Davie v Magistrates of Edinburgh: 1953

Issues arose in relation to the expert evidence which had been led.
Held: The court rejected a submission that, where no counter evidence on the science in question had been adduced for the pursuer, the Court was bound to accept the conclusions of an expert witness for the defenders, saying that this view was ‘contrary to the principles in accordance with which expert opinion evidence is admitted’. These principles were that: ‘Expert witnesses however skilled or eminent can give no more than evidence. They cannot usurp the functions of the jury or Judge sitting as a jury, any more than a technical assessor can substitute his advice for the judgment of the Court . . Their duty is to furnish the Judge or jury with the necessary scientific criteria for testing the accuracy of their conclusions so as to enable the Judge or jury to form their own independent judgement by the application of these criteria to the facts proved in evidence. The scientific opinion evidence, if intelligible, convincing and tested, becomes a factor (and often an important factor) for consideration along with the whole other evidence in the case, but the decision is for the Judge or jury. In particular the bare ipse dixit of a scientist, however eminent, upon the issue in controversy, will normally carry little weight, for it cannot be tested by cross-examination nor independently appraised, and the parties have invoked the decision of a judicial tribunal and not an oracular pronouncement by an expert.’ In relation to the use made by the Lord Ordinary of passages in a publication referred to by an expert witness for the defenders, some of which inter alia not been put to the witness: ‘I do not think that he was entitled to do so. Passages from a published work may be adopted by a witness and made part of his evidence or they may be put to the witness in cross-examination for his comment. But, except in so far as this is done, the Court cannot in my view rely upon such works for the purpose of displacing or criticising the witness’s testimony.’


Lord President Cooper


1953 SLT 54, 1953 SC 34



Cited by:

CitedSharman Weir (Inquiry Into the Death of Sharman Weir) ScSf 23-Jan-2003
The deceased died after complications in her pregnancy.
Held: The cause of death was (1)(a) intracerebral haemorrhage, (1)(b) severe hypertension, (2)(a) hepatic necrosis, (2)(b) HELLP syndrome (haematological diagnosis), and (3) . .
CitedDingley v Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police HL 11-May-2000
The officer had been injured in an accident in a police van. He developed multiple sclerosis only a short time afterwards. The respondent denied that the accident caused the MS.
Held: There is no proof of what causes MS, but it was common . .
CitedDingley v The Chief Constable, Strathclyde Police 1998
The court was asked whether the development of multiple sclerosis had been caused by physical injury sustained in a motor accident. Medical science was not able to demonstrate the connection between the two, and reliance was placed on . .
CitedMcTear v Imperial Tobacco Ltd OHCS 31-May-2005
The pursuer sought damages after her husband’s death from lung cancer. She said that the defenders were negligent in having continued to sell him cigarettes knowing that they would cause this.
Held: The action failed. The plaintiff had not . .
CitedKennedy v Cordia (Services) Llp SC 10-Feb-2016
The appellant care worker fell in snow when visiting the respondent’s client at home. At issue was the admission and status of expert or skilled evidence.
Held: Mrs Kennedy’s appeal succeeded. ‘There are in our view four considerations which . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 12 May 2022; Ref: scu.183341