Florida Supreme Court Rejects New Expert Witness Standards

By: Carolyn Johnson

 

On February 16, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the Florida Legislature’s efforts to improve the state’s expert witness standards. The Court rejected the adoption of the Daubert Standard and new evidence standards in medical malpractice cases. The Florida Chamber supported both pieces of legislation to elevate expert witness standards.

In 2013, the Legislature  passed HB 7015 – filed by Representative  Metz – which would have rejected the Frye standard in favor of Daubert. This evidence standard is used in federal court and in 36 other states, and would have only allowed expert testimony if it met a three-pronged test. Without such a test in place, as has been done by rejecting the new expert witness standards, the Supreme Court has made it easier for trial lawyers to enter junk science into court proceedings, and thereby further obfuscate the truth on important issues.

The Supreme Court rejected the new standard due to submitted comments on the constitutionality of the new standard. Justice Polston, in his dissent, wrote, “Has the Entire federal court system for the last 23 years as well as 36 states denied parties’ rights to a jury trial and access to courts?… Of course not.”

The Florida Legislature in 2013 also adopted SB 1792, which relates to medical negligence actions. A provision of this legislation would have required that medical expert witnesses be of the same specialty, rather than of the same or similar specialty. The Florida Supreme Court rejected this standard also on the grounds of constitutionality, under access to courts.

What’s Next?

Frustrated by Florida’s bottom-ten legal climate? Next week, the trial lawyers are trying to further deteriorate Florida’s legal climate by passing prejudgment interest. Learn more about where the Florida Chamber stands on legal reform, and contact your legislators by clicking here.