Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg

  • 10
  • Jun
  • 2011

Alabama Legislature Adopts Daubert Scientific Evidence Standard

Governor Bentley signed Senate Bill 187 into law on June 9, 2011. The law replaces the Frye standard with the federal expert witness rule known as the Daubert standard.

Frye, which had been law in Alabama since 1953, is considered by many to be a less restrictive standard than Daubert. Under Frye, scientific evidence is admissible if it is based on practices and methodologies that are "generally accepted" in the scientific community. Under Daubert, a judge must make a preliminary assessment of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid and of whether that reasoning or methodology properly can be applied to the facts in issue. The judge will take into account a number of factors, such as whether the theory or technique has been peer-reviewed. The purpose of Daubert is to exclude "junk science" evidence from judicial proceedings.

My Two Cents:

The passage of SB187 has to be viewed as a victory for business interests and civil defense litigants in Alabama. Daubert has been viewed as a driving force in tort reform. In the federal courts, where Daubert has been law since 1993, and in the states that have since adopted the standard, the effects have been considered pro-defendant. By allowing defendants to exclude borderline scientific evidence, defendants have been able to obtain favorable summary judgment rulings, enabling them to avoid plaintiff-friendly juries.

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