The Seventh Circuit Pulls the Ladder Out From Under Design Defect Plaintiffs: Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder and the Limits of Judicial Discretion in Assessing the Reliability of an Expert's Methodology
As issues in litigation grow more complex, reliance upon expert testimony to establish liability is growing as well, especially in products liability cases. In fact, the Seventh Circuit requires expert evidence to establish liability in most design defect claims, regardless of whether they are brought under the risk utility test or the consumer expectations test.
Under Daubert, trial judges are considered the gatekeepers of expert testimony and have vast discretion in determining whether an expert’s methodology is reliable. This gatekeeping function is intended to be limited in its scope such that it is consistent with Federal Rule of Evidence 702’s intent of liberalizing the introduction of relevant expert evidence at trial. In practice, however, district court judges may stretch the depth of their discretion with little risk of their decisions being overturned on appellate review. A decision to allow expert testimony is within the broad discretion of the trial judge and is to be sustained on appeal unless manifestly erroneous.
The Seventh Circuit’s recent opinion in Bielskis v. Louiville Ladder illustrates the importance of ensuring that an expert’s testimony is based upon sound scientific methodology in order to survive both judicial scrutiny in determining reliability as well as a motion for summary judgment should the district court find the expert unreliable.
This Note will argue that the discretion afforded by the admissibility inquiry under the Federal Rules of Evidence and Daubert, as well as the deferential standard of appellate review, give trial judges the unfettered ability to dismiss an expert, and thus completely dismantle a plaintiff’s cause of action.
The Seventh Circuit Pulls the Ladder Out From Under Design Defect Plaintiffs: Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder and the Limits of Judicial Discretion in Assessing the Reliability of an Expert's Methodology,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol7/iss2/2