SW Legal studies in Business

Objection to Scientific Evidence Rejected Despite Failure to Conduct Frye Hearing at Trial
Description Appeals court held that a trial court did not commit an error by failing to conduct a Frye hearing regarding the competence of the science on which an expert presented testimony at trial. Since the expert's testimony was clearly based on standard science, failure to conduct a Frye hearing did not affect the outcome of the case.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Expert Testimony; Frye Hearing
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Paulette Ferayorni was killed in a car accident in which she was not using her seatbelt system properly. She did not have on the lap belt, but there was a "passive" shoulder belt that she had tucked under her arm rather than have over her shoulder. Expert testimony at trial was given that Hyundai, the car maker, was aware that in such instances the shoulder belt could contribute to death. Plaintiffs argued that the design was defective and that there was not adequate warning to drivers of the dangers of not using the seat belt properly. Paulette's parents were awarded $3 million. After a series of complicated appeals and motions, Hyundai appealed on the basis that the trial court should have conducted a Frye hearing regarding the competence of the expert testimony.

"To be admissible in Florida courts, an expert's opinion relating to matters involving novel scientific evidence must be based on a scientific principle or discovery that is ‘sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.' The principal inquiry under the Frye test [established by the Supreme Court in the Frye case] is whether the scientific theory or discovery from which an expert derives an opinion is reliable. Overall, the burden is on the proponent of the evidence to prove the general acceptance of both the underlying scientific principle and the testing procedures used to apply that principle to the facts of the case at hand." Hyundai did not ask the judge to conduct a Frye hearing as to the underlying science that was the basis of the plaintiff's expert testimony. Since the expert did not present improper testimony, it is allowed to stand and the case will not be overturned for failure to conduct a Frye hearing.

Citation Hyundai Motor Co. v. Ferayorni, 795 So.2d 126 (Dict. Ct. App., Fla., 2001)

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