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Morgan & Morgan attorneys oppose Florida evidence rule

Morgan & Morgan

Morgan & Morgan headquarters.

By  - October 15, 2015

Attorneys from Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan, one of the biggest plaintiff law firms in the nation, are leading a charge against a state trial evidence rule known as the Daubert standard.

On Friday the Bar will vote on a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court to abandon the Daubert standard. (Update: The board tabled the vote and punted it to their Dec. 4 meeting in Naples.)

Florida began adopting the new standard about a year ago when the state legislature passed new laws, but the Supreme Court has ultimate authority over evidence standards in Florida courts. The standard allows a judge to knock out an expert witness if the testimony is not based on sound, peer-reviewed science.

But the Florida Bar is now investigating the Daubert rule and its impact on the courts. Critics say the standard clogs the courts with “mini-trials” over experts, while those who support the Daubert standard say the critics are only upset because they can’t introduce junk science into the record.

“Daubert only benefits rich, powerful people, and corporations or insurance companies, who would rather clog up the courts with gridlock, than let the public have access to justice through the courts,” said Kieth Mitnick, senior trial counsel at Morgan & Morgan.

About 100 attorneys have submitted letters to the Florida Bar Board of Governors, opposing or supporting the Daubert standard. Twenty-seven out of 80 opposition letters are from Morgan & Morgan attorneys. But Mitnick said there is no concerted effort at Morgan & Morgan to lobby on the issue.

Support for the Daubert rule is coming from business groups and defense counsel, including the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

The Daubert standard replaced a long-standing evidence rule known as the Frye standard. Florida has been one of the only states to modify even the Frye standard to allow any expert testimony under the “pure opinion” rule – meaning testimony could be labeled expert even if based only on someone’s opinion.

“The plaintiff lawyers are only concerned that the Daubert standard will knock out cases that are not based on sound science and methodology,” said William Large, president the Florida Justice Reform Institute.

The Board of Governors is meeting in Jacksonville on Friday. The evidence rule is on their agenda, in terms of making a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rejects the Daubert standard, the court could replace it with a range of standards.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-morgan-morgan-daubert-20151015-post.html