The law has grown for centuries, using precedence as a means of determining certain cases. Two of these cases include Frye v. United States (1923) and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (1993), both of which relate to the admissibility of expert witness testimony.  Here, the Maryland attorneys at Eccleston & Wolf discuss the use of these previous cases and the impact of the ubiquitous “Daubert Standard” adopted by the Court of Appeals of Maryland in Rochkind v. Stevenson, a case seen in recent months.

History of Expert Witness Testimony Standards

The issue of admitting expert witness testimony was raised in the case of Frye v. United States, seen in 1923. In this case, James Frye appealed his conviction for second degree murder, and at trial, the court would not let him introduce a blood pressure test commonly seen as the precursor to a lie detector test. Although Frye stated that his innocence could be proven with assistance from an expert witness, the Court denied this request as there were no previous cases or widely-accepted scientific knowledge to support his claims. Hence, the Frye, or Frye-Reed Standard came into effect. This standard is also known as the “general acceptance test,” meaning that scientific methods or evidence used in court must be generally accepted or sufficiently established to be admissible in court.

In 1993, the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals was introduced, which altered the Frye-Reed standard. The Daubert case came about after the petitioners sued Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals for birth defects to their children as a result of a prenatal vitamin, Bendectin. While this was not considered to be “generally accepted” by the scientific community, the court agreed that chemical structure analyses, animal studies, and the reanalysis of previously published studies should be admissible in court. Essentially, the Daubert Standard allows for a more flexible interpretation of the Frye-Reed Standard; however, not all states had adopted this method, including Maryland.

Rochkind v. Stevenson Analysis and Discussion of Maryland’s Standard

In Maryland, the Frye-Reed standard was previously used in state courts, but as years have passed, courts have begun to incorporate Daubert principles into their decisions. The Rochkind v. Stevenson case continued to push these ideas forward, ultimately moving the Court of Appeals of Maryland into adopting the Daubert Standard in August 2020. The Rochkind v. Stevenson case was brought about almost a decade ago, in which the plaintiff brought a case against her former landlord, Stanley Rochkind, for exposure to lead paint leading to psychological disorders later in life.

Throughout the case, the plaintiff relied on expert testimony from Dr. Cecilia Hall-Carrington, who testified that lead exposure resulted in the plaintiff suffering from ADHD and additional psychological disorders. As Dr. Hall-Carrington relied on studies by the Environmental Protection Agency during her testimony, the case was challenged under the Frye-Reed Standard. With 4 trials and 2 appeals, the case finally made it to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in which the court ultimately decided to resolve the case by moving Maryland forward to fully adopting the Daubert Standard under a 4-3 decision.

The Team at Eccleston and Wolf

Eccleston and Wolf’s wide-ranging, general civil litigation practice is focused upon insurance-defense litigation, attorney grievance defense and professional malpractice defense. We have extensive litigation experience in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. This case marks a historic precedent for Maryland courts, and will be utilized in future cases. To see how the qualified attorneys at Eccleston and Wolf can assist you, contact us at our Maryland, Virginia, or D.C. office today.

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