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In Taylor v. Culver, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D2654a (Fla. 1st DCA Dec. 1, 2015), Culver sued after a low-speed auto accident. At trial, Taylor sought to elicit testimony related to disputed issues concerning velocity and the directionality of forces involved in the accident and, thus, to the issue of causation. The trial court ruled that the testimony was inadmissible.

On appeal, the 1st DCA reversed the trial court's decision and held that expert biomedical testimony was relevant to several issues. In its opinion, the appellate court stated that a fundamental cornerstone for any admissibility analysis is that all relevant evidence is proper except as provided by law. While relevant evidence may be inadmissible where its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, a trial court has no discretion or authority to exclude relevant evidence that is not unfairly prejudicial.



 

This summary was prepared by David Rissman of our firm.


David Rissman

 

 

40 Fla. L. Weekly D2654a

 

Torts -- Automobile accident -- Evidence -- Trial court abused discretion in excluding testimony of expert biomedical engineer where proffered testimony was relevant to disputed issues concerning velocity and directional forces involved in accident, and thus, to issue of causation

JOHN LEE TAYLOR, Appellant, v. SEKETA CULVER, Appellee. 1st District. Case No. 1D14-4444. Opinion filed December 1, 2015. An appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Hugh A. Carithers, Judge. Counsel: Angela C. Flowers of Kubicki Draper, P.A., Ocala, for Appellant. Jessie L. Harrell of Creed & Gowdy, P.A., Jacksonville, for Appellee.

(SWANSON, J.) In this personal injury action arising from a low-impact automobile collision, Appellant first asserts the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of his expert biomedical engineer where the testimony was relevant to material issues of fact and to refute the testimony of Appellee's own biomedical engineering expert. Secondly, Appellant argues a new trial is required due to improper argument during opening and closing arguments. We conclude the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony of Appellant's expert witness in biomedical engineering. See Council v. State, 98 So. 3d 115, 116 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012). This determination obviates the need to address Point II.

A trial court's decision to admit or exclude expert testimony is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. Angrand v. Key, 657 So. 2d 1146, 1148 (Fla. 1995). The boundaries of a trial court's discretion to admit or exclude evidence are confined by Florida's evidence code and controlling case law. Council, 98 So. 3d at 117. A fundamental cornerstone for analysis is that all relevant evidence is admissible, except as provided by law. § 90.402, Fla. Stat. (2014). While relevant evidence may be inadmissible where its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, see section 90.403, Florida Statutes (2014), where relevant evidence is not unfairly prejudicial the trial court has no discretion or authority to exclude it. Special v. W. Boca Med. Ctr., 160 So. 3d 1251, 1259 (Fla. 2014).

In this instance, our decision in Council provided controlling Florida case law to support the conclusion that the proffered testimony of Appellant's biomechanics expert was relevant to the disputed issues concerning velocity and the directionality of forces involved in the accident, and thus, to the issue of causation. The trial court in this case was aware of this binding precedent but inexplicably elected to discount and discard its authority. This was a clear abuse of discretion.

Accordingly, the final judgment entered in favor of Appellee is reversed and the cause of action is remanded for a new trial.

REVERSED and REMANDED. (MAKAR and BILBREY, JJ., CONCUR.)







 



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