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Corlew hopes to verify expert testimony is actually expert


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, pre-filed a bill last week that would modify certain provisions intended to make expert witness testimony in court cases more reliable.

Corlew is basing this bill, HB 1676, on the Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1993, which created new standards for expert testimony called the Daubert standard. This standard gives the trial judge authority over whether or not a witness or piece of testimony is scientific, asserts that scientific knowledge comes from the scientific method or scientific methodology, and stresses the relevance of such to the court case.

Corlew noted that two-thirds of the states, as well as federal courts, already use these standards.

“This legislation would ensure that testimony from someone designated by lawyers as an ‘expert’ can be relied upon by citizen jurors,” Corlew said. “Our jurors give of their time, serve ably, and normally just want to make sure that justice is done. We owe it to them to make sure that the evidence presented is trustworthy and not just a product of how much a party can afford to pay a so-called expert to say whatever supports the party’s case.”

Corlew says his legislation would make court cases more “predictable and fair.”

“It favors no particular litigant over another—whether a criminal defendant or prosecutor, or a civil plaintiff or defendant,” he added. “Ultimately, the standard would better serve the truth-finding function of our civil and criminal justice systems.”

Many of Missouri’s leaders of industry have praised the legislation, Dan Mehan, the president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, included.

“Empowering judges to evaluate and rule on the quality and reliability of expert testimony is an important tool in bringing non-meritorious cases to a close and conserving scarce judicial resources,” Mehan said. “Even more important than court efficiency and cost savings, this legislation will allow Missouri courts to deliver more just outcomes.”

Ray McCarty, the President of the Associated Industries of Missouri agreed.

“This commonsense legislation is not onerous to any party—it simply adopts the same rules for determining when a witness may claim to be an expert as are used in federal court,” he said.