Court of Appeals Adopts Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

On October 20, 2016, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Motorola Inc. v. Murray, No. 14-CV-1350, slip op. (D.C. Oct. 20, 2016) (en banc) in which it considered, sitting en banc, whether to adopt Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence to govern the admissibility of expert evidence. Slip op. at 2.

By way of background, for decades the local courts of the District of Columbia used the Dyas / Frye test to govern the admissibility of expert evidence. Id. The test continued in use even after a trilogy of decisions by the United States Supreme Court in the 1990s, beginning with its decision in Daubert, which recognized and provided guidance on a new test to govern the admissibility of expert evidence. Id. at 4-12. The new test was derived from Rule 702, which was subsequently amended to reflect guidance provided by the Daubert trilogy. Id. at 12-13.

In Murray, the Court of Appeals decided to abandon the Dyas / Frye test in favor of adopting Rule 702 which currently states as follows:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, 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.

Fed. R. Evid. 702. The Court of Appeals reasoned that Rule 702 is preferable to the Dyas / Frye test because it has an expanded focus on the reliability of expert evidence. Slip op. at 13-16. It also reasoned that “there are substantial benefits to be gained from adopting a test that is widely used,” such as the opportunity to “learn from the decisions of other courts which apply Rule 702 or its state counterparts.” Id. at 15-16.

The Court of Appeals’ decision to adopt Rule 702 applies to both civil and criminal cases. Id. at 20.