Fire Expert Witness Testimony Allowed

Plaintiff filed suit against the defendant related to a hotel fire.  The plaintiff hired a Fire Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court denied the motion to exclude.

Facts:  This case (AmGuard Insurance Company v. Fire Systems of Michigan, Inc. et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan – July 31st, 2019) involves a fire that occurred at a hotel.  The plaintiff insurance company has filed this lawsuit against the defendant claiming that they were negligent in the installation and maintenance  of a chemical fire suppression system in the kitchen of the hotel’s restaurant.  The plaintiff hired Thomas Kropf (Fire Expert Witness) to provide testimony.  The defendant has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  The court notes that Mr. Kropf personally examined the hotel and relied on fire investigation guidelines which were established by the National Fire Protection Association 921 (“NFPA 921”).  The defendant’s challenge relates to Mr. Kropf’s alleged failure to comply with the scientific method which is required by NFPA 921.  The defendant states that Mr. Kropf did not test his hypothesis and disprove all other hypotheses for the cause of the fire.

The court states that an expert witness’s testimony does not need to eliminate all other possible causes of injury to be admissible on the issue of causation.  In addition, the court opines that NFPA 921 does not mandate a strict compliance with its provisions, which includes adherence to the scientific method.

The court opines that any failure by Mr. Kropf to follow the guidelines offered by the NFPA 921 does not mean that his expert testimony should be excluded as unreliable.  The court notes that any deviation from the NFPA 921 goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

Also, the court notes that actual testing of a hypothesis is not a requirement of reliability.  The court opines that an opinion be able to be tested, not that it is actually tested.  The court also points to other cases where it has been held that experimental testing related to fire causation is not required.

The court notes that Mr. Kropf looked at NFPA 921, visited the hotel, examined the evidence, took photographs of the damage, and used drawings to help in the formulation of his opinions.  The court further states that he is not required to perform physical experiments as a prerequisite to providing expert testimony.

The court opines that Mr. Kropf’s opinions are based on deductive reasoning and reliable principles and methods.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Thomas Kropf is denied.