus inhibiting the ability of a criminal defendant from asserting an insanity defense. The bill will go to the Democratic Governor Jay Nixon for signing.

What is the Rationale Behind this “Reform”?

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Kevin Corlew, said in a statement that the bill was necessary in order that, “The jury can rely upon the expert evidence that’s being relayed to them, that it’s trustworthy, reliable.”

A look at the supporters and opponents of the bill gives some strong clues about the interests that will likely be affected by its potential passage: business organizations, insurance companies, and prosecutors support the bill, while state judges oppose it. A chief opponent of the bill, Rep. Mike Colona, stated the chief purpose of the bill was: “Insurance companies save money, and your constituents lose their right in court.”

New Standard Would Be in Line With Daubert Federal Standard

There is certainly precedent for the stricter expert testimony standard pushed by the Missouri legislature, as it would put the state’s rules in line with the Daubert standard that federal courts have enforced since 1993. The Daubert standard also requires that expert testimony be shown to have been based on sufficient facts, reliable principles and methods, and reasonably applied the facts of the case. Missouri’s current law - that the testimony be based upon methods reasonably relied upon by experts in the field - is the same as that of the Frye standard, which the federal courts had employed until the Supreme Court decided Daubert in 1993.

Make Sure Your Expert Witnesses Can Pass Any Standard

If the Missouri bill does become law, then clearly state attorneys will have that much more work to do in making sure that their expert witnesses’ testimony can meet the stricter Daubert standard. Regardless of whether Daubert or Frye is utilized, JuriLytics has helped litigators provide Courts with unique knowledge of the reliability of an expert’s testimony through blind peer review. We  have significant experience in helping parties prepare for Daubert and Frye challenges to expert testimony. We also work with parties and counsel to make sure that their expert testimony is as compelling as possible and will meet all applicable federal and state standards for admissibility. Call us at (650) 273-6476 today to see how we can help in your matter.

Comments (0)

    Leave a comment