Cal. Litig. 2014, Volume 27, Number 2

Sargon Enterprises v. USC-A Different Perspective

By Edward J. Imwinkelried and David L. Faigman

Last year this journal published an article by Robert Knaier discussing the California Supreme Court case of Sargon Enterprises, Inc. v. USC, titled A Gatekeeper Embraced: Expert Opinion Testimony and the Long Road from Daubert to Sargon, 26:3 Cal. Litigation 37. This article analyzes Sargon from a slightly different perspective — that of the authors of the law review article that Sargon relied on.

In 1923, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Frye v. United States (D.C. Cir. 1923) 293 Fed. 1013. In Frye, the court announced that to serve as a basis for expert testimony, a scientific theory must be generally accepted in the relevant expert circles. By the early 1970s, Frye had become the overwhelming majority view in the United States. In 1976, the California Supreme Court adopted that test in People v. Kelly (1976) 17 Cal.3d 24. Although the United States Supreme Court abandoned the Frye test in 1993 ( Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (1993) 509 U.S. 579), the California Supreme Court quickly made it clear that it did not intend to shift to Daubert’s empirical validation/reliability standard. (People v. Leahy (1994) 8 Cal.4th 587.)

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