Industry Guidelines for the Forensic Investigation of Marine Incidents
Landmark court decisions concerning admissibility of expert testimony indicate that industry guidelines and standards are an appropriate source in the formulation and defense of expert opinions. When properly applied, such guidelines and standards provide experts with ample support in adversarial arenas. Review of the court's responsibility to determine scientific basis and expert opinions resulted in the Daubert decision (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 ). This Supreme Court decision recognized the importance of the "scientific validity of the principles that underlie a proposed submission" as the most critical item the trial judge must evaluate. Furthermore, the Daubert decision established the trial judge's duty to make a preliminary assessment pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 104(a) "of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid." Many lawsuits involving injuries, deaths, or product defects rely on expert opinion. Thus, the reliability of experts, and the validity of the methodology used by the experts in arriving at their conclusions, must be carefully evaluated. It has been shown that the processes governing the development of industry guidelines and standards address these factors (Ruggieri 2004), providing a sound basis for expert opinions where such guidelines exist and are used. Although there are a growing number of development activities producing such guidelines and standards for land-based incidents, there is little in the way of corollary activities specifically addressing the marine arena. Many of the methods and investigative protocols identified in these land-based guidelines and standards can be made marine applicable; however, substantive technology, operational, and regulatory differences between the land-based and marine paradigms indicate that marine-specific guideline documents are needed for marine applications.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2006
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