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Florida Supreme Court adopts Daubert standard for admission of admission of expert testimony

On May 23, 2019, in In Re: Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code, No. SC19-107, the Florida Supreme Court adopted the amendments to sections 90.702 and 90.704 of the Florida Evidence passed by the Florida Legislature in 2013, which replace the Frye standard for admitting expert testimony with the Daubert standard in use by federal courts and many other state courts. The Florida Supreme Court had previously declined to adopt the 2013 amendments in In re Amendments to Florida Evidence Code, 210 So. 3d 1231, 1239 (Fla. 2017), “to the extent that they are procedural,”  citing the constitutional concerns raised by the members of the Florida Bar’s Code and Rules of Evidence Committee and other commenters who opposed the amendments.  The Court has now receded from its previous position, indicating that the grave constitutional concerns “appear unfounded.”  However, the Court made clear that it was not deciding in this rules case the constitutional or other substantive concerns raised about the amendments, leaving those issues for a “proper case or controversy.”

The Frye standard applies only to expert testimony based on new or novel scientific techniques, requiring that such testimony should be deduced from generally accepted scientific principles.  In all other cases, the judge’s role is essentially limited to determining whether the expert was qualified in the field of testimony, usually based on academic credentials and professional training.  The Daubert standard is much more far-reaching, requiring judges to act as gatekeepers in admitting any expert evidence, regardless of whether or new or novel scientific techniques are involved, only upon a determination that the evidence is based on sufficient facts or data, is the product of reliable principles and methods, and the expert witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the case.