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U.S. Steel Co. v. Milward

Docket: 11-316


Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence permits admission of expert testimony that is “based upon sufficient facts or data” and “is the product of reliable principles and methods.” In General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 146 (1997), this Court reaffirmed the responsibility of district courts to determine whether expert testimony meets these standards, emphasizing that a district court has discretion to exclude “opinion evidence that is connected to existing data only by the ipse dixit of the expert” and that “[a] court may conclude that there is simply too great an analytical gap between the data and the opinion proffered.”

In this case, the district court excluded the opinion proffered by the plaintiffs’ causation expert that exposure to benzene was capable of causing a rare form of cancer. Based on flaws in the expert’s reasoning and gaps in his data, the district court concluded that the opinion reflected at best unverified “hypotheses,” rather than reliable scientific conclusions. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the trial court was required to admit the testimony because the expert based his opinion on his “judgment” about the “weight of the evidence.” That decision conflicts with Joiner and with decisions of at least six other circuits, all of which rule that a district court has discretion to exclude an expert opinion that is not sufficiently tied to reliable underlying data. The question presented is:

Whether a district court abuses its discretion in excluding expert testimony that draws an inference of potential causation from inconclusive data, merely because the expert asserts that, in his judgment, the weight of the evidence supports his opinion.