Dateline: March, 2011, Issue 3

What criteria do jurors use to judge the credibility of expert testimony?

Experts are important witnesses in a high percentage of civil and criminal trials. Jurors use multiple criteria to judge the credibility of expert testimony.

Schuman and colleagues (1994) interviewed jurors from many different trials in a number of cities about how they responded to expert testimony. Jurors considered an expert's (a) tendency to draw firm conclusions, (b) qualifications and reputation, (c) reasoning, (d) familiarity with the facts of the case, and (e) impartiality. Jurors did not rely on superficial characteristics such as appearance or personality, nor defer automatically to an expert's conclusions.

Ivkovich and Hans (2003) interviewed 55 jurors who served in 7 different civil trials involving medical malpractice, workplace injury, product liability, asbestos, and a motor vehicle accident. The criteria jurors used to evaluate the expert testimony involved both the message and the messenger:

In sum, jurors evaluate experts and their testimony on their merits.

Source Schuman, D., Whitaker, E., & Champagne. A. (1994). An empirical examination of the use of expert witnesses in the courts - Part II: A three city study. Jurimetrics Journal, 34, pp. 193-308.

Source Kutnjak Ivkovich, S. & V. P. Hans (2003). Jurors' evaluations of expert testimony: Judging the messenger and the message. Law and Social Inquiry, 28, pp. 441-482.