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Slip and fall plaintiff may submit expert testimony after appeal

Our Hackensack readers may be interested in a recent appeal out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. The case demonstrates something of the evidentiary issues that can arise when a slip and fall case is taken to trial. The Eleventh Circuit Court ruled last week that a plaintiff who injured herself after slipping and falling on a cruise ship may submit expert testimony on the issue of whether the ship’s flooring surface was adequately slip resistant.

According to sources, the woman slipped and fractured her should while riding on the M/V Nautica, a vessel owned and operated by Miami-based Oceania Cruises Incorporated. She subsequently sued the company for medical damages, claiming that the company negligently caused the accident through its failure to ensure the flooring surface of the ship’s buffet area was safe.

Last week’s ruling reverses a lower’s decision to prevent the plaintiff from using expert testimony provided by a floor-safety specialist who performed tests regarding the slip resistance of the ship’s floor. In the opinion of the plaintiff’s expert, the ceramic tile which surrounded the buffet area on the ship was not reasonably safe to prevent slip and falls, as it had a “low coefficient of friction.”

The lower court determined that the plaintiff failed to establish that the expert’s evidence would help the court in “understanding a matter of scientific, technical or specialized expertise.” The Court of Appeals, however, said that the expert’s testimony may be heard, since it directly related to the plaintiff’s allegation that the company’s selection of tile for the flooring surface was unreasonable.

The Court of Appeals ultimately found that the district court’s decision to preclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert prevented the jury from adequately considering whether the company’s choice of flooring material caused her accident. As a result the court ordered the district court to hold a new trial.

Source: Business Insurance, “Slip-and-fall plaintiff may submit expert testimony in new trial: Court,” Mike Tsikoudakis, September 13, 2011.

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