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Maryland Adopts Daubert – It’s Taken Many Years

The Maryland Court of Appeals (Maryland’s highest court) on August 28, 2020, delivered a major decision that was many years in the making.  The opening pages of the opinion are clear and succinct and are below:

Nearly a century ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia announced a new evidentiary standard by which the admissibility of expert testimony rooted in a novel scientific principle or discovery turned on the “general acceptance” of such evidence “in the  particular field in which it belongs.” Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013, 1014 (D.C. Cir. 1923). In the ensuing fifty years, “almost all of the courts in the country” that considered “the admissibility of scientific evidence” adopted the rationale set out in Frye, including this Court in 1978. Reed v. State, 283 Md. 374, 382 (1978). Hence, after noting the majority of courts were in agreement that “‘general acceptance’ in the [relevant] scientific community ha[d] come to be the standard,” FryeReed was born in Maryland; as we put it, “before a scientific opinion will be received as evidence at trial, the basis of that opinion must be shown to be generally accepted as reliable within the expert’s” relevant scientific community. Id. at 381.

In Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the Supreme Court of the United States upset the applecart of the admissibility of expert scientific testimony. There, the Supreme Court held that Federal Rule of Evidence (“FRE”) 702 superseded Frye’s general acceptance test. In place of Frye, the Supreme Court provided a list of flexible factors to help courts determine the reliability of expert testimony. A supermajority of states followed the Supreme Court’s lead and replaced their respective Frye standards with Daubert. Maryland, however, did not.

In the forty years that followed Reed, Maryland experienced a jurisprudential drift: the Frye-Reed standard announced in 1978 slowly morphed into a “Frye-Reed Plus” standard, implicitly and explicitly relying on and adopting several Daubert principles. For this reason, Appellant/Cross-Petitioner Stanley Rochkind now squarely poses this question: Should the Court adopt the standard for admitting expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.? This time, for reasons more fully
explained below, we answer this question in the affirmative and choose to adopt Daubert as the governing standard by which trial courts admit or exclude expert testimony.

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