Unless the court orders otherwise, an expert may state an opinion — and give the reasons for it — without first testifying to the underlying facts or data. But the expert may be required to disclose those facts or data on cross-examination.
Summary and Explanation
Federal Rule of Evidence 705 addresses the disclosure of facts or data underlying expert opinions. Here’s a summary and explanation:
- No Requirement for Facts in Opinion Testimony: Rule 705 states that an expert witness may provide an opinion in the form of testimony or in writing without first disclosing the underlying facts or data on direct examination.
- Facts or Data Disclosure on Cross-Examination: The rule permits the opposing party to cross-examine the expert witness about the facts or data underlying their opinion. This allows the other side to question the basis and reliability of the expert’s opinion.
- Purpose: Rule 705 is designed to streamline the presentation of expert testimony. It allows experts to provide their opinions without necessarily presenting all the supporting facts during direct examination. This can make the testimony more concise and easier for the jury to understand.
- Limits on Cross-Examination: While the rule allows cross-examination regarding the underlying facts, it does not require the expert to disclose all details on direct examination. This allows the expert to present their opinion first, with the details to be explored during cross-examination.
- Balance of Efficiency and Fairness: Rule 705 balances the need for efficient presentation of expert testimony with the opposing party’s right to challenge the expert’s basis and credibility. It ensures that the trier of fact (such as the jury) can assess the opinion’s reliability while avoiding unnecessary complexity during direct examination.
Rule 705 allows experts to provide opinions without initially disclosing all the facts or data supporting those opinions. The opposing party can explore these details during cross-examination, striking a balance between efficient presentation and the right to challenge expert testimony.
(Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1938; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)
Notes of Advisory Committee on Proposed Rules
The hypothetical question has been the target of a great deal of criticism as encouraging partisan bias, affording an opportunity for summing up in the middle of the case, and as complex and time consuming. Ladd, Expert Testimony, 5 Vand.L.Rev. 414, 426–427 (1952). While the rule allows counsel to make disclosure of the underlying facts or data as a preliminary to the giving of an expert opinion, if he chooses, the instances in which he is required to do so are reduced. This is true whether the expert bases his opinion on data furnished him at secondhand or observed by him at firsthand.
The elimination of the requirement of preliminary disclosure at the trial of underlying facts or data has a long background of support. In 1937 the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws incorporated a provision to this effect in the Model Expert Testimony Act, which furnished the basis for Uniform Rules 57 and 58. Rule 4515, N.Y. CPLR (McKinney 1963), provides:
“Unless the court orders otherwise, questions calling for the opinion of an expert witness need not be hypothetical in form, and the witness may state his opinion and reasons without first specifying the data upon which it is based. Upon cross-examination, he may be required to specify the data * * *,”
See also California Evidence Code §802; Kansas Code of Civil Procedure §§60–456, 60–457; New Jersey Evidence Rules 57, 58.
If the objection is made that leaving it to the cross-examiner to bring out the supporting data is essentially unfair, the answer is that he is under no compulsion to bring out any facts or data except those unfavorable to the opinion. The answer assumes that the cross-examiner has the advance knowledge which is essential for effective cross-examination. This advance knowledge has been afforded, though imperfectly, by the traditional foundation requirement. Rule 26(b)(4) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, as revised, provides for substantial discovery in this area, obviating in large measure the obstacles which have been raised in some instances to discovery of findings, underlying data, and even the identity of the experts. Friedenthal, Discovery and Use of an Adverse Party’s Expert Information, 14 Stan.L.Rev. 455 (1962).
These safeguards are reinforced by the discretionary power of the judge to require preliminary disclosure in any event.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment
The amendment is technical. No substantive change is intended.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment
This rule, which relates to the manner of presenting testimony at trial, is revised to avoid an arguable conflict with revised Rules 26(a)(2)(B) and 26(e)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or with revised Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which require disclosure in advance of trial of the basis and reasons for an expert’s opinions.
If a serious question is raised under Rule 702 or 703 as to the admissibility of expert testimony, disclosure of the underlying facts or data on which opinions are based may, of course, be needed by the court before deciding whether, and to what extent, the person should be allowed to testify. This rule does not preclude such an inquiry.
Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment
The language of Rule 705 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Evidence Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only. There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.
The Committee deleted all reference to an “inference” on the grounds that the deletion made the Rule flow better and easier to read, and because any “inference” is covered by the broader term “opinion.” Courts have not made substantive decisions on the basis of any distinction between an opinion and an inference. No change in current practice is intended.