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ROBERTSON v. MCCLOSKEY

January 15, 1988

Marion G. Robertson, Plaintiff,
v.
Paul N. McCloskey, Jr., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 Green, United States District Judge.

 Presently pending before the Court is defendant's motion in limine seeking to exclude the expert testimony of Dr. Matthew Erdelyi and plaintiff's opposition thereto. For the reasons outlined below, this motion will be granted.

 I. Background

 Dr. Erdelyi states that he is an expert in "the psychodynamics of memory and perception." See Rule 26(b)(4) Statement at 1. *fn1" If permitted to testify, Dr. Erdelyi would discuss "the factors that bear on the reliability of recollections" of five witnesses concerning events that occurred during the Korean War in 1950 and 1951. Id.2 Based on his reading of the witnesses' depositions and his familiarity with memory and perception studies, Dr. Erdelyi will state that the accuracy of memory diminishes with time; that, in many instances, a person can reconstruct or even fabricate the details of a complex event that took place long ago; and that the "uncorroborated recollections in this case . . . deserve to be treated with considerable caution." Id. at 7.

 In his motion, defendant contends that Dr. Erdelyi's testimony (1) would not assist the jury and would usurp its role; (2) is irrelevant because it is not based on an individualized examination of each witness; (3) is prejudicial because it would tend to mislead or confuse the jury; and (4) is not based on a scientifically-reliable body of knowledge. Plaintiff disagrees with these arguments. He contends that the effects of cognitive biases on memory and perception are matters outside the grasp of most jurors, that the psychology of memory and perception is an established field of science and that the probative value of Dr. Erdelyi's testimony would outweigh its prejudicial effects.

 II. Discussion

 Federal Rule of Evidence 702 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 admissibility of expert testimony must be determined on a case-by-case basis. See 3 Weinstein's Evidence § 702[02] at 702-12 (1987). Before such testimony may be admitted at trial, its proponent must demonstrate that (1) the expert is properly qualified; (2) his testimony will assist the trier of fact; and (3) the expert's testimony is reliable and accurate. See generally id. at 702[01]-[04]. Each of these factors will be considered in turn.

 A. Qualifications

 Because defendant does not contend that Dr. Erdelyi is unqualified in the area of memory and perception and because a perusal of Dr. Erdelyi's curriculum vitae indicates that he has ample experience in his field, see supra note 1, this criterion has been satisfied.

 B. Assistance to the Trier of Fact

 The standard for determining whether expert testimony will assist the jury is a broad one. As formulated by Wigmore, the essential inquiry is this: "On this subject can a jury from this person receive appreciable help?" Wigmore on Evidence § 1923 at 21 (3d ed. 1940) (emphasis in original). Although there is a "presumption that expert testimony will be helpful," In re Japanese Electronic Products Antitrust Litigation, 723 F.2d 238, 279 (3d Cir. 1983), rev'd on other grounds, 475 U.S. 574, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986), a trial court has broad discretion to exclude expert testimony that, for example, relates to matters of common sense or everyday knowledge, Scott v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 789 F.2d 1052, 1055 (4th Cir. 1986), is not relevant to any issue in the case, United States v. ...


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