Maritime Security Expert Deemed Unqualified To Opine On Cruise Ship Bathroom Slip And Fall


Maritime Expert

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Jordan v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc.
Citation: 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125346

Facts

The plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship owned and operated by the defendant, Celebrity. She suffered serious injuries as a result of a slip and fall in the bathroom of her cabin room. The fall caused the plaintiff to fracture her coccyx leaving her with both physical pain and emotional distress. The plaintiff alleged that due to the defendant’s negligence, she incurred medical expenses and suffered permanent physical handicap.

The Maritime Security Expert

The plaintiff retained an expert who worked in the maritime industry as a chief shipboard security officer. As a chief security officer, the expert was responsible for supervising small commercial motor vessels. In addition to his experience in cruise line safety and security, the expert served as a police officer in Florida. The expert also ran his own maritime security and safety consultancy firm.

The defendant made a motion to strike the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, claiming he was not qualified to opine on the facts of the case. The defendant suggested that there were critical flaws in the expert’s report that should preclude him from being an expert.The defendant contended that the expert conducted an unscientific and unreliable test of the slipperiness of the bath mat on the floor by pushing a towel around with his hand. The defendants further argued that he lacked the necessary qualifications to be an expert, his methodologies were not reliable, and his conclusions were not helpful.

Court Discussion

The court observed that the expert had failed to explain in his report how his work experiences were applicable to the instant facts of the case to which he had offered his opinions. With regard to whether the expert’s methodology was unreliable, the court observed that it suffered from many deficiencies. His report listed several conclusory statements without any foundation. He also failed to show (1) how he arrived at his opinions and (2) whether his opinions were subjected to any peer review. His report did not cite any study, article, or authority to support his testimony. His methodology did not have any scientific backing.

With regard to the helpfulness of the expert’s opinions, the court observed that his opinions lacked supporting facts and contradicted the testimony of the plaintiff. The expert opined that the plaintiff “was not aware that the half folded over towel mat was a hazard in her path because the towel placement was deceiving when you look down at it and step into the bathroom.” However, the expert failed to explain how the placement of a bath mat could be deceiving when plaintiff testified that she saw the bath mat and intentionally stepped on it.

Held

The court held that since the expert had no experience in engineering, housekeeping policies regarding bath mat placement, or training in best practices for slip resistance in cruise ship bathrooms, he was therefore not qualified to be an expert under Daubert. The court further found that the methodology adopted by the expert did not satisfy Daubert and that his report was defective, as it included legal conclusions that were not permissible.

The court granted the defendant’s motion to strike all of the expert’s testimony.

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