Filing Fanatics

The Product Liability Advisory Council, the American Tort Reform Association, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform are among the groups wading into a dispute before the state Supreme Court over what role trial courts can play when evaluating experts under the Frye standard.

The amicus brief was filed in the closely-watched case Walsh v. BASF, in which the Superior Court said that a trial court went too far in evaluating the basis for an expert’s opinion as part of a Frye inquiry. The Supreme Court granted allocatur in March, to specifically determine whether the Superior Court erred in holding that “trial courts are not permitted to act as ‘gatekeepers.’”

The 42-page brief, which was filed by Reed Smith attorney James Beck, said the intermediate court’s ruling went against precedent.

“[T]he Superior Court expressly denied that trial courts exercise any ‘proper role’ as gatekeepers when determining whether expert testimony is ‘generally accepted’ in the relevant scientific community,” the brief said. “That narrow interpretation of judicial discretion is contrary to both Pennsylvania and nationwide precedent applying the Frye standard.”

Read the brief below: