Plumbing & HVAC and Hotel & Hospitality Expert Testimony Granted in Part

Plaintiff slipped and fell on water that had accumulated on the floor of Defendant’s hotel. Plaintiff hired two experts: a plumbing & HVAC expert witness and a hotel & hospitality expert witness.  Defendant filed motions to exclude these experts, which the court granted in part and denied in part.

Facts:  This case (Lauren Jorgensen v. Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company – United States District Court – District of Colorado – August 8th, 2017) involves a claim for premises liability and negligence.  The Plaintiff (Jorgensen) alleges that the Defendant (Ritz Carlton) permitted water to collect on the floor of their hotel.  Jorgensen slipped and fell on the water causing injuries to her neck, back, and lower left leg.  Jorgensen hired Josh Bauer (plumbing & HVAC expert witness) and David Corsun (hotel & hospitality expert witness) to provide expert testimony in the case.  Ritz Carlton filed motions to exclude these experts.

Discussion: Mr. Bauer seeks to testify as to what caused the drain to back up and water to accumulate on the floor.  He will also opine that the maintenance and engineering department 1) Failed to communicate the drainage system issues of the restaurant, 2) did not quickly identify the overflows, and 3) did not treat backups diligently.  Ritz Carlton argues that Mr. Bauer is not qualified to testify about hotel maintenance and management.  The court opined that Mr. Bauer can only testify as to the plumbing system at the hotel and the cause of the drain issues as Mr. Jorgensen has not met her burden of proving that Mr. Bauer is qualified as an expert in managing hotel engineering and maintenance departments.

Dr. Corsum seeks to testify that an obstruction in the collection line caused the drain clog.  He will also testify that a drain backup is a dangerous condition in a restaurant.  In addition, he will testify that if the Ritz Carlton’s employees had taken proper steps, the fall wouldn’t have occurred.  The defend argues that Dr. Corsum’s testimony is unreliable because it does not offer objective principles and methods to support his opinions.  Ritz Carlton also argues that Dr. Carlson’s testimony will not assist the jury, but will in fact, confuse them.

The court opined that Dr. Corsum may testify as an expert in this case with the exception that he may not testify that a clogged drain is a dangerous condition.  Regarding this exclusion, jury members are likely to use restaurants and have experiences with clogged drains.  Thus, thuis portion of the testimony will not assist the jury.

The rest of Dr. Corsum’s opinions will  be helpful to the jury in that deal with the cause of the drain backup and the steps that Ritz Carlton could have taken to prevent the clog.  In addition, his testimony discusses the extent to which the employees’ actions complied with industry standards.  Last, the court holds that Dr. Corsum’s opinions are reliable and relevant.

Conclusion:  The motions to exclude the expert opinions of Josh Bauer and Dr. David Corsun are granted in part and denied in part.