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Horton, Inc. – Jacksonville v. Heron’s Landing Condo. Assoc. of
Jacksonville, Inc., 2018 WL 6803698 (Fla. 1st DCA Dec. 27,
2018), the District Court of Appeals of Florida, affirmed the trial court’s
decision to allow expert testimony related to construction defects, even though
the testimony was admitted pursuant to the Daubert standard, rather than
the Frye standard. The Court held
the expert’s opinion was admissible under both Daubert and Frye.
Condominium Association (Heron’s Landing) sued D.R. Horton, Inc. (“D.R.
Horton”), the developer and general contractor of Heron’s Landing, alleging
various construction defects, including, but not limited to, defective stucco
application. D.R. Horton sought to
preclude testimony from Heron’s Landing’s experts “on the grounds the testimony
was inherently unreliable and based on improper extrapolation.” The trial court analyzed the motion pursuant
to Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and
found the methodology used by Heron’s Landing’s experts “was scientifically
reliable, had been peer-reviewed, had been developed by people in the industry,
and was generally accepted in the scientific community,” and therefore allowed
The jury found
D.R. Horton was negligent and awarded Heron’s Landing $9.6 million. D.R. Horton
appealed and argued the case should be remanded because the trial court
erroneously admitted the testimony of Heron’s Landing’s experts.
The District Court
of Appeals noted that in 2013 the Florida Legislature adopted the evidentiary
standard set forth in Daubert. The
Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion in DeLisle v. Crane Co., 2018 WL
5075302 (Fla. Oct. 15, 2018), rejecting the Daubert standard, however,
in favor of Frye. The Florida
Supreme Court ruled that “while both Daubert and Frye purport to
provide a trial judge with the tools necessary to ensure that only reliable
evidence is presented to the jury, Frye relies on the scientific
community to determine reliability, whereas Daubert relies on the
scientific savvy of trial judges to determine the significance of the
methodology used.” The Florida Supreme Court concluded Frye was the
appropriate standard to be applied.
Court of Appeals then considered whether the expert testimony was admissible
pursuant to Daubert or Frye standards. The Court noted the two standards are
significantly different. Under Frye,
the courts are to allow expert testimony that is based upon generally accepted
scientific standards. Under Daubert, the courts are to allow expert
testimony that is based upon sufficient data and reliable principles and
methods. In considering this
distinction, the District Court of Appeals found that Frye would not
impact the vast majority of cases, including this case, because most experts’
opinions are not based on new or novel scientific principles and therefore the
opinions are admissible.
The District Court of Appeals noted it was important the trial court found that the experts used a scientifically reliable and peer-reviewed methodology that was the industry standard. Given this, the Court concluded no further Frye analysis was necessary and upheld the trial court’s ruling.