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Grubbs v. Target

Area of Law:

Negligence, premises liability. This case arose out of injuries Plaintiff Grubbs allegedly sustained when she slipped and fell on a piece of molded plastic at a Target store.

Grounds:

Target moved to strike the testimony of Jason T. English, Plaintiff’s expert in the field of fall prevention and premises liability, on the ground that his testimony was not relevant to the elements of the cause of action, and therefore would not assist the trier of fact. Target also moved for leave to designate a rebuttal expert if the Court did not strike English.

Outcome:

Denied.

Analysis:

Target contended that English’s testimony that surface hazards are not often seen by reasonably prudent people, that Target should have known about standards of practice to prevent safety hazards, and what such practices include, is not relevant to the question of whether Target knew, or should have known, of the existence of a condition creating an unreasonable risk of harm. Target also argued that English’s opinions did not assist the trier of fact in determining whether there existed a condition on the premises which posed an unreasonable risk of harm, whether Target exercised ordinary care when it failed to warn Grubbs of the danger, and proximate causation.

The court agreed that English’s testimony that the surface hazards are not often seen by reasonably prudent people, that Target should have known about standards of practice to prevent safety hazards, and what such practices include was not relevant to the notice requirement of a premises liability claim. But the court found that English’s testimony was relevant to the other elements of the claim, namely whether the existence of conditions created an unreasonable risk of harm, whether Target failed to use reasonable care to reduce or eliminate risk, and whether proximate cause existed. For example, Mr. English’s proposed expert testimony that pedestrians do not usually see hazards could be relevant to whether a piece of plastic on the floor posed an unreasonable risk of harm or whether it proximately caused the injury. His proposed testimony about national safety standards was relevant to whether Target failed to exercise ordinary care.

Therefore, the court denied the motion to strike, but noted that Mr. English could not testify about what Target actually knew, as he did not have the expertise to qualify him for that.

The court also denied Target’s motion for leave to designate a rebuttal expert past the disclosure deadline, because Target “was not substantially justified in making the decision not to have its own expert.” Slip op. at 4.