Florida Adopts Daubert Standard for Expert Testimony

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Florida’s high court did an about-face.

October 7, 2019
Michael L. DeBona - The Subrogation Strategist

Seven months ago, the Florida Supreme Court declined to adopt Daubert as the standard for admitting expert testimony in Florida state courts. In DeLisle v. Crane Co., 258 So. 3d 1219 (2018), the court reaffirmed that “Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida.” On May 23, 2019, however, Florida’s high court did an about-face. In In Re: Amendment to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107, the Florida Supreme Court overruled its decision in DeLisle and declared that Florida will now apply the Daubert standard to determine whether scientific evidence is admissible.

The Daubert standard comes from the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), which held that the longstanding Frye test[1] for admitting expert testimony was superseded by Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Daubert instructed that federal judges should act as “gatekeepers” to ensure expert testimony is rooted in scientifically valid principles and that those principles are properly applied to the facts at issue. In determining whether scientific evidence should be admitted, Daubert sets forth several factors to consider: the testability of the theory or technique; the peer review and publication of the theory or technique; the error rate for the technique; the standards controlling the technique’s operation; and the general acceptance of the theory or technique.[2] The Daubert standard is generally considered a more onerous test than Frye, precluding expert testimony that might otherwise go to the jury under Frye.[3] Whereas Frye is a single factor test that applies only to new or novel science, Daubert is a multifactor test that applies to all expert testimony.

Since Daubert, a growing number of states have moved away from the Frye test in favor of the Daubert standard; it is now followed by a majority of jurisdictions in the country. In 2013, the Florida State legislature attempted to move Florida in this direction by amending the Florida Evidence Code to codify the Daubert standard. But because the Florida Supreme Court is vested with the power to make procedural rules and it was unclear whether the Daubert standard was a procedural or substantive rule, it was uncertain whether the 2013 Daubert amendments were controlling law. Then in 2017, in In Re: Amendment to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC16-181, the Florida Supreme Court expressly declined adopting the Daubert amendments to the extent they were procedural. This decision signaled that, if faced with the Daubert standard on appeal from a litigated case, the Florida Supreme Court would reaffirm that Frye – not Daubert – controlled the admissibility of expert testimony in Florida state courts.

Mr. DeBona may be contacted at debonam@whiteandwilliams.com



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