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Florida Supreme Court, reversing itself, tightens rules for expert testimony


The Florida Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling today, adopted a more stringent standard related to expert testimony that could change how frequently personal injury cases are tried in the state.

Today's 42-page opinion reverses the court's position from one it held in 2017, and now the conservative-leaning majority argued that the state Supreme Court made only a simple procedural move in replacing the so-called Frye standard with the Daubert standard, effectively increasing the standard for admitting expert testimony as evidence for trial cases.

The basis for the new argument is rooted in the fact that the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature sought to change the Daubert standard in 2013 to come in line with a majority of states and the federal court system. But back in 2017, the state Supreme Court rejected that standard because of concerns that it would limit low-income plaintiffs’ access to a jury trial since the Daubert standard is typically more expensive to implement and would preclude opinion testimony from medical experts.

Justice Jorge Labarga reiterated those reasons in his dissent, while fellow dissenting Justice Robert Luck, a Gov. Ron DeSantis appointee, argued that the Daubert standard made a substantive change to the law and required a “proper case or controversy” to adopt.

“The court’s decision today to finally adopt the Daubert standard will change the face of Florida jurisprudence,” said William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, a group that lobbies for business interests and seeks to limit payouts from lawsuits.