Norfolk Southern Corp. v Chevron USA Inc

No 3:00-cv-366-J-32MMH (M>D> Fla. 7 August 7 August 2003)

Experts ‘forced to fill too many blanks with speculation and conjecture’

Facts

This was a motion to exclude so-called expert evidence for the plaintiffs in a property contamination case. The evidence was from three witnesses, a photo interpretation and mapping expert, an engineer and a toxicologist.

Issues

Whether the testimony was admissible.

Decision

Ruling the evidence inadmissible, and as a result giving summary judgment to the defendant in the claim, the judge made the following remarks:

"These experts are all well-qualified in their respective fields. However, due to the passage of time and lack of evidence, these experts were forced to fill too many blanks with speculation and conjecture for their opinions to be scientifically reliable. Nor did the experts conduct any of their own testing or subject their theories to the rigours of scientific analysis. When asked to admit expert evidence, the court must determine whether the evidence is genuinely scientific, as distinct from being unscientific speculation offered by a genuine scientist."

Comment

Again, it is suggested that the English courts would today take a similar line.  Is it really expert evidence or not, or is it just the application of common sense by someone with scientific qualifications and experience?