Important Decision on Expert Witnesses

The Florida Supreme Court has released an important decision on testimony by expert witnesses.

Plaintiff’s counsel sought an order prohibiting a defendant’s expert from testifying that he relied on consultations with colleagues or other experts in forming his opinions.   The Florida high court said  "that such testimony is inadmissible because it impermissibly permits the testifying experts to bolster their opinions and creates the danger that the testifying experts will serve as conduits for the opinions of others who are not subject to cross-examination."  However, the Court made it clear that "our opinion today in no way precludes experts from relying on facts or data that are not independently admissible in evidence ‘[i]f the facts or data are a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the subject.’”

The Court also said that "[a]llowing qualified experts to testify as to the prevailing professional standard of care under section 766.102(1), Florida Statutes (2005), does not permit experts to conduct a survey of a myriad of other experts or colleagues to derive a consensus on the standard of care."

The dissenter said " the majority’s resolution of the issue . . . as it applies in the instant case to testimony about the standard of care. The very definition of standard of care in section 766.102(1), Florida Statutes (2005), requires proof of what is “recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” This obviously requires discussions with similar health care providers. Standard of care is a particularized requirement of medical malpractice litigation. The opinion in this case should be limited to the medical malpractice context and to specific issues which by their nature require knowledge by the expert of what others in a particular profession do under similar circumstances."

The case is Linn v. Fossum,  No. SC05-134   (Florida S.C.  Nov. 2, 2006).   Read the opinion here.