Accident Reconstruction & Safety Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in Slip & Fall Litigation

Summary: Accident Reconstruction & Safety Expert Witness not allowed to testify even though the plaintiff argued that Kroger’s argument that Balian’s opinion was general knowledge should be brought up at cross-examination.

Facts:  This case (Sutton v. Kroger Co. – United States District Court – Eastern District of Tennessee – July 28th, 2022) involves a personal injury claim.  The plaintiff, Robin Sutton, alleges that she fell outside the defendant’s store, slipping on ice and landing on her right side.  Sutton states that, as a result of the fall, she lost consciousness and suffered a closed head injury.  Sutton filed suit against the defendant, claiming that it had a duty to maintain the premises in a safe condition by removing harmful conditions.  She states that Kroger allowed ice to accumulate near the gas pumps, which created a dangerous condition causing her to fall and sustain injuries.  The plaintiff hired  Alex J. Balian to testify on her behalf.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: Balian is a retail industry consultant whose expertise includes inspection procedures, store maintenance, as well as general store safety procedures.  Kroger maintains that Balian’s expert witness testimony should be excluded under Daubert because his scientific and technical knowledge is not helpful to the trier of fact in this case.  In addition, Kroger states that Balian does not provide an expert opinion that is outside the general knowledge of a juror and that Bailian’s only statement was that the defendant knew of the problem and did not fix it.   The plaintiff argues that these arguments are better suited for a motion in limine or at cross-examination.

The court opines that Balian’s expert witness testimony is not helpful to the trier of fact in this case as they do not exceed the bounds of common knowledge.  In addition, the court notes that a juror is capable of understanding the overall issues that led to to Sutton’s fall.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Alex J. Balian is granted and Balian will not be allowed to testify in this case.