Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Using Special Masters in Daubert Hearings to Promote Scientific Analyses of Expert Testimony

AuthorLuis Balart
Pages848-885
Louisiana Law Review Louisiana Law Review
Volume 80
Number 3
Spring 2020
Article 10
9-15-2020
Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Using Special Masters in Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Using Special Masters in
Daubert Hearings to Promote Scienti<c Analyses of Expert Daubert Hearings to Promote Scienti<c Analyses of Expert
Testimony Testimony
Luis Balart
Follow this and additional works at: https://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/lalrev
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Repository Citation Repository Citation
Luis Balart,
Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Using Special Masters in Daubert Hearings to Promote
Scienti<c Analyses of Expert Testimony
, 80 La. L. Rev. (2020)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.lsu.edu/lalrev/vol80/iss3/10
This Comment is brought to you for free and open access by the Law Reviews and Journals at LSU Law Digital
Commons. It has been accepted for inclusion in Louisiana Law Review by an authorized editor of LSU Law Digital
Commons. For more information, please contact kreed25@lsu.edu.
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Having Your Cake and Eating It, Too: Using Special
Masters in Daubert Hearings to Promote Scientific
Analyses of Expert Testimony
Luis Balart
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction .................................................................................. 848
I. Judges’ Difficult Roles Regarding Expert Testimony
and Claim Construction................................................................ 851
A. The Frye Test......................................................................... 851
1. Criticisms of Frye ........................................................... 852
B. The Daubert Test ................................................................... 854
1. Criticisms of Daubert...................................................... 858
II. Proposed Solutions to the Difficulties Regarding
Technical and Scientific Issues .................................................... 861
A. Court-Appointed Experts....................................................... 861
B. Informal Advisors ..................................................................864
C. Special Masters ......................................................................866
III. Special Masters Are the Best Way to Increase the Accuracy
of Admissibility Determinations in Daubert Hearings ................ 868
A. Current Use of Special Masters ............................................. 868
B. How Appointment of a Special Master Should Work ........... 870
C. Lessons from Claim Construction ......................................... 872
IV. Counterarguments to Special Masters in Daubert Hearings ........ 874
A. Special Masters Increase Costs.............................................. 874
1. Time-Spent Allocation .................................................... 875
2. Equitable Allocation........................................................ 876
3. Proportionality as Incentive to Play Nice........................ 877
B. Ensuring Neutrality of Special Masters ................................. 879
Conclusion.................................................................................... 882
Copyright 2020, by LUIS BALART.
I would like to thank the Volume 79 Board of Editors and Professor
Margaret Thomas for assisting me throughout the writing process. I would also
like to thank the members of the Volume 80 Board of Editors for their thorough
editing. Finally, I’d like to thank my family and Alex for their support.
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848 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 80
INTRODUCTION
Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old school groundskeeper, had used the
popular weed killer Roundup since 2012.1 Several years after Johnson
began using Roundup, his doctors diagnosed the father of three with
mycosis fungoides, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.2 Johnson sued
Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup.3 Although doctors told Johnson
he likely would not live to see the end of the trial, Johnson was in court on
June 18, 2018, when the jury returned a $289 million verdict in his favor.4
The outcome of the trial hinged on whether Roundup is carcinogenic to
humans, and both the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant’s attorney
presented scientific evidence on the issue.5 Monsanto claims that Johnson
introduced “junk science” meant to “inflame” the jury and plans to appeal
on the grounds that the judge should have excluded the evidence.6
Monsanto faces 5,000 similar lawsuits nationwide.7 The outcome of
Monsanto’s appeal in Johnson v. Monsanto Co. and the thousands of cases
pending nationwide will depend on whether the trial judges allow the
introduction of the plaintiffs’ scientific experts’ testimony. Future
decisions could cost Monsanto hundreds of millions of dollars.8
1. Sam Levin & Patrick Greenfield, Monsanto Ordered to Pay $289m as
Jury Rules Weedkiller Caused Mans Cancer, GUARDIAN (Aug. 10, 2018), https://
www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/10/monsanto-trial-cancer-dewayne-jo
hnson-ruling [https://perma.cc/F6LC-YX7N].
2. Id.
3. Id.
4. Johnson v. Monsanto Co., 190, CGC-16-550128, 2018 WL 4409024
(Cal. Super. Jun. 18, 2018); Note that although California uses a modified version
of the Frye test, this example still shows that whether scientific evidence is
admitted is critical for the outcome of trials, which can result in massive damage
awards. Regardless, the Frye test requires judges to make determinations as to
scientific validity, and many of the thousands of suits pending will be in
jurisdictions that follow Daubert.
5. Levin & Greenfield, supra note 1.
6. Tina Bellon, Monsanto Roundup Appeal Has Uphill Climb on ‘Junk
Science’ Grounds: Legal Experts, REUTERS (Aug. 14, 2018, 4:29 pm), https://
www.reuters.com/article/usmonsantocancerlawsuitanalysis/monsantoround
upappealhasuphillclimbonjunksciencegroundslegalexpertsidUSKBN
1KZ2EW [https://perma.cc/HQ36-C686].
7. Id.
8. See Johnson, 2018 WL 4409024.

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