Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Part in Elevator Fall Case

Summary: Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness testimony allowed in part even though the defendant argued that while he has experience with commercial elevators, he does not have experience with residential elevators.

Facts:  This case (Voeltz v. Bridge Charleston Investments E LLC et al – United States District Court – District of South Carolina – April 12th, 2019) involves an injury involving an elevator.  The plaintiff, renter of a condominium in Folly Beach, California, was on the first floor of the property and opened an access door to the elevator.  The plaintiff stepped through the door and fell down the elevator shaft because the elevator was not at the floor.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant.  The plaintiff has hired Elevator & Escalator Expert Witness John Koshak to provide testimony.  Defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The defendant does not contest Koshak’s ability to opine on the presence of a design defect on an elevator.  The defendant does argue that Koshak should not opine on repairs of residential elevators since he lacks the qualifications in residential elevators, does not have data supporting his analysis, and that his opinions are impermissible legal conclusions.

The court notes that Koshak has worked in the elevator industry since 1977 and that his qualifications on elevator design and service are manifest.  The defendant argues that while Koshak has extensive commercial elevator experience, he has no qualifications with residential elevators or residential elevator maintenance.  The court opines that the defendant ignores experience that Koshak has in residential elevators.  In addition, the court opines that the defendant is impermissibly disaggregating these qualifications from Koshak’s demonstrated extensive qualification in the elevator field.  Also, the defendant’s arguments about Koshak not having requisite experience in maintenance and repair is again misplaced.  The court also opines that Koshak’s opinions are clearly based on knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education.

The defendant also argues that Koshak’s opinions about the defendant’s deviation from the standard of case are unreliable as he relied on an incorrect safety code.  The court opines that the defendant’s arguments are undercut by the fact that the defendant’s own elevator expert apples the same standards as Koshak.  Therefore, Koshask’s opinions are reliable and relevant.

Last, the defendant argues that Koshaks offers an alleged legal opinion that ASME A17.1 applies to the elevator under South Carolina law.  The court notes that Koshak implies in his testimony that the manner of use of the elevator in this case places it under coverage of the South Carolina Elevator Code.  The court opines that Koshak will be precluded from offering testimony that the South Carolina Elevator Code applies to the elevator at issue.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert testimony of John Koshak is granted in part and denied in part