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E-Alert Case Updates

District of Columbia Shifts Toward Federal Daubert-Kumho Expert Witness Standard

Russell v. Call/D, LLC
No. 13-CV-1177 (D.C. Court of Appeals, April 15, 2015)

by Alfred L. Scanlan, Jr., Director
Jackson & Campbell, P.C. (www.jackscamp.com)

Available at: http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/documents/13-CV-1177.pdf

In Russell v. Call/D, LLC, No. 1272 (D.C. Court of Appeals, Apr. 15, 2015), the Court marked an important shift toward adopting the federal Daubert Ė Kumho standard for experts, allowing trial courts to act as gatekeepers to screen out expert opinion not grounded in appropriate scientific methodology. The appellate court appears willing to grant substantial deference to the trial courtís discretion in such matters.

In Russell, Judge Thompsonís majority opinion affirmed the trial courtís grant of a motion in limine to exclude a causation expert (Dr. Steven Zimmet, Pulmonologist) who was going to testify that exposure to sewage caused the Plaintiffís Legionnairesí disease, noting the lack of factual support for the expertís opinions and rejecting those based on his ipse dixit. This is contrary to the let-the-jury-sort-it-out approach that typified prior rulings.

The majority also notably put some teeth into the trial courtís scheduling orders by upholding the trial courtís refusal to consider additional expert material submitted too late in the game. While prior cases, like Weiner v. Kneller, 557 A.2d 1306 (D.C. 1989) and its progeny seemed to favor resolution on the merits over issues of timing, this case indicates, if ever so slightly, otherwise.