By Esteban Herrera and Richard McConnell

Environmental litigators face unique challenges in dealing with the expert phase of a lawsuit.  For example, a lawsuit involving alleged environmental contamination of soil, groundwater, or surface waters may require the use of experts such as environmental/civil engineers, hydrogeologists, hydrologists, geologists, soil scientists, agronomists, analytical chemists, toxicologists, environmental chemists, risk assessment experts, wetlands scientists, health physicists, biologists, and statisticians. 

These experts must often present difficult and complicated technical information in a way that can be understood by judges, lawyers, and juries, who in most cases are not engineers and scientists.  In some cases, environmental litigators face the task of having to deal with many of these disciplines simultaneously.  Before any of these experts can testify at trial, however, each expert and his or her work must satisfy evidentiary standards applicable to expert testimony, many of which are grounded in the principles laid out in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

This article provides a review of recent decisions where the opinions of environmental experts, from disciplines mentioned above, have been the subject of Daubert challenges based on the reliability of methods or principles and how those challenges were successfully presented or defended. 

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* Reprinted with permission from the American Bar Association, Natural Resources & Environment, Vol. 22, No. 4, Spring 2008.