Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed in Slip & Fall Case

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant after a slip and fall.  Plaintiff hired an Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Lewis v. Marquette Transportation Company, LLC, et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Louisiana –  April 11th, 2019) comes forth from injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiff when he slipped and fell on the deck of the M/V Steve Richoux, which is owned and operated by the defendant.  The plaintiff alleges that the surface of the deck was not safe because it was not properly coded with non-skid.  The plaintiff seeks damages under the Jones Act for the defendant’s alleged negligence and under general maritime law for unseaworthiness.  The plaintiff has hired Admiralty & Maritime Expert Witness Robert Borison to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant claims that Borison does not have the expertise to offer opinions on physics and biomechanics.  In addition, the defendant contends that Borison’s opinions about the conditions of this slip and fall lie within the common knowledge of laypersons and will not be helpful in assisting the trier of fact in this case.  Also, the defendant states that Borison’s testimony is not reliable because he bases his opinion on the plaintiff’s testimony that the deck did not have a non-skid surface.  This opinion, the defendants state, contradicts other crewmembers’ testimony.  The defendants.  Last, the defendant claims that Borison’s testimony is not reliable because his opinions are not supported by testing and do not address alternative causes.

The court notes that Borison’s curriculum vitae shows that he has forty years of experience in the maritime industry, which includes six years as a safety representative of Amerada Hess Corporation and sixteen years as a safety supervisor at McDermott, Inc.  The court opines that experience in physics and biomechanics is not required for Borison to provide an expert opinion of the safety standards applicable in the maritime industry.

The court opines, however, that Borison cites only to general statements from the Responsible Carrier Program and Code of Federal Regulations he says inform his opinions.  The court notes that these opinions fall within the domain of common sense matters, of which the jury requires no expert assistance.

In addition, certain of Borison’s opinions are based on facts gathered years after the accident, without accounting for how conditions might have changed in the intervening years.  Thus, his inspection of the deck surface two years after the accident is not reliable.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Robert Borison is granted.