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Patricia Cabrera v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.

Area of Law:

Torts, negligence, personal injury. This case stems from an incident in which Plaintiff fell and sustained severe injuries.

Grounds:

Defendant sought to preclude testimony of Plaintiff’s expert on the grounds that it was not relevant, did not meet the requirements for admissibility of expert testimony, and would be unfairly prejudicial.

Outcome:

Denied.

Analysis:

The court declined to preclude the testimony of Plaintiff’s expert, Mr. Ronald Beethe that there was a hazard that caused Plaintiff’s injury.  Defendant’s argument boiled down to allegations that Mr. Beethe’s testimony was irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial.  The court disagreed.  It noted that Mr. Beethe had considerable experience in the field of industrial hygiene and that he “reliably applied his specialized knowledge and training to reach his conclusions.”  Slip op. at 6-7.  “He considered the photos, surveillance video, and Plaintiff’s account of what happened, and also conducted his own investigation of the scene of the incident.”  Id. at 7.  Further, the court found his testimony would “be relevant to the issue of whether the conditions present at the store created a dangerous situation.”  Id.  Finally, because Mr. Beethe’s testimony was reliable and relevant, the court found there was no danger of unfair prejudice.

The court, however, did note that defendant would have the opportunity to present its arguments at trial.  For example, it could argue to the jury that the probative value of Mr. Beethe’s testimony was “lessened by the passage of time between Plaintiff’s fall and his investigation, or by a lack of citation to actual mathematical probabilities.”  Id.

The court also noted that portions of Mr. Beethe’s testimony might not be admissible at trial.  For example, testimony concerning conditions at the scene of the accident “subsequent to Plaintiff’s fall would not be relevant.”  Id.  Because it was “not clear to what extent Plaintiff intend[ed] to offer such testimony” the court declined to rule on the admissibility of specific opinions until trial.  Id. at 7-8.