Architecture Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Slip and Fall Case

Architecture Expert Witness allowed to provide testimony as the court determined that he is qualified.

Facts:  This case (Pearson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Southern District of Mississippi – June 5th) involves a slip and fall.  The plaintiff argues that she slipped and fell in the parking lot owned by the defendant.  The plaintiff contends that drainpipes deposited rainwater and algae from the roof onto a pedestrian walkway, collected in the parking lot in front of the store exit and that the defendant should have known about this hazardous condition.  The plaintiff has hired Mark Williams (Architecture Expert Witness) to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: First, the defendant argues that Williams is not qualified to provide expert testimony about the growth, movement, or slipperiness of algae.  The court notes that Williams has a degree in architecture and has worked in a standard practice for over a decade before his joined his present company in 2002 as a forensic architect, where he provides expert testimony in litigation.

The court opines that the plaintiff has demonstrated that Williams is qualified to provide his proposed expert testimony in his report.  The court notes that one of an architect’s primary tasks is to anticipate how water will interact with a structure and design features to control that water and that roof and site drainage are key issues in every design and construction project.  The court opines that the defendant would like to sidestep this fact by attacking Williams’ credentials as an algae expert.  This argument, opines the court, goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

In addition, the defendant argues that Williams’ opinions are not reliable because they are not based on enough facts or data.  The court notes that Williams conducted a site inspection of the roof, the exterior porch, drain pipes, and the concrete sidewalk and asphalt drive.  He performed this inspection four years after the accident.  The court also notes that his inspection included recording measurements, taking photographs, and graphically documenting relevant site conditions.

The defendant argues that Williams does not have any evidence that algae or organic growth was on the roof at the time of the accident, or that water flowing from the roof could carry such algae to the sidewalk and parking lot.  The court opines that Williams’ lack of direct evidence about the conditions on the roof in 2014 is not enough to strike his testimony and that the plaintiff’s argument goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mark Williams is denied