Although we tend to think of the law as a fixed and immovable system, the reality is that the standards, processes, and methods used in the American legal system are always changing with the times. One area that has seen significant change over the past few decades lies in our expert evidentiary standards, or the admissibility of expert testimony into court.
By announcing the adoption of the Daubert evidence standard in May, the new Florida Supreme Court signaled a major shift for the Sunshine State. Effectively reversing the Court’s earlier ruling on theFrye standard, this new decision may have unexpected ramifications for new cases – and change how Florida attorneys source and introduce expert witness testimony.
Evolving Evidence Standards: Frye vs. Daubert
Starting in the 1970’s, the Frye evidence standard began to be widely applied whenever the judiciary was considering expert opinions of a scientific nature. Derived from the groundbreaking D.C. Circuit case Frye v. United States in 1923, the Frye standard dictated that the an expert opinion can only be admissible if its core method is “generally accepted” by the appropriate scientific community.
While this standard quickly gained momentum both in criminal and civil cases, some critics eventually pushed for more specificity, claiming that Frye was just too vague to address complex scientific issues. Then in 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. that trial judges must serve the function of “gatekeepers,” and consider a broader range of factors when admitting expert testimony.
Noting that Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence requires evidence to be both relevant and reliable, the Court concluded that the “general acceptance test” of Frye was not entirely compatible. Thus the Daubert standard was born, and slowly, many states started to adopt this expanded approach. Although some states still opt for Frye, the majority have now moved toDaubert or a similar rule.
Here are the 5 questions that must be considered under Daubert:
- Can this technique or theory be tested for reliability?
- Has this technique or theory been peer reviewed?
- Is there a known error rate associated with this technique?
- Are there any standards and controls this technique must follow?
- Has it been generally accepted by the broader scientific community?
What Is the Effect of the Daubert Standard?
Because of the complexity of these cases, it’s unclear exactly howDaubert has affected expert testimony in every state. According to some legal scholars, it allows the judiciary to have a little more flexibility when determining the relevance of expert testimony. By turning the focus back on the judge’s role, this evidence standard can also allow for greater cross-examination – and better scientific debate.
However, critics have said that it gives judges too much authority in scientific and technical matters. While Daubert has not been shown to affect the rate of evidence admissibility in the long term, states that make the switch may witness a difficult transition period, as the judges adjust to the new standard.
Turn to Our Skilled and Prepared Legal Team
While time will only tell how the Daubert evidence standard will affect future personal injury and product liability cases in Florida, the team at Rosenberg & Rosenberg, P.A. is ready for any changes that may come along. Because we carefully prepare each case for trial, we know how to gather expert testimony and ensure that these opinions match with the legally accepted standard. With a reputation for excellence that spans over the last four decades, our injury attorneys are ready to tackle your claim with vigor and attention to detail – and maximize your chance of a fair result.
Call (888) 499-6206 for a free consultation in Fort Lauderdale today!