Woodson, the Fifth District receded from a prior opinion in
Lake v. Clark to the extent
Lake held that with only very broad limits, all qualified expert opinion testimony
in a medical malpractice case is to be permitted, even if it is cumulative
to other evidence. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court
improperly limited the presentation of expert testimony to one expert
for standard of care and one expert for causation.
The Fifth District noted that as a general rule, the limitation of expert
witnesses is a matter of discretion for the trial court. The plaintiff
argued that based on the
Lake decision, medical malpractice cases present unique situations where it
is almost always improper to limit expert witness testimony based on cumulativeness.
The Fifth District in this case, however, found that there is no reason
to permit litigants in medical malpractice cases to have an almost unfettered
right to present cumulative expert witness testimony. The court further
noted that Fla. Stat. sections 90.612 and 90.403, and Fla. R. Civ. P.
1.200 afford the trial judge the ability to exercise control over the
presentation of evidence to avoid needless consumption of time and cumulative
evidence. None of the statutes or rules, however, create an exception
for medical malpractice cases, the Fifth District noted. The court consequently
found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it limited
the presentation of expert witnesses to one for standard of care and one
on causation. The court additionally noted that the trial court should
have notified the parties of its decision to impose restrictions on expert
testimony at a time earlier than on the eve of trial. Litigants are entitled
to fair notice of restrictions on expert testimony so that they may prepare
their case accordingly.