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Looking at the role of expert testimony in toxic tort litigation, P.1

Toxic tort litigation can be an important avenue of recovery and compensation for those harmed by exposure to chemicals contained in consumer products and on the job. Toxic tort litigation can be premised on negligence, strict liability, fraud and sometimes wrongful death claims, depending on the circumstances of the case.

In many toxic tort cases, a firm understanding of the scientific and biological aspects of the case is necessary to establish liability. One of the tools used to do this is expert witnesses, or individuals who are qualified to speak about the technical aspects of the case necessary to establish liability. 

One thing to understand about expert witnesses is that they can have different opinions. Plaintiffs and defendants can both present their own expert witnesses at trial and leave it up to the jury to make judgments regarding the opinions of expert witnesses as those opinions impact the case. Juries don’t have complete discretion to sort out expert witness testimony, though. Judges are required under established case law to ensure that expert testimony is reliable and comes out of sound methodology before allowing its admission at trial

One of the unfortunate realities of expert testimony is that a judgment from a trial court that an expert’s testimony is not reliable can create a stigma on that expert that can remain throughout his or her career. The ability of an expert to recover from an exclusion depends on exactly why a judge determined the expert was unqualified.

In our next post, we’ll keep looking at the topic of expert witnesses in toxic tort litigation and how an experienced advocate can use experts to enhance a toxic tort case. 

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