For the last four years, Florida has used the Daubert standard in civil trials as a means of testing the scientific validity of testimony by expert witnesses. Previously, the state courts adhered to the less strenuous Frye standard. Both standards are named for specific cases that set the criteria for what kinds of evidence would be admissible in civil cases. Federal courts have been using the Daubert standard for 20 years. Florida legislature’s passage of House Bill 7015 eliminated Florida’s reliance on the Frye standard, effective July 2013. Defense attorneys in particular were pleased with this because it meant more ways in which to attack expert witness testimony from plaintiffs, who bear the burden of proof.
Now, a closely-watched case that will be weighed by the Florida Supreme Court by the year’s end could change that. In Delisle v. Crane Co., et al., plaintiffs, husband and wife, challenge several industrial manufacturers, alleging liability for the husband’s mesothelioma allegedly linked to defendant’s asbestos-laden products. Plaintiffs originally filed suit against 16 different manufacturers, but only proceeded to trial against two of those – and won an $8 million verdict.
Defendants appealed, arguing there was a lack of causal connection between their products and plaintiff’s illness. Specifically, they challenged the admission of certain plaintiff expert witness testimony. Defendants asserted causation testimony by a pulmonologist should not have been admitted because the expert failed to provide an adequate scientific basis for his opinion. Another challenge was that the “every exposure” argument presented by plaintiff had already been discredited by previous court decisions. The appellate court reversed and remanded for a new trial. Continue reading →