Architecture Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Retail Personal Injury Case

Summary:  Architecture Expert Witness testimony is allowed despite the fact that the defendant argued that his opinion was based on inaccurate data because he did not examine the display boxes at issue in this case.

Facts:  This case (Ellen Boccio v. Costco Wholesale Corporation – United States District Court – Southern District of New York – March 30th, 2022) involves a personal injury claim.  Plaintiff Boccio alleges that she was in the Defendant’s store and when she approached the section of Christmas cards on display, several of the boxed which stored the Christmas cards fell on her , which caused her to fall on her back and buttocks to the ground.  As a result, Boccio claims that she broke her lumbar vertebra.  Boccio then filed a lawsuit claiming negligence towards Costco.  In order to prove her case, Boccio hired Architecture Expert Witnesses Frederick G. Bremer to provide expert witness testimony.  Costco filed a motion to preclude Bremer from testifying.

Discussion:  Coscto argues that Bremer’s experience as a licensed architect disqualifies him to opine on retail displays.  Boccio states that Bremer’s experiences should allow him to provide his expert opinions on this case.  The court concludes that Bremer is qualified to offer an opinion on retail space and design.  The court states that he has been an architect for over 34 years and has designed retail spaces. In addition, the court notes that Bremer has worked for numerous retail grocery store chains and has worked on several projects for retail establishments.  Thus, the court concludes that Bremer is qualified to testify about what display design opinions could have been made to prevent or minimize Boccio’s injuries. The court does note, however, that it has not concluded that Bremer will be able to opine on the specific cause of Boccio’s injuries.

Coscto also argues that Bremer’s opinion is unreliable because it is not based on accurate facts or data.  Boccio states that Bremer couldn’t examine the display boxes because they no longer existed and that Costo is no longer in possession of the video that depicted the actual event.  The court notes that Bremer based his opinions on a review of the documents in the case, codes, and industry standards as well as his education and training.  The court opined that the lack of video evidence prevented him from performing a proper examination of the accident materials.  The court also noted that any other challenges as to the reliability of Bremer’s expert opinions should go to the weight of the testimony, not the admissibility.

In addition, the court opines that Bremer’s expert report contains some inadmissible conclusions of law.  However, there are numerous factual assertions and conclusions which were founded on his experience in the retail design industry.  These opinions will assist the trier of fact in this case and will be admissible.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Frederick G. Bremer is denied.