Armchair experts are abundant. There are experts in the bleachers at every youth hockey game in Minnesota. Every neighborhood in White Bear Lake has a number of grilling experts. In a court of law, what does it take to be an expert? Glad you asked!
In order for a witness to qualify as an expert, she must have either knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education in the subject matter she is asked to testify about. Minn. R. E. 702. There are no formal requirements as to how the person accumulates the knowledge, skill, and the like. But, the basis of the proposed expert's opinion must be "reliable". For expert testimony to be admissible under rule 702, the proponent of the testimony must show that: (1) the witness qualifies as an expert; (2) the expert’s opinion has foundational reliability; and (3) the testimony is helpful to the trier- of-fact. The third of these factors is more or less a no-brainer. No competent attorney would hire an expert to speak to an issue that would not be beneficial to trial.
Experts are usually the most critical witness in a case. An unreliable expert will either be excluded from trial altogether or will not be believed by the jury. An unbelievable expert will tarnish your entire case. As such, selection of your expert is critical and is a step that must be undertaken very carefully.
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