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Expert Opinion Testimony and the Standard of Appellate Review

Previously, I discussed expert opinion testimony and the Daubert gatekeeping test employed by trial courts to determine the admissibility of the expert testimony. But, there is much more to expert opinion testimony.  An expert witness is NOT allowed to serve as a conduit for inadmissible hearsay so that a party is using an expert witness to simply get in testimony/evidence that is otherwise inadmissible. Doctors Co. v. State, Dept. of Ins., 940 So.2d 466, 470 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006) (“The rule is well established that if an expert is called merely as a conduit to place inadmissible evidence before the jury, the trial...

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Expert Opinion Testimony and Understanding Daubert’s Gatekeeping Test

Expert opinion testimony is an important aspect of complex civil litigation. Expert testimony assists in proving or disproving liability and damages. A credible and persuasive expert can make the difference in a case and retaining experts, generating expert opinions, and the manner in which expert opinions are presented should not be taken lightly. Regarding expert testimony, Florida Statute s. 90.702 provides: “If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about it in...

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Useful Maps Explaining Florida’s Judicial System

A picture is worth 1,000 words.  This is true.   Therefore, the best way to describe Florida's judicial system is through pictures in the form of maps:   FLORIDA COUNTIES   For more information on Florida counties, take a look at the useful maps that will tell you the cities located within each county.   FLORIDA JUDICIAL (TRIAL COURT) CIRCUITS   For more information on Florida's judicial (trial court) circuits, take a look at this map and the corresponding links to the judicial circuits.   FLORIDA APPELLATE CIRCUITS   For more information on Florida's appellate districts, take a look at this useful map that will identify the judicial (trial court) circuit and counties that...

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Verdict Forms (General or Special) and the Two-Issue Rule

I previously discussed the importance of jury instructions and the jury instruction conference. Now, I want to discuss the importance of the verdict form. This is the form the jury fills out during its deliberation that identifies the associated liability and damages it determines. There are 2 types of verdict forms used. A general verdict form is a relatively simple form that is easy to prepare and asks the jury to determine whether it believes the defendant is liable and, if so, the damages the defendant owes the plaintiff.   This is the type of form a plaintiff oftentimes wants. A special interrogatory verdict...

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Preparing Jury Instructions and the Standard of Review in Appealing Jury Instructions

Jury instructions are a vital component of any jury trial. These are the instructions that the trial judge reads to a jury explaining the elements of the plaintiff’s causes of action against the defendant, the defendant’s defenses, the required burden of proof, how to weigh the evidence, etc. There are jury instructions that are considered Florida standard jury instructions. But, outside of these standard jury instructions, there is a great deal of discretion in preparing and presenting jury instructions in civil trials as long as the instructions accurately reflect the law and are not misleading to the jury. Typically, each party...

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Appealing the Granting or Denying of a Party’s Peremptory Challenge(s)

  Previously, I discussed the basics regarding peremptory challenges. What if the court grants or denies a peremptory challenge and a party wants to appeal that ruling at the conclusion of the trial? A party will want to potentially appeal if (a) a party challenges its opponent's use of a peremptory challenge arguing that the opponent wants to strike a juror for a racially motivated basis and the court still grants / sustains the peremptory challenge or, alternatively, (b) a party challenges its opponent's use of a peremptory challenge arguing that the opponent wants to strike a juror for a racially motivated basis and...

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Civil Jury Trials and the Basics of Peremptory and Cause Juror Challenges

Civil jury trials in a Florida state court require 6 jurors. See Fla.Stat. s. 69.071. The court also generally directs for 1 or 2 alternate jurors to be selected. See Fla.R.Civ.P. 1.431(g). During jury selection in civil trials, or the voir dire process, parties have peremptory challenges and challenges for cause that are used to strike a prospective juror(s) from being sworn on the jury panel.   These challenges are a very important component of the jury trial process designed to not only prevent biased or partial jurors from being sworn to the jury panel (challenges for cause), but to allow a party to strike...

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Satisfying the Burden of Proof by a “Greater Weight of the Evidence”

  The burden of proof (or burden of persuasion) in a civil case is NOT the same “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden that the government has in convicting a criminal defendant.   The burden of proof in a civil case is a much lesser burden. Rather, the burden of proof in a civil case is often referred to as the burden to prove YOUR case by a “preponderance of the evidence” now known as the “greater weight of the evidence.” It is this “greater weight of the evidence” burden of proof that a jury will be instructed upon. The jury will be instructed that it is...

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The Burden to Establish Petitions for Writs of Certiorari (“Cert”)

What is a petition for a writ of certiorari (or “cert,” for short)? A petition for a writ of cert is when a petitioner wants to appeal a non-final order (e.g., an interlocutory order that does not finally dispose of the dispute such as a final adverse judgment against the petitioner) issued by the trial court when there is no direct right to appeal that non-final order. In order for an appellate court to entertain a petition for a writ of cert, the petitioner MUST establish that (a) the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law and (b) this...

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Abuse of Discretion Standard of Review for Trial Court Granting or Denying New Trial

Previously, I discussed the de novo appellate standard of review relating to a summary judgment. Now, I’d like to discuss the appellate standard of review when a trial judge grants or denies a motion for a new trial. This means there was a trial. There was a presumed winner and there was a presumed loser. The presumed loser, by way of example, moved for a new trial with the trial court and that motion was either (a) granted by the trial court prompting the presumed winner to appeal the trial court’s granting of a new trial, or (b) denied by the...

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