Restaurant Wins Expert Exclusion and Summary Judgment in Trip and Fall Case


restaurantCase:

Doris M. May v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc., No. 5:13–CV–170 (FJS/ATB), U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York; Oct. 2, 2014

Background:

Plaintiff Doris M. May alleges that she was injured when she tripped on a concrete wheel stop in a handicap parking spot in front of the doors of a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in 2011. She alleges she suffered serious personal injuries and that the defendant restaurant’s negligence in placing the handicapped parking place in direct alignment with the center of the entrance/exit doors caused her injuries. She also alleges that the restaurant created an obstruction to unencumbered travel by the placement of the concrete curb and metal sign and failed to properly mark the obstruction and to design and place railings or other visible barriers. 

Architecture Expert:

Plaintiff’s architecture expert, Daniel J. Manning, opined that the center of the handicap parking spot’s access alley should have been aligned with the center of the restaurant doors, instead of the spot and the wheel stop being centered on the doors.

Thus the defendant challenged Manning’s qualifications and the reliability of his opinions under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc. (509 U.S. 579 [1993])

Admissibility of Architecture Expert:

In an Oct. 2 memorandum opinion, Judge Frederick J. Scullin found Manning qualified to testify. He has designed commercial buildings and has worked with civil engineers to design parking lots, the judge said. However, the court found his opinion unreliable because he failed to provide any basis for his conclusion that good architectural practice and preventive design would have aligned the centerline of the access aisle to the center line of the exit/entrance doors to the restaurant. Correspondingly, he did not indicate what the source of this good architectural practice and preventive design was, the judge said. Nor did he state what methodology he used to reach his conclusion.

As a result, Manning acknowledged that the restaurant and parking lot comply with all applicable codes and regulations.

“For the above-cited reasons, the Court finds that there is too great an analytical gap between the data on which Mr. Manning relies and the opinion he proposes,” the judge also said. “Thus, the Court concludes that his proposed expert testimony is unreliable.”

The judge then granted the restaurant defendant summary judgment.