Professional Engineering Expert Witness Not Allowed

Plaintiffs filed suit against manufacturer and seller of a ladder after falling from one while performing renovations.  The plaintiff hired a Professional Engineering Expert Witness to provide testimony.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude, which was granted by the court.

Facts:  This case (WHITE et al v. THE HOME DEPOT, INC. et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Pennsylvania – May 10th, 2018) involves a personal injury and negligence claim.  The plaintiffs (husband and wife) allege that he fell while using a ladder manufactured by the defendant and sold from the other defendant.  The husband was using the ladder while renovating the master bedroom in his home.  While painting, he fell from the ladder and sustained various injuries.  The parties are in dispute as to whether the husband tried to move the ladder while he was standing on it.  The plaintiffs allege claims of negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranties as well as loss of consortium.  The plaintiffs hired Professional Engineering Expert Witness Paul Dreyer, P.E. to provide expert witness testimony in this case and the defendants filed a motion to exclude this testimony.

Discussion:  Dreyer’s opinion indicates that the defendants produced and sold the ladder without adequate warnings.  The defendants allege that Dreyer’s opinions are not scientific and do not fit the facts of the case.

The court agrees with the defendants and opine that Dreyer’s testimony is not admissible because it is unreliable and does not “fit” the aspects of the case.  The court opines that Dreyer did not inspect the ladder or the floor of the bathroom, nor did he conduct and interviews with witnesses, perform an accident reconstruction, or perform any tests on the ladder.  In addition, his only mention of industry standards are the prevalence of falls in a general sense and other general engineering principles to reduce hazards.

In addition, the court notes that Dreyer’s testimony is unclear and, at times, self-contradictory.  For example, Dreyer notes that the warning label on the ladder warned the user of the ladder not to place the feet on a level surface and not to set it up on unstable, loose or slippery surfaces and that the husband complied with these instructions.   However, he also also opines that the husband was injured by unexpected slippage of the ladder.  Thus, he is asserting that the tarp on which the husband placed the ladder was not slippery to the extent that the husband complied with the warnings, but slippery enough for the ladder to fall.

In addition, Dreyer states that a ladder manufacturer could reasonably expect a customer to use a ladder on top of a tarp and that the tarp could slip.  Thus, Dreyer states that the manufacturer should have provided a warning about using the ladder on atop of a tarp, but does not explain why this is different than the warning already on the instructions.  Thus, the opinions of Dreyer are not reliable, nor are they helpful to the trier of fact.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Paul Dreyer is granted.