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Florida Fourth DCA rules that expert testimony from accident reconstruction expert drawing inferences about intoxication based on driving behavior was inadmissible under Daubert standard

On October 2, 2019, in Mastec North America, Inc. v. Morakis, No. 4D18-1321, the Florida Fourth DCA reversed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a motor vehicle negligence case, ruling that that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert to give testimony that could have been interpreted as related to whether the plaintiff was impaired prior to or at the time of impact. Specifically, the plaintiff’s expert opined that if the plaintiff had been impaired, he would have been “all over the roadway maybe up on the sidewalk jumping the curbs or something like that or if it was bad enough he would have been completely incapable of riding the bicycle and laying on the ground next to his bicycle in the road.” The Fourth DCA noted that the expert could not say for how long the plaintiff was positioned that way, how he got to be in that position, where he came from, and what he was doing before the moment of impact. The Court accordingly found that the expert did not have sufficient information to opine that the plaintiff’s normal faculties were not impaired. The Fourth DCA additionally concluded that the trial court erred in directing a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor on the statutory defense barring a plaintiff recovery if alcohol impairment caused him to be more than 50% at fault for his injuries. The Court quoted its previous decision in Pearce v. Deschesne, 932 So. 2d 640, 642 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006): “only in the rare case when there is simply no factual dispute as to apportionment of negligence, does the trial judge have the authority to make a ruling on the issue as a matter of law.”

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