Arizona Adopts Federal Daubert Standard for Admissibility of Expert Testimony

Over the last few years, the Arizona legislature and Arizona courts have been dealing with the implementation of Federal “Daubert” standards for the admissibility of expert testimony in Arizona state courts. After initial legislative action was held unconstitutional, the Arizona Supreme Court ultimately amended Arizona Rule 702, effective January 1, 2012, to conform to the Federal rule. The amended Rule 702 states:

“A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, expertise, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:

(a) The expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

(b) The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;

(c) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

(d) The expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.”

By amending Arizona Rule 702 to conform to the Federal Rule, the Arizona Supreme Court has, in effect, implemented what is known as the “Daubert” standard applicable in all Federal cases. Although the amendment lacks any specific language as to its retroactivity, procedural rules generally apply even to lawsuits filed before the rule’s enactment, and applies both in civil and criminal cases. 

Amended Rule 702 now places “gatekeeper” responsibilities upon the trial judge as to the introduction of expert testimony. While there is little reported Arizona case law on the Daubert issue, there are thousands of Federal cases ruling on various aspects of the Daubert/Rule 702 standards, which will be considered as persuasive authority by the Arizona courts.  In essence, under the Daubert standard, an expert must explain his methodology of reaching an opinion, and demonstrate in an objective, verifiable way, that the expert has chosen a reliable method, and followed it. Factors as to whether an expert has followed a reliable method include testing to replicate a failure, peer review supporting the theory, and general acceptance by the relevant expert community as to the methodology and conclusions reached. Expert areas involving engineering and science will likely be most affected by the amendment, although most qualified experts are familiar with the Daubert review standards and are prepared to provide opinions that will withstand Daubert review. 

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