The Frye vs. Daubert standards – and why they are important to you as a citizen of Florida, and the United States

In our most recent article we discussed the recent ruling by Florida’s Supreme Court to halt the enactment of a state statute enacted in 2013 that would have required much more stringent standards for admission of expert medical testimony in medical malpractice lawsuits. Politicians and attorneys alike are familiar with both legal standards that are being pitted against one another in this legal battle – the older Frye Standard versus the newer and more stringent (and therefore more defendant-friendly) Daubert Standard. But most of the general public are not.

 

Here is a quick synopsis of each standard, and where they originated from:

 

According to Wikipedia, the Frye standard: “To meet the Frye standard, scientific evidence presented to the court must be interpreted by the court as “generally accepted” by a meaningful segment of the associated scientific community. This applies to procedures, principles or techniques that may be presented in the proceedings of a court case.” The case this test comes from, Frye v. United States, was originally tried in 1923. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frye_standard

 

From that point forward the Frye standard became the widely-used and cited case law for the admissibility of evidence in civil court, particularly medical malpractice cases. Until 1993, that is.

 

In 1993, a ruling in the case of Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals held that “the Federal Rules of Evidence did not incorporate the Frye “general acceptance” test as a basis for assessing the admissibility of scientific expert testimony, but a flexible reliability and relevancy standard instead,”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daubert_standard

 

What does this mean to the average American? Using the Daubert standard over the last two decades has given judges more latitude to rule some expert testimony inadmissible before that testimony is seen by the jury. According to a 2002 RAND study cited in the Wikipedia article, “post Daubert, the percentage of expert testimony by scientists that was excluded from the courtroom significantly rose. This rise likely contributed to a doubling in successful motions for summary judgment in which 90% were against plaintiffs.[16] Beyond this study, there is little empirical evidence of the impact of Daubert. However, some critics argue that Daubert has disrupted the balance between plaintiffs and defendants.”

 

Florida was, in fact, one of the last states to have its Legislature try to adopt the Daubert Standard through statute enactment. As we previously noted, the state currently has a Republican majority in its Legislature, a Republican Governor (Rick Scott) and a Democrat-leaning Supreme Court. And since the ruling in February by the Supreme Court was not definitive, expect this tug-of-war to continue in our state government and others moving forward.

At Slinkman, Slinkman & Wynne, P.A. we will keep an eye on this and all other legislation that could affect you and your family if you are ever faced with having to sue for medical malpractice, defective products, or practically any other personal injury situation where either you or a loved one has suffered a wrongful death or serious injury.  We have been practicing personal injury law in south Florida for over 40 years.

For more information or for a free initial consultation, contact us at http://www.sswlawfl.com or at (561) 686-3400.

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