Architecture Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part.

Plaintiff filed suit against defendant related to a premises liability claim.  Plaintiff hired an Architecture Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion in part and granted it in part.

Facts:  This case (Munoz v. Menard, Inc. – United States District Court – Northern District of Illinois – July 9th, 2019) involves a premises liability claim.  The plaintiff alleges that he was injured when an automatic sliding door at one of the defendant’s stores malfunctioned.  The plaintiff hired Architecture Expert Witness Lee E. Martin to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant does not challenge Martin’s qualifications as an architect, but does object to the reliability of his methodology and relevance of his testimony.

First, the defendant argues that Martin is attempting to instruct the jury that the codes and standards he cites in his report are “the legal standard in Illinois.”  The plaintiff maintains that they are guiding principles.  The court opines that at this juncture, it will not exclude Martin’s testimony about industry codes or standards establishing safety guidelines for automatic doors.  The court further opines that the defendant can bring up this argument at cross examination.

The court also opines that it will exclude Martin’s testimony that the defendant was not exercising proper care in maintaining, operating, or servicing the automatic doors or that any act or omission by the defendant breached a duty of care or caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Also, the defendant alleges that Martin invades the province of the jury when he offers improper legal conclusion that the defendant’s  “failure…to maintain the automatic horizontal sliding doors in a safe condition violated the standard of care for automatic door operation and maintenance and created the dangerous condition that was the cause of” the defendant’s injury.  The court opines that Martin will be barred from offering legal conclusions.   Thus, Martin will not be allowed to testify that any failure to properly maintain, operate, or service the doors breached a duty of care or caused the defendant’s injury.

In addition, the defendant argues that Martin’s opinion that the sensor in the automatic doors was defective is speculative, unreliable, and not helpful to the jury.  The defendant argues that Martin did not inspect the doors or the sensor, nor did he conduct any tests or collect independent data to determine whether the sensor was defective.  The court notes that Martin formed his opinion by watching a video of the incident and reviewing service records, court papers, and transcripts.

The court opines that Martin is barred from testifying that the automatic doors were defective at the time of the incident.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Lee E. Martin is granted in part and denied in part.