Net Opinion Comments of Expert Witness | New Jersey Appellate Court
Once again the New Jersey appellate court has weighed in on the “net opinion“ comments of an expert.
Submitted by New Jersey Slip and Fall Attorney, Jeffrey Hark.
Did your attorney hire a qualified expert? Did the expert tie his opinions to the facts as well as the current standard of care and generally accepted principles in the expert’s field of expertise?
In this case the plaintiff slipped and fell on an accumulation of snow on a sidewalk adjacent to defendants property and fractured his ankle. Plaintiff hired an expert who commented regarding improper construction, a dangerous and hazardous condition, violating standards of care in the industry, failure to properly construct the sidewalk and found that joint material between the sidewalk slabs disintegrating which caused the water conditioner to collect and create a surface risk. The expert quoted general industry standards, but did not identify any specific building code or industry standard that required specific construction in his report.
The defense attorney moved to bar the report arguing to the trial judge that the opinion was “a net opinion” not tied to any specific standard. Yes, the expert also did conclude that his opinion was his own “personal engineering opinion “which was based on his experience research and education.”
Obviously, based on my prior blogs and the recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision in addressing the Accutane litigation and State v. JLG it is clear that this expert did not comply with New Jersey’s long standing requirements that the conclusions be tied to a standard of care that is generally accepted in the community and was his own opinions. The trial court ruled that it will uphold the long-standing principal that a “homeowner does not have a duty of care to a pedestrian injured as a result of the condition of a sidewalk abutting the homeowners property.” In addition, “A breach of an ordinance directing a private person to care for public property or a property owners fair to clear snow and ice from my public sidewalk about in their land can be considered a breach of the duty owed to a pint of unless the owner’s negligence created that dangerous or hazardous condition”. In addition the court found the plaintiffs expert conclusions faulty and not admissible Because they were the expert on personal comments not supported by any standard of care in the community and or generally accepted construction standard.
As stated in my prior blogs, “a trial court must ensure that an expert is not permitted to express speculative opinions or personal views and when an expert offers his own personal speculative opinions same shall be barred”. In addition experts, “must be able to point to generally excepted objective standards of practice and not merely standard personal to them.” “there must be some authority supporting the experts opinion which can take the form of any document, writing, unwritten custom, or established practice that the industry recognizes as a duty it does and the source of that standard Shall be the duty which the plaintiff owes the defendant.”
As a result of this standard the court affirmed the trial judges rejection of the expert opinion because same was considered a “net opinion” not tied to any standard of care or generally accepted in the community.”
Jeffrey S. Hark, Esq.