Why Did My Expert’s Opinion Cause My Case to Be Dismissed?

31-2-3476 DiGiovanni v. Saker Shop Rites, Inc., N.J. Super. App. Div. (per curiam) (21 pp.)

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Experts are used quite often in both civil and criminal cases.  When scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge falls outside the common knowledge of an average juror or even judge, an expert is necessary to translate the information into something everyone can understand.  There are specific rules regarding expert opinions, and if the rules are not followed, it could result in the opinion being thrown out.  This happened in a recent case…

In this case, the plaintiff allegedly slipped on water found near an ice machine in a grocery store.  The plaintiff sued the store and the manufacturer of the ice machine for negligent maintenance of the machine.  The plaintiff claimed that because the ice machine was negligently maintained, water dripped out of the machine and caused the plaintiff to slip.  The plaintiff hired an expert to explain how an ice machine should be maintained.

In examining the store’s machine, the expert found some parts of it that were indeed negligently maintained.  However, in his own opinion, he stated that the sealed bottom would prevent any melted ice from leaking.  So even though the ice machine contained water, the expert was unsure how the water would leak onto the floor, but nonetheless the expert concluded the store and manufacturer were liable for negligent maintenance.

The Court disregarded the expert’s opinion as a “net” opinion.  “Net” opinion rules disallow expert opinions when they are not supported by factual evidence or other data.  In this case, the expert failed to prove the water on the floor was caused by the machine malfunctioning, but still concluded that the defendants were liable.  Without any factual support showing that the machine caused the water to leak onto the floor, the opinion was thrown out and the plaintiff could not prove his case without the expert’s opinion.

The plaintiff in this case lost because his attorney and expert could not prove negligent maintenance of the ice machine caused his injuries.  If you are injured, be sure you hire an attorney who understands the “net” opinion rules to be sure your expert opinion gets you the recovery you deserve.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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