Lessons from Canadian Courts for All Expert Witnesses.


Drs. Booth, Watts, and Dufour are Assistant Professors, Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. [Email]


Expert witnesses have a special place in court, bringing their knowledge and skills in the form of opinion evidence to educate the court. This allows the fact-finder to make legal decisions more effectively. Although experts are often allowed a role in civil and criminal matters, this brings certain risks to the court process. Admissibility of expert witness testimony in Canada has generally paralleled American law, including the standards enunciated in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical, Inc. (1993). Recently, there has been a series of decisions in Canadian law that has focused on the role of the expert witness in the court. Although only having precedence in Canada, these cases highlight important legal principles that all expert witnesses must navigate, regardless of their jurisdiction. We review these significant cases to assist forensic psychiatrists in recognizing and professionally navigating potential pitfalls in giving expert opinions.