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Florida Supreme Court Reinstates $8 Million Award in Favor of Mesothelioma Victim

The Florida Supreme Court has reinstated a hefty $8 million award in favor of a mesothelioma victim who has been fighting for justice for years. The defendants in the case consisted of large-scale manufacturer of industrial products Crane & Co. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, among others. The plaintiff in the case alleged that he was exposed to asbestos in several workplaces and from asbestos in Kent cigarette filters, which led to his mesothelioma.

A jury trial led to an $8 million award for the plaintiff, but R.J. Reynolds (a successor to the firm that made Kent cigarettes), and Crane, which was alleged to have made sheet gaskets that contained asbestos, appealed on the grounds that expert witness testimony should not have been allowed. The appeals court agreed.

The plaintiff responded to the decision by taking his case to the Florida Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal in a 4-3 decision by Justices. Per a CBS 4 Miami news report, the Court said, “a controversial 2013 law about expert-witness testimony was an unconstitutional infringement on the court’s authority.”

“Bigger picture, the court majority found unconstitutional a move by the Legislature in 2013 to tighten standards for expert witnesses in court cases — a move that was backed by business groups but opposed by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The Supreme Court said the law violated the constitutional separation of powers because justices have the authority to set court-system procedures.”

“The 2013 law involved changing from the state’s use of what is known in the legal world as the “Frye” standard to what is known as the “Daubert” standard for expert witnesses.” The Frye standard is used to determine the admissibility of an expert's scientific testimony. “The Daubert standard in used by a trial judge to assess whether an expert witness’s scientific testimony is based on scientifically valid reasoning that which can properly be applied to the facts at issue.

“Testimony from expert witnesses can play a crucial role in complicated civil lawsuits and in criminal cases that involve scientific evidence,” the CBS 4 report said.

Justice Peggy Quince wrote in the majority decision, joined by justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Jorge Labarga:

“We recognize that Frye and Daubert are competing methods for a trial judge to determine the reliability of expert testimony before allowing it to be admitted into evidence. Both purport to provide a trial judge with the tools necessary to ensure that only reliable evidence is presented to the jury. Frye relies on the scientific community to determine reliability whereas Daubert relies on the scientific savvy of trial judges to determine the significance of the methodology used. With our decision today, we reaffirm that Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida courts.”

Establishing Frye as the law in Florida allowed the testimony in the plaintiff’s case to stand.

If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Even if you do not have symptoms, a specialist can assess your risk and establish a monitoring plan. This can help detect the disease in its early stages. Early detection often leads to better treatment options and outcomes. See your doctor to assess your risk today.

 

Sources

Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal. 2019. Web. 06 Jan. 2019.

“Florida Supreme Court Rules Expert Witness Law Unconstitutional.” 4 CBS Miami. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 15 Oct. 2018. Web. 06 Jan. 2019.

Legal Information Institute (LII). Cornell Law School. Cornell University, 2019. Web. 06 Jan. 2019.