Experts, Divorce and the New Rule Change

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, May 12, 2014.

We increasingly rely on experts in divorce trials. Most of my cases involve accountants, psychologists, or some other expert. Few people realize the expert witness rule dramatically changed recently.

I blogged about this rule change before, and have an article in the Florida Bar Commentator which deals with the issues in depth. One big question has to do with the way the rule was amended.

Under our constitution, the legislature can enact substantive law, but can’t pass procedural laws for the courtroom, or a separation of powers violation occurs. Many people have said the new expert rule change violates the Constitution.

For instance, the Florida Supreme Court recently refused to adopt the legislative changes to the newly created section 766.102(12), Florida Statutes, to the extent the high court saw them as procedural.

However, the Third District Court of Appeals just approved of the new statute in a case. A child, through his mother, sued her employer for her son’s premature birth and related health problems due to workplace stress.

The mother’s expert witness said that workplace stress caused the early delivery of her son with medical consequences, but the trial judge struck the expert’s testimony.

The Third District Court of Appeals upheld the Miami judge’s decision. The court noted that the statutory change requires all Florida courts to apply the new rule to all expert testimony, to apply it retroactively in pending cases, but did not discuss the possible constitutional controversy.

The Third District now joins the First District Court of Appeals in applying the new expert witness rule in pending cases.

The Third District Case can be read here.