Expert Opinion Must be Based on Fact and Not Speculation
Submitted by New Jersey Civil Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
32-7-3233 Horan v. Dilbet, Inc. , D.N.J. (Bumb, U.S.D.J.) (12 pp.)
The District Court of New Jersey recently decided a case regarding shellfish food poisoning. The Plaintiffs got sick after consuming clams and sued the restaurant for negligence. In order to prove the restaurant was responsible for feeding the plaintiffs diseased clams, they offered an expert to prove their case.
For their case to be heard by a jury, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the clams were not infected at the time they were delivered to the restaurant. The plaintiffs were unable to do this.
The Court pressed the plaintiffs on a lack of evidence showing the clams were not infected prior to reaching the restaurant, because if they were infected then the restaurant would not be responsible as the plaintiffs claimed. The plaintiffs first argued that because New Jersey makes it illegal to farm infected clams, there would be no way the restaurant would have received infected clams. This argument did not hold merit because the plaintiffs’ own expert contradicted this very argument during his testimony.
The plaintiffs next argued the case should be heard in front of a jury based off their expert’s opinion stating the restaurant increased the risk for clam infection, and therefore could have been the cause of the plaintiffs’ illness. The Court found that this opinion was not tethered to facts or data, but rather just an assumption and speculation. Without relevant facts or data, an expert’s opinion is useless.
Because both the plaintiffs’ arguments failed, they could not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the clams were not infected before getting to the restaurant and their case was dismissed.
In summary, for a plaintiff to prove a successful case, usually an expert is needed. Experts takes facts and data and use their experience to help prove the plaintiff’s case. If the expert simply speculates without facts or data, his opinion will be discarded. Make sure your attorney knows what an expert opinion needs to demonstrate for your case!