Governor Signs Expert Witness Bill Into Law

Governor Signs Expert Witness Bill Into Law

Governor Rick Scott is to appear in Jacksonville today for a ceremonial signing of a bill on expert witnesses switching from the state’s Frye standard to the federal Daubert rule.

The deadline for the governor to act on House Bill 7015 was Tuesday. The bill requires the more stringent federal standard for expert testimony even though critics claim it will drastically increase the cost of litigation and put new burdens on an already strained state judicial system.

HB 7015 was supported by the business community primarily to do away with what it derided as “junk science” testimony in personal injury and malpractice litigation. However, it was opposed by civil plaintiffs attorneys, and criminal prosecutors who maintained the change would bog down cases with needless hearings.

Florida was only one of 10 states still using the Frye test, a standard established in 1923 that allowed testimony as long as it came from qualified experts who adhered to generally accepted scientific principles in their field.

The Daubert standard, named for the 1993 U.S.Supreme Court decision Daubert v. Merrell Down Pharmaceuticals, focuses more on the scientific methodology and its relevance to the facts of the case. Experts under Daubert must have the training to give an opinion on a theory
or technique that has been scientifically tested and published in peer-reviewed journals.

Neal Roth said, “What I expect is that defendants are going to regularly file motions challenging the validity of the experts’ opinions.” In many cases, expert witnesses do not live in the jurisdiction where the case will be tried. This entails travel, giving testimony, and answering the judge’s question. “It’s a total waste of judicial effort,” Roth said. “There’s a total misunderstanding of Daubert.”


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