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At first blush you may think that this article is about a small, albeit ugly armored animal and you would be justified in doing so. After all, the name Armadillo Partners conjures up a mental image of a corporate holding of armadillos, presumably for sale. Such would not be the case however. In fact, this article is about an arbor area and trees located at a shopping center called Armadillo Square in Broward County, Florida.

The Department of Transportation initiated eminent domain proceedings to acquire certain property along Griffin Road for purposes of a road widening project. Parking spaces were lost. In an effort to replace the lost parking, an arbor area was taken and replaced with parking spaces. That is all fine and good, it happens all the time. However, in this instance, the appraiser for the Department of Transportation did not include the value of the arbor area in his assessment. Horrors to be sure!

Goodbye Frye: The Frye test holds that expert testimony is admissible only if the scientific principle or method is generally accepted in its particular field. It ensures that only methods that are competent are heard by the trier of fact. Expert testimony is not competent and therefore inadmissible if it is essentially speculative and conjectural. But in Armadillo the court held that the failure of an expert to consider one of many factors in determining compensation goes to the weight of this testimony, and not to his competency to testify. Yikes!

The Florida Supreme Court created a new standard for expert testimony in eminent domain by parting from Frye. Expert testimony is admissible unless the method used by the expert is totally inadequate or improper and would depart from all common sense and reason or would require adoption of a new and totally unauthenticated formula. The judge is no longer gatekeeper of evidence regarding the competency of the expert's methodology.

Of course, Armadillo regards Eminent Domain actions. Civil and Criminal actions return to the standards held by Frye or Daubert.

My best to you; now go forth and testify...

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Joe Samnik, is an Arborist Certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. Mr. Samnik has over 46 years of practice encompassing tree issues, arboreal and horticultural consulting, dispute resolution, tree and plant appraisals and expert witness in tree and landscape issues.

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