Daubert Standard -

South Carolina

In short, we say that we do not follow Daubert, however, it turns out to be a very similar standard, though in practice not nearly as strictly enforced.

The admissibility of expert testimony is governed by Rule 702, SCRE, which provides:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.

The trial court must make three key preliminary findings which are fundamental to Rule 702, SCRE, before the jury may consider expert testimony:

1. Subject Matter – “The trial court must find that the subject matter is beyond the ordinary knowledge of the jury, thus requiring an expert to explain the matter to the jury.” Watson v. Ford Motor Co., 389 S.C. 434, 446, 699 S.E.2d 169, 175 (2010).

2. Qualification – “While the expert need not be a specialist in the particular branch of the field, the trial court must find that the proffered expert has indeed acquired the requisite knowledge and skill to qualify as an expert in the particular subject matter.” Id.

3. Reliability – “Finally, the trial court must evaluate the substance of the testimony and determine whether it is reliable.” Id.
Regarding the “reliability” factors, South Carolina has not adopted Daubert. Instead, South Carolina applies a test derived from State v. Jones, a state court decision which, as it turns out, is not that different from Daubert:

In considering the admissibility of scientific evidence under the Jones standard, the Court looks at several factors, including: (1) the publications and peer review of the technique; (2) prior application of the method to the type of evidence involved in the case; (3) the quality control procedures used to ensure reliability; and (4) the consistency of the method with recognized scientific laws and procedures.
State v. Council, 335 S.C. 1, 19, 515 S.E.2d 508, 517 (1999).

These non-exclusive factors apply only to scientific expert testimony – they “serve no useful analytical purpose when evaluating nonscientific expert testimony.” See State v. White, 382 S.C. 265, 274, 676 S.E.2d 684, 688 (2009).