Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after tripping and falling on a drainage hole.  Plaintiff hired an Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this testimony, which was denied by the court.

Facts:  This case (Thomas v. W & T Offshore Inc. – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana – August 27th, 2018) involves a slip and fall claim.  The plaintiff alleges that he tripped and fell after his boot became caught in a drainage hole while he was working as a galley hand aboard the Matterhorn Seastar, a tension leg platform.  The plaintiff claims that he suffered injuries to his left knee and lumbar spine.  The plaintiff hired Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness David Cole to provide testimony on his behalf.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Cole.

Discussion:  The defendant argues that Cole’s testimony should be excluded because he is not qualified to testify about safety regulations or standards for tension leg platforms.  Also, the defendants argue that Cole’s testimony ignores relevant deposition testimony, will not assist the trier of fact in resolving a factual dispute (as this is a trip and fall case), and his opinion is not factually supported.

The court opines that Cole worked in the U.S. Coast Guard until his retirement in 1987.  While at the Coast Guard, Cole’s work included examining oil field platforms for compliance with regulations and he has continued to work after his retirement.  Thus, the court opines, Cole is qualified to offer expert witness testimony in this case.

In addition, the court opines that Cole’s statements regarding whether the drain hole created a dangerous condition that would have been known or recognizable to a typical galley hand will be allowed.  The court continues by stating that Cole’s reasoning fits the facts of the case about whether the drain hole was n open and obvious condition.

In terms of whether Cole’s testimony would assist the trier of fact, the court again rules against the defendant.  The court opines that Cole is a maritime safety expert, and based his report on his experience and knowledge as well as his review of eleven documents.  The court also finds that Cole has used enough facts in his report and has based his opinion on his specialized knowledge of marine safety regulations.  The court continues by stating that any arguments on this issue are best addressed during cross-examination.

Last, the court opines that Cole’s report discusses the standard of care applicable to maritime safety and states that the defendant did not meet that standard of case.  The court continues by stating that Cole does not opine on the legal cause of the accident or on the ultimate issue of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of David Cole is denied.