Strengthening Expert Witness Standards in Florida Lawsuits

Governor Rick Scott has signed two controversial bills.

They both strengthen expert-witness standards in lawsuits.

These bills were already being discussed in Tallahassee when a child abuse case in Bay County raised a few eyebrows about using expert witnesses

Back in March John Lloyd testified as an expert witness in the case of Timothy Foxorth who was convicted of causing brain damage in his ten week old son.

Now Lloyd is charged with lying about his credentials.

"He wasn't an expert,” said State Attorney Glenn Hess. “What we had was a phony and a defense attorney who had the witness until the last minute. Then we couldn't investigate."

Both bills Scott has signed strengthen the standards of expert-witness called to testify.

The "expert testimony" legislation adopts the federal standard known as "Daubert".

This means an expert must prove his qualifications to a judge and peer review.

"Now they'll be able to clog up the courts with hearings on expert witnesses and opinion testimony," Hess said.

Florida has followed the "Frye" standard for the past 90 years, which allowed a person to testify if it was generally accepted science.

The second bill is called "Medical Negligence Actions."

"It's going to be much more difficult for plaintiffs, the injuries people, to bring their cases in court against the doctors who may be accused of malpractice," said Wes Pittman, a personal injury lawyer.

It requires that expert witnesses can only testify in medical malpractice cases if they have specialized in the same field.

Those in health care say this is just common sense.

Two local doctors were involved in lobbying for the bill, but we were not able to get them on camera.

The new laws will go into effect July 1.

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