Scott sides with biz groups over trial lawyers in expert witness fightby John Kennedy | June 5th, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Wednesday a pair of lawsuit-limiting measures long-sought by business leaders but opposed by Democratic-allied trial lawyers.
Both bills increase the standard for expert witnesses called to testify in cases. One measure (HB 7015) signed by Scott requires Florida courts to use the same, three-part test used in the federal system to determine whether a witness called to testify can be considered an “expert” in a field.
The other bill (SB 1792) requires a doctor called to testify as an expert must practice in the same specialty as the health care provider against whom the lawsuit was filed.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce hailed the changes.
“This is an important step forward in improving Florida’s legal climate and making our state more competitive,” said Dave Hart, a chamber vice-president. “These improvements…will provide predictability in our state’s courtrooms and create stability for our businesses and entrepreneurs, so they can grow their workforce and take us down the road toward economic prosperity.”
The Florida Justice Association didn’t see it that way. Singling out the new, three-part test requirement, executive director Debra Henley said the change will cost businesses and individuals more in legal fees and other expenses tied to finding experts.
“Trials will be won not on the grounds of who has the strongest case, but rather who has the largest bank account,” Henley said.
She added, “The new law overburdens our already strained justice system. Because of this law, cases will be more
expensive and the process of seeking justice will take longer. There was not a need for this legislation as it did not create jobs and actually harms small business.”