TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – The Florida Supreme Court has quashed an appellate court’s ruling in a mesothelioma case and recommended that a final judgment issued by a trial court be reinstated.
On Oct. 15, the Supreme Court concluded that the 4th District Court of Appeals decision was “inconsistent without case law” and rejected that court’s reasoning in an appeal filed by Richard DeLisle in his mesothelioma suit against Crane Co., et al.
DeLisle argued that the 4th District Court decision “expressly and directly conflicts with a decision of this court on a question of law,” the Supreme Court ruling stated.
In its ruling, the court rejected the 4th District’s adoption of the Daubert standard when it reviewed the admission of expert testimony, referring to the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Daubert v. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.
“With our decision today, we reaffirm that Frye, not Daubert, is the appropriate test in Florida courts,” the Supreme Court wrote.
The Frye standard set forth in Frye v. United States states that a court “must determine whether or not the method by which that evidence was obtained was generally accepted by experts in the particular field in which it belongs,” according to Cornell Law School.
A jury had awarded DeLisle $8 million in the initial trial. However, DeLisle sought a review of the 4th District Court of Appeals decision that ruled in favor of Crane Co. and other defendants. The 4th District reversed for a new trial for R.J. Reynolds and reversed and remanded for entry of a directed verdict for Crane, Lorillard Tobacco Co. DeLisle appealed this ruling.
According to the court’s ruling, DeLisle initially filed a personal injury action against 16 defendants, claiming that each caused him to be exposed to asbestos. DeLisle alleged negligence and strict liability under failure-to-warn and design-defect theories. DeLisle proceeded to trial only against Crane, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and Hollingsworth & Vose Co., according to the ruling.
DeLisle alleged that he was exposed to asbestos fibers from sheet gaskets while working at Brightwater Paper Co. between 1962 and 1966. He also testified that he smoked Original Kent cigarettes with asbestos-containing “Micronite” filters from 1952 to 1956.
A jury awarded DeLisle $8 million in damages and afterward Crane and H & V moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, judgment in accordance with their motions for directed verdict, a new trial, or, in the alternative, for a remittitur, the ruling states. The trial court denied the motions and awarded the $8 million final judgment to DeLisle.
“Crane appealed the trial court’s denial of its motions for directed verdict and judgment notwithstanding the verdict and the trial court’s admission of expert causation testimony among other issues. R.J. Reynolds also appealed the admission of expert testimony and both parties appealed the award as excessive,” the ruling states.
Justice Charles Canady dissented with the majority ruling, stated that he recommended that the case be discharged.
“If DeLisle had made an argument to the district court challenging the constitutionality of amended section 90.702, the district court most likely would have addressed that argument in its opinion. And then—depending on the district court’s ruling—this court would have had either mandatory jurisdiction based on a declaration of invalidity, or discretionary jurisdiction based on a declaration of validity. Yet for some reason, such an argument was not presented to the district court,” Canady wrote. “Parties every day make choices in litigating cases that limit their options for review. And parties ordinarily must live with the choices they make. This court should not rescue a party from a poor choice by exercising jurisdiction where none exists.”
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