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What Experts Are Required In A Premises Liability Case?

Serious Evaluation Must Be Given To Experts In A Premises Liability Case

Serious evaluation must be given to a premises liability case before filing a lawsuit.  Experts address liability, causation, and damages.  The cost of experts required to prove liability in addition to the cost of medical experts to provide testimony and opinions as to cause of the injuries and the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff can be extraordinary.   

However, in practice, it is best to focus on breaches in the defendant’s own policies than what should have been done based upon an expert’s opinion. Defendants’ failure to follow their own policies and procedures is powerful evidence.  This avoids the defense argument that the expert’s standard is inapplicable. 

In almost every trip and fall case, the plaintiff will need to retain an expert to establish the Defendant’s breach from its standard of care. The expert must provide testimony to show that Defendant’s conduct was a deviation from an accepted standard or a violation of a code. 

What Are The Different Types Of Experts In A Premises Liability Case?

The experts retained in a trip and fall case must be knowledgeable on scene documentation and data collection.  The expert will evaluate the causes of a slip or trip by utilizing special equipment to document the condition of walking surfaces which may have contributed to the incident.  Some of the more specific areas that an expert may be retained to address are:

  1. Trip and Fall Liability Experts.
  2. Biomechanics.
  3. Human Factors.
  4. Lighting
  5. Accident Reconstruction
  6. Building and Safety Code
  7. Security
  8. Supermarket
  9. Playground
  10. Tree Expert (Arborist)
  11. Elevator and Escalator
  12. Construction
  13. Mold
  14. Doctors and Life Care Planners

What Experts Are Used To Prove Liability In A Premises Liability Case?


Biomechanics are experts that may be retained in a premises liability case.  By analyzing the effects of internal and external forces acting on a body, these experts determine the causal effects of injuries. These experts possess knowledge on physiological and mechanical properties. Also, these experts have an understanding of mechanical analysis. By using a variety of engineering disciplines and principles of accident reconstruction, a biomechanical experts help determine and explain to jurors the injury mechanism in trip and fall cases. 

Human Factors

Human factors or an ergonomics expert may also be retained by the plaintiff.  By taking into account human physiology and behavior in the design and maintenance of equipment, jobs, facilities, products, tasks, and overall organizations, these experts help determine prevention of the following in premises liability cases: level surface falls, elevated surface falls, biomechanics, and information processing. 

Lighting Experts

Lighting and Illumination experts may be retained by the plaintiff. These experts evaluate whether the slip and fall area was properly illuminated at the time of the incident by using light meters to measure illuminance levels. By being familiar with illuminance levels, lighting experts can tell whether or not the levels were up to par with specific building and safety codes. 

Safety Experts

Building and safety code experts may be retained by the plaintiff. These experts determine whether the construction or maintenance of a building fail to meet statutory requirements according to municipal building and safety codes.

Accident Reconstruction Expert

Accident reconstruction experts may also be retained by the plaintiff. These experts are usually certified in accident reconstruction or possess an engineering discipline. Drawing from the laws of physics, accident recon experts analyze the causes of a slip or trip.  The accident recon will demonstrate to the jury why the fall occurred, allowing the jurors to see where the fault lies.

Property Management Experts

Experts on Property Management may also be presented by the plaintiff. By being certified property managers, these experts are able to weigh in on whether or not commercial and residential buildings have been adequately maintained and preserved.

Parks & Recreation Experts

Experts on Parks and Recreation may provide helpful testimony at trial.  These experts are knowledgeable on all aspects of parks and playgrounds, including equipment design, construction, and supervision.

When hiring an expert, one should thoroughly question the expert and confirm whether he or she is right for the job. It is best interest to ask about the expert’s history of dealing with the exact issue of liability. 

Plaintiff’s Experts In A Premises Liability Case

When examining the plaintiff’s retained liability expert on direct examination during trial, it is important to establish a code violation or any other reason to establish negligence or notice. 

For direct examination of medical expert, the primary focus of plaintiff’s counsel will be to get the amounts of past and future medical bills into evidence.

As with every expert who testifies at trial, the attorney must qualify the expert and the foundation for their opinions. This should only take a few minutes so as to not bore the jury. The attorney must ask the expert: 

What do you do for a living?  

What is your educational background and work experience in the field? 

How long have you been working in the field? 

Were hired as an expert in this case? 

What were you hired to do? 

What documents did you review in forming your opinions? 

It is important to help the jury understand what was reviewed in order to form the opinion and identify documents that the attorney may later want to move into evidence for the jury to see, such as a medical bill or photograph.

In practice, to make the trial and witness testimony go more smoothly, the attorney should request that the opposing counsel stipulate to admit things that may be introduced into evidence. The authentication and foundation of certain pieces of evidence can be admitted in exchange for the opposing counsel’s same requests. These stipulations should be agreed to in advance of trial. In addition, pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 2024.415, documents must be exchanged 3 days before the expert’s depositions, or the documents may be excluded at trial

Once the foundation is established for the expert’s testimony, it is critical to get the expert to explain what are their opinions and the basis for those opinions. It is important to ask the expert if the opinions given are to the legal standard of the “preponderance of the evidence” or “more likely to be true than not true.” Failure to clarify this could be fatal to the case if the opinion is ultimately excluded.

The expert may also use demonstrative evidence during the examination. At trial, the liability expert may step down from the witness stand and draw on a display board or set up a replica of the scene. This visual gives the jury the sense that they are being taught from a professional and keeps the jury focused and engaged.

The Defense Expert In A Premises Liability Case

During the deposition questioning of the defense expert, the good strategy is to get the expert to give concessions and agree with the arguments and theories presented by the Plaintiff’s expert that support the plaintiff’s case.  Experts will agree with other experts on many issues.  Videotaping of the defense expert’s deposition is critical.  During the during the cross-examination questioning of the defense expert at trial, the clips of the videotaped deposition may be played to the jury.  Plaintiff’s counsel can first start getting the defense expert to agree with the undisputed facts, such as:  

“You agree the incident occurred at the [specific location]?” 

“You agree that Plaintiff fractured her femur in the incident?” 

“You agree that Plaintiff’s femur was fractured as a result of Plaintiff’s body weight landing on Plaintiff’s leg?”

“So the fall caused the fractured femur, correct?”

Obviously, the plaintiff’s case will not be won through the cross-examination of the defendant’s hired expert witness.  The practical strategy for the plaintiff’s counsel is to elicit concessions briefly and move on.  Arguing with the defense expert is a losing battle and will not present well to the jury.  Plaintiff’s counsel should not argue about any opinions of the defense expert that does not make sense.  It will not work.  The jury will not like an attorney who tries to fight with an expert.  It will only stir the emotions of the jury not in the attorney’s favor.

Video Of The Defense Expert In A Premises Liability Case Is Powerful

Videotaped deposition testimony of the defense expert is powerful evidence. The dramatic effect of playing video is entertaining to the jury. Pursuant to the California Code of Civil Procedure, proper notice must be given to play the video in trial.

The video may be played during plaintiff’s opening statement.  Permission should be cleared with the judge beforehand or a stipulation should be entered with defense counsel.  If permission or a stipulation is not obtained, the plaintiff’s counsel can inform the jury that they will see the video during the trial.  The video may then be played during the examination of any expert witness.  In fact, the entire video deposition of the defense expert may be played to the jury in lieu of calling the expert at trial, which saves the costs and avoids the hassle of scheduling issues.   

The clips of the defense expert’s concessions and agreeing on certain issues should be played to the jury.  Playing the clips of the expert agreeing that plaintiff fell, that the floor was wet, that the plaintiff suffered a fracture, and any other concessions is critical.  These clips should be presented to the jury as early as possible in the trial.  This will bolster the plaintiff’s case and make the opinions of the plaintiff’s expert more believable.

On direct examination of the plaintiff’s expert, the video deposition of the defense expert can be played for the plaintiff’s expert to comment on.  This discredits the defense expert.  It is a powerful strategy that is applied during plaintiff’s case in chief.

The video deposition can also be used to “impeach” the expert on cross examination.  Clips of certain testimony can be played to show that the expert is now saying something different at trial.  It is extremely important to have a video technician assisting the plaintiff’s counsel during trial to quickly counter with the video clips.  This has a powerful effect on the jury.  

During closing argument, the video deposition can also be played.  The most persuasive clips should be replayed.  Before playing the clip, it is important to remind the jury of when the clip was first shown to them during the trial and provide context for the clip.

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If you have been injured in an accident or someone you know has been injured, contact The Sterling Firm for a free consultation with a premises liability lawyer.  We can help! Book Your Consultation Now! Call Now! (310) 498-2750


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Justin Sterling, Esq. is a leading personal injury attorney and civil litigator.  Mr. Sterling is the founder of The Sterling Firm, a top-rated law firm with its original headquarters in Los Angeles, California. The Sterling Firm has a client base that stretches not only across the nation but also around the globe. We offer experienced and driven legal counsel for your matter.  We handle insurance claims and civil lawsuits, including those that arise from catastrophic and severe personal injury.

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