Civil Action No. 00-3177 Section "C" (4)
August 27, 2001
Before the Court is Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude Expert Testimony of Plaintiffs' Architect and Safety Consultant. (Rec. Doc. 20) After reviewing the memoranda and arguments of counsel, the record and the applicable law, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion is PARTIALLY GRANTED and PARTIALLY DENIED.
Expert testimony is admissible at trial when it will "assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue. Fed.R.Evid. 702. As the Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 702 explain,
[w]hether the situation is a proper one for the use of expert testimony is to be determined on the basis of assisting the trier. There is no more certain test for determining when experts may be used than the common sense inquiry whether the untrained layman would be qualified to determine intelligently and to the best possible degree the particular issue without enlightenment from those having a specialized understanding of the subject involved in the dispute. When opinions are excluded, it is because they are unhelpful and therefore superfluous and a waste of time.
Advisory Comm. Note, Fed.R.Evid. 702 (internal citations and quotations omitted). The trial court must "in the exercise of a sound discretion . . . determine whether expert testimony is appropriate under the circumstances of the case." Cohen v. Western Hotels. Inc., 276 F.2d 26, 27 (9th Cir. 1960) (affirming trial court's decision not to allow expert testimony as to the proper manner of laying rugs).
In this case, Plaintiffs seek to offer expert opinion testimony that the placement of a display in front of double swing doors is actionable negligence because it violated relevant building codes and safety procedures. The witnesses will be allowed to identify the applicable codes (unless Defendant stipulates or the provisions are offered for judicial notice). The Court finds nothing in either expert's report, however, to suggest that the determination of the facts in this case and/or the application of the codes to those facts is beyond the grasp of the fact-finders, based on their common knowledge and ordinary life experiences. As our sister court has observed, "[t]he use of expert testimony, however, must be carefully circumscribed to assure that the expert does not usurp either the role of the trial judge in instructing the jury as to the applicable law or the role of the jury in applying that law to the facts before it." AUSA Life Ins. Co. v. Dwyer, 899 F. Supp. 1200, 1202 (S.D.N.Y. 1995).
Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that the Motion is hereby PARTIALLY GRANTED and PARTIALLY DENIED.