The Delaware Supreme Court rejected a civil engineer's opinion on the causation of slippery conditions in a slip and fall personal injury case because he was not a meteorological expert.
The court acted as a gatekeeper, determining the qualification and reliability of the expert witness's opinion.
The court ruled that the civil engineer was not qualified to render an opinion about the causation of slippery conditions by weather-related factors.
A forensic meteorological expert was deemed essential given the complexity of weather-related conditions and events that may have caused the hazardous conditions.
During a recent slip and fall personal injury case, Richard v. Faw, Casson & Co., LLP, the Delaware Supreme Court struck the plaintiff’s civil engineer opinion of the causation of slippery conditions because he is not a meteorological expert.
The case involved the Plaintiff, Mrs. Richards, falling on an icy walkway. She filed a complaint alleging negligence and seeking damages for her injuries. Plaintiff’s counsel retained a civil engineer to opine on the causation of slippery conditions by weather-related factors at the time of the fall.
When an expert witness offers an opinion, the court must act as a gatekeeper and determine whether the expert is qualified to render the opinion and whether the testimony has a reliable basis in the relevant subject matter. An expert witness must provide opinions to a reasonable degree of probability or certainty to be considered qualified by the court.
The court ruled that the plaintiff’s expert was not qualified to render such an opinion because he was not a meteorologist. The court also found the expert’s opinion was speculative and failed to state the opinion to a reasonable degree of probability.
Whether a meteorological expert is required is fact-dependent. In this case, multiple weather-related conditions and events, closely simultaneous to one another, may have contributed to the hazardous conditions in question. A meteorology expert was the only expert who could have opined on the specific weather-related factors in this case.
AccuWeather Forensics has a team of highly qualified experts with Certified Consulting Meteorologists (CCMs) designations and a PhD in meteorology, who can fill a critical need such as the case discussed here. Our team would be happy to discuss your case and needs. There is no fee for the initial phone consultation.
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