Thirteen cases went up on appeal, all of which involve plaintiffs against cell phone manufactures and service providers alleging that long-term exposure to cell-phone radiation causes brain tumors. The appeal asked the Appellate Court to decide what test the DC Superior Courts should apply to the admissibility of expert testimony. Expert testimony was essential to these cases – the plaintiffs had put on 8 experts and defendants 4, along with 280 exhibits.
In the past, DC Courts had applied what is known as the ‘Frye / Dyas’ test to decide whether to admit expert testimony. The essential question of this test in determining admissibility was whether the expert or scientific testimony proffered was generally accepted in the relevant professional community.
The DC Court of Appeals changed this test with this recent decision, and it will affect every case where expert testimony is required. The Court decided that DC Courts will now apply the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 702 to the admission of expert testimony. This transition means that DC Judges will now have greater discretion in excluding expert testimony under a reliability standard. This new Rule applies to any trial that begins after the date of the opinion, October 20, 2016, including the cell phone cancer cases. The cell phone cases were sent back to DC Superior Court to apply the new rule.
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