Summary: An Architect Liability Expert Witness was not allowed to testify regarding damages caused by a fall because of flawed methodology to determine faults in infrastructure.
Facts: This Case John W. Robinson v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc, Case No. 20-946 Section “G” (United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana) involves a dispute over details of injuries following a fall. The Plaintiff claims that upon leaving an American Multi-Cinema (AMC) movie theater, his foot was stuck on a bicycle rack causing him to sustain injuries. At the time of the incident, Robinson argues that a bench was blocking his view of a bicycle rack which led to him falling and injuring his back and shoulder. The Plaintiff believes that AMC should be held liable for his injuries because the company lacked awareness that blocking a bicycle rack with a bench will inevitably lead to harm. From the damages caused by the fall, John W. Robinson opines that his life would not be the same following the incident in terms of lost income, medical expenses, pain, and permanent wounds. With the help of Architect Liability Expert Witness Ladd Ehlinger, a damages report was made to showcase the effects of the fall. American Multi-Cinema filed a motion to limine the Plaintiff’s Expert Witness testimony.
Discussion: AMC argued Plaintiff’s Architect Liability Expert Witness Ladd Ehlinger was unqualified, especially in his published report. In the first conclusion within the report, Ehlinger focused on vision and its role in maintaining a safe environment to walk through. He relied on scientific methods as support with specifics on how far the average person can see as well as the need for visual cues such as signs or lights to indicate a hazard such as a bench in front of a bicycle rack. AMC opined that this part of the report lacked evidence from valid sources and was based on outdated information from Ehlinger’s college classes. Additionally, AMC argued that Ehlinger does not have qualifications in human factors such as how vision interacts with the environment because he is not a medical professional. Because of the flawed methodology, AMC urged the court to exclude the first conclusion in Ehlinger’s report. The Plaintiff disagreed.
The Plaintiff offered an alternative opinion that Ehlinger is qualified to testify on human factors. His background in architecture and various licenses across the United States were used as counters to the Defendant’s claims. Beyond Ehlinger’s qualifications in proper architectural designs, the Plaintiff continued discussion by noting that the Architectural Liability Expert Witness’ opinion is reliable. In regards to the claim of invalid resources for evidence, the Plaintiff emphasized that a website seen within the report which was seen as irrelevant by AMC was only attached to inform the court about peripheral vision and not to act as a tool in his methodology. Ehlinger’s reliability and his relation to not being a human factors expert was further proved through analysis of Ehlinger’s claims. The Plaintiff emphasized that Ehlinger’s argument was not written in the way of a Human Factors Expert Witness because Ehlinger pointed out missing indications of a hazard to clearly show the bicycle rack behind the bench, as opposed to how well indicators worked.
AMC replied again and continued the argument that Ehlinger should not be allowed to testify regarding whether the company should be liable for Robinson’s injuries. Although Ehlinger does not regard himself as a human factors expert, American Multi-Cinema opined that Ehlinger should not be allowed to speak on issues related to the field due to overlaps in his argument with other areas of expertise that he has no qualifications in. Additionally, AMC reaffirmed that the Plaintiff’s Architectural Liability Expert Witness first conclusion in the published report is unreliable. AMC highlighted that evidence used within the report lacks any form of testing, peer review, or any repeatable techniques to prove one solidified point. Lastly, Ehlinger’s conclusion is also irrelevant because it assumed the jury agreed that a warning for the bench was a necessity to prevent injury. The court ultimately agreed with AMC and the first conclusion in the report was excluded from Ehlinger’s testimony.
Conclusion: The Court Granted American Multi-Cinema’s motion to exclude Ladd Ehlinger’s first conclusion in the damages report due to flawed methodology related to the necessity of a warning for a potential hazard.