nano 6In my previous post, I indicated that I would be moving on to discuss the relevancy arm of the Daubert admissibility test.  It turns out I have a few more thoughts about the reliability arm.

 What does it mean for admissibility purposes when the expert testimony sought to be introduced in litigation is based on an established methodology used in a new context?  This is likely to be an issue when parties seek to introduce studies of the health and safety effects of nanomaterials.    Does such a new subject of a study transform an established methodology into a new and untested methodology?  If so, the evidence would face a much more rigorous level of scrutiny.

 Researchers acknowledge that the state of research on the health and safety aspects of nanomaterials is in its infancy.  Some have noted that due to the costs of obtaining necessary quantities of nanomaterials for animal testing, that type of toxicological testing has given way to the use of more efficient in vitro laboratory tests.  While both animal testing and in vitro tests have been used to test toxicity for a very long time, their reliability in testing chemicals at the nanoscale has yet to be fully assessed.  This could lead to exclusion of the evidence under either the Frye or Daubert analysis, at least until such the use of the studies gains greater reliability.  In other words, courts could view this as a new and untested methodology.

 A related issue is the value of in vitro tests generally in litigation to show a connection between exposures and injuries.  Studies conducted in laboratory containers do not receive high marks from courts generally when introduced to demonstrate causation between an exposure and a person’s injuries.  Courts prefer both epidemiological studies – which determine statistical risks in human populations – and animal bioassays over in vitro studies.

 All of this adds up to some thorny questions that will have to be resolved.