Last month, the Advisory Committee on Evidence of the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure voted to unanimously to recommend certain amendments to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert witness testimony. This vote signals imminent changes that could significantly affect federal practitioners’ requirements to demonstrate their experts’ reliability.
A proposed amendment to Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony in federal court, could clarify the evidentiary burden on proponents of expert testimony and a court’s role regarding its admissibility. Motions under Rule 702, frequently called Daubert motions after the Supreme Court’s opinion Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc., are used to limit or otherwise exclude an expert’s testimony to a jury. These motions are often critical to a case’s success, especially in fields that rely heavily on experts such as antitrust, product liability, toxic torts, and environmental litigation. An amendment to Rule 702 currently under consideration looks to clarify the proper evidentiary standard for such motions.
Federal Rule of Evidence 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony, was most recently amended in 2000 in response to Daubert and its progeny. In response to concerns about misapplication, the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Evidence has been considering whether Rule 702 is due for an update.
On July 11, 2017, the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction of a case in which it is expected to finally decide, conclusively, whether Florida courts are to apply the Frye or Daubert standard to determine admissibility of expert or scientific evidence.
The Frye standard, which was adopted in Florida in 1952, applies to expert testimony based upon new or novel scientific evidence. Under the Frye standard, “in order to introduce expert testimony deduced from a scientific principle or discovery, the principle or discovery ‘must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.’”