Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Technical witnesses have revolutionized the American lawsuit. Advertisements in litigation periodicals bear witness to the broad range of courtroom expert testimony available to the trial bar. A specialist in airplane pilot error places an advertisement on the same page with an advertiser who is eminently qualified to provide expert testimony in churning securities litigation."' Also included are obscenity experts for criminal cases as well as a timber products specialist with "global experience in accidents and related cases," who claims, "more than 30 years experience with wood utility poles."' Within the category of timber and woods there are other experts as well. A national directory exists for locating experts whose specialties are "accidents and injuries caused by trees."

The offerings of available technical services of course include traditional specialties. Experts in document and handwriting analyses may be found along with a plethora of physicians. Some doctors have entered the courtroom expert market with enthusiasm.One recent advertisement promoting "Heavyweight Malpractice Experts. Any type physician, surgeon or medical expert available features a photograph of a "fighting doctor" clad in white coat and boxing gloves.

The expanding array of scientific (as well as some not-so-scientific) specialties available as sources for testimony raises hard questions. Will courts require that the witness' opinions be reasonably based upon trustworthy data? How far must judges inquire into the practice of other experts in the same field prior to allowing the trial witness to proffer an expert opinion? How much of the expert's supporting data will be received in evidence? This essay addresses these and other important questions affecting the scope of modern expert testimony.

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