Senate revamps expert witness bill

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The Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday amended a bill that would change standards for expert-witness testimony in lawsuits, dealing a blow to business groups that have lobbied for the bill. Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who proposed the amendment, said he was concerned that the original version of the bill (SB 378) could force judges to conduct lengthy hearings to determine whether expert testimony would be allowed in cases. “It’s a tremendous waste of money, and it doesn’t do justice,” said Simmons, an attorney. “It doesn’t do the right thing.” But bill sponsor Garrett Richter, R-Naples, described the amendment as a “Trojan horse” that would effectively keep a current legal standard. Richter and business groups want Florida courts to use a tougher standard, known as the “Daubert” standard, which also is used in federal courts. Simmons’ amendment would allow expert testimony, in part, if the principles or methods involved “are generally accepted by the relevant expert community.” While business groups say the stiffer standard is needed to prevent “junk science” from entering cases, prosecutors and trial lawyers have opposed the Richter bill. Gainesville-based State Attorney Bill Cervone said he is concerned the original proposal could create litigation about basic issues such as fingerprint evidence. The House last week approved a bill (HB 243) that mirrors the original Richter proposal.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.