Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness Allowed to Testify in Personal Injury Litigation

Summary:  Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness testimony allowed despite plaintiff’s argument that the escalator was not inspected by the expert.

Facts:  This case (Cabrera v. Macy’s Florida Stores, LLC – United States District Court – Southern District of Florida – November 29th, 2021) involves a personal injury claim whereas the plaintiff fell while riding an escalator at the defendant’s department store.  The plaintiff claims that she fell after there was a “violent shaking and/or jerking and/or vibration.”  In order to prove her case, the defendant hired Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness John Donnelly.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Donnelly.

Discussion: During a deposition, Mr. Donnelly stated that there was nothing wrong the the escalator and that it worked as designed.  The plaintiffs focus on Donnelly’s opinion on whether or not the escalator had a handrail speed monitoring device installed at the time of the accident.  Mr. Donnelly stated that it did.  The court explains that Mr. Donnelly did not inspect the escalator and that he was not aware of a service record that stated that a right handrail monitor was installed.

The plaintiffs argue that Mr. Donnelly’s expert witness testimony should be excluded because he is not qualified, his opinion is not sufficient because he did not inspect the escalator, his opinion is unreliable, and his opinions will not be of assistance to the trier of fact in this case.

The plaintiffs do not take issue with the educational background of Mr. Donnelly.  They claim that his is not qualified to offer an expert opinion in this case because he didn’t examine the escalator and that he has only testified as an expert in 3 other escalator cases.  The judge disagreed with the defendant, by stating that Mr. Donnelly is qualified to provide expert testimony in this case.

Regarding reliability, the court opined that Mr. Donnelly provided his expert opinion based on his experience in the industry and his review of documents associated with the case and that any arguments about reliability go to the weight of his opinion.  In addition, the court stated that the plaintiffs argument about the methodology used in Mr. Donnelly’s opinions without providing any meaningful analysis does not stand up.

Last, the court opined that Mr. Donnelly’s expert opinion will, in fact, assist the trier of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Mr. Donnelly is denied.