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October 18, 2018

Florida Supreme Court Rejects Legislation Mandating Daubert Standard

This past Monday, the Florida Supreme Court (in a 4-3 decision) issued a ruling in the case of DeLisle v. Crane, Co., et al. (Case No.: SC16-2182), holding that the 2013 law mandating the use of the Daubert standard for screening expert witness testimony infringed on the court’s rulemaking authority.  Below please find the link to the decision.

http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2018/sc16-2182.pdf

In the underlying action, DeLisle was awarded an Eight Million Dollar ($8,000,000.00) jury verdict against R.J. Reynolds and Crane, Co. as the result of contracting mesothelioma, which he claimed to have contracted after being exposed to R.J. Reynolds cigarette filters and Crane gaskets.  The 4th DCA, applying the Daubert standard, overturned the verdict, holding that the trial court should not have permitted the testimony of two (2) physicians linking asbestos to mesothelioma based on the reasoning that the trial court was not presented with sufficient information to allow them to make a determination as to whether or not to allow such testimony.

In overturning the decision of the 4th DCA, the Florida Supreme Court held that the trial court properly admitted the expert testimony, noting that causation of mesothelioma is not new or novel science, and therefore, is not subject to the Frye analysis.  The majority also commended the trial court for resisting “the temptation to usurp the jury’s role in evaluating the credibility of experts and choosing between legitimate but conflicting scientific views.”  Justice Peggy A. Quince wrote on behalf of the majority that “[t]his rule — that expert testimony should be deduced from generally accepted scientific principles — has been the standard in Florida cases and, today, we reaffirm that it is still the standard.”  The Supreme Court rejected the 2013 legislative action, holding that the Florida Legislature infringed on the court’s authority to make procedural law and failed to meet the 2/3 threshold vote in each house required to repeal rules of court.  The majority further criticized the Daubert standard, commenting that it tends to require lengthy, technical hearings, and effectively undermines the right to a jury trial and inhibits access to the courts.

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