Court: State Court of Georgia, Fulton County
Case Name: Austin v. Justin’s Rest.
Citation: 2013 Ga. State LEXIS 2845
In this premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff sustains gunshot injuries on the defendant’s property. The plaintiff’s security expert blames the defendant’s inadequate security. However, the court finds most of the expert’s opinions to be unhelpful to the jury. The remainder of his opinion lacks any industry research or reliable methodology. The court finds his opinion to be “conclusory”. Therefore, it is excluded.
The plaintiff dined at the defendant restaurant and returned to his car in the parking lot. While sitting in his car, an unnamed attacker approached the vehicle. The assailant shot the plaintiff and his companions. The plaintiff was severely injured and underwent five surgeries.
Following this, the plaintiff brought negligence claims against the defendant. He alleged the defendant failed in its duty to provide security on its premises. Further, the plaintiff argued the defendant was liable for the criminal acts and injuries suffered. The plaintiff retained a security expert to support his case.
The Plaintiff’s Security Expert Witness
The plaintiff’s security expert witness gave three discrete categories of opinions. Firstly, the security expert opined that the shooting incident was reasonably foreseeable. Secondly, he claimed the lack of security on the defendant’s premises was the immediate cause of the Plaintiff’s injury. Thirdly, he stated that the defendant violated the standard of care by failing to implement security measures or procedures on its premises. The defendant moved to exclude these opinions.
Firstly, the court addressed the expert’s claim that the shooting was reasonably foreseeable. The court found that the jury was able to decide questions of predictability without expert testimony. Further, the court deemed the expert’s analysis to be totally unreliable. It focused on violent crime cases in the area over the last three years without taking into account variations in the rate of crime. As a result, the court declined to include the expert’s foreseeability opinion.
Secondly, the court reviewed the expert’s opinion on causation. The expert claimed the defendant’s lack of security led to the attack. However, the court found that the jury was also able to decide on matters of proximate cause without expert testimony.
Thirdly, the court discussed the expert’s standard of care opinion. The expert claimed that the defendant’s security measures, policies, and methods were inadequate or lacking. The court noted that he had not cited any research papers, publications, or relevant industry guidelines to justify his conclusion. Furthermore, the expert was unable to explain whether his industry experience or understanding of security measures in specific institutions influenced his view. The court explained that this opinion was simply a “conclusory statement” and was not the product of reliable standards and methodology.
The court granted the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s security expert witness.
Key Takeaways for Experts
Here, the expert’s testimony fails to meet essential criteria. First, the opinions aren’t helpful to the triers of fact. Second, the expert does not demonstrate specialized knowledge through industry research or methodologies. These are the most fundamental boxes to check when opining as an expert witness.