Update (May 31, 2012): Target’s motion to exclude opponent’s expert testimony, discussed below, succeeds. The “accused” architects’ motion for summary judgment fails. Now the defendant architecture firm needs to think about whether it wants to go to trial against Target Corporation in Minnesota without its liability expert and the architects do not have lots of time to noodle on the question (hint/unsolicited NON-LEGAL advice: no, you do not).
Original Post (April 18, ,2012): Civil litigators know that expert testimony is the “make or break” evidence for a large number of cases and certainly almost every case of professional negligence — whether alleged against a physician, a lawyer, an engineer, or an architect.
Strip a plaintiff or a defendant of his expert testimony and his case can and often is compromised beyond repair.
So will the architectural firm’s expert “snow plow” theory to explain a life-threatening construction risk stand up to the scrutiny of U.S. District Court Judge Richard H. Kyle, Sr. (D. Minn.)?
Target Corporation’s Riverdale Mall location in the Bronx borough of New York required emergency repairs in late 2008/early 2009 in excess of $1 million because the moorings on huge concrete slabs on the perimeter of the parking structure posed a threat of falling.
There is no dispute in the ensuing litigation that falling multi-ton concrete panels is not good.
Where the parties disagree, however, is the cause of the under-secured panels, with a expert offering the opinion for the defendant Greenberg Farrow architecture firm that it might have been caused by snow removal methods used on the parking structure.
The only problem with this theory, as Target counsel sees it anyhow, is that this is rank speculation without any factual support and only speculative and superficial theoretical support.
Defendant GF also appears to have been blind-sided a bit by the briefing schedule for such motions in U.S. court in the District of Minnesota. No doubt this caused a little heartburn requiring some fast footwork. As is appropriate, the decision, ultimately, will be based on the merits, with each side getting an opportunity to analyze its case fully.