Gentry v. Mangum

In Gentry v. Mangum, 195 W. Va. 512, 466 S.E.2d 171 (1995), the Court conducted a rather thorough review of the requirements necessary for a witness to qualify as an expert. In Syllabus point 5 of Gentry the Court held: In determining who is an expert, a circuit court should conduct a two-step inquiry. First, a circuit court must determine whether the proposed expert: (a) meets the minimal educational or experiential qualifications; (b) in a field that is relevant to the subject under investigation; (c) which will assist the trier of fact. Second, a circuit court must determine that the expert's area of expertise covers the particular opinion as to which the expert seeks to testify. With regard to the second part of the above quoted test, we further explained in Gentry that: The second part of the expert qualification criteria is assuring that the expert has expertise in the particular field in which he testifies. Here too, a circuit court has reasonable discretion. In discussing how much of a specialist should the expert be, a circuit court must always remember that the governing principle is whether the proffered testimony can assist the trier of fact. Necessarily the "helpfulness" standard calls for decisions that are very much ad hoc, for the question is always whether a particular expert can help resolve the particular issue at hand. (195 W. Va. 512, 526, 466 S.E.2d 171, 185.) The Court required that "a preliminary assessment be made at the outset pursuant to Rule 104(a) of whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid." Gentry, 195 W.Va. at 521, 466 S.E.2d at 180. Circuit court judges have the discretion and authority under the Rules of Evidence to determine whether scientific expert testimony is "trustworthy, even if the technique involved has not yet won general scientific acclaim." Gentry, 195 W.Va. at 521, 466 S.E.2d at 180.