Washington Court Reviews Expert Testimony of Industry Custom in Premises Liability Case

The Washington Court of Appeals recently addressed the issue of whether a trial court properly admitted expert industry custom testimony in a premises liability case. In Ponce v. Mountaineers (Wash. Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2015), the plaintiff’s son died in a sledding accident at the defendant’s recreational facility. The family had parked along the side of a road and was walking from their car up the hill on the access trail, when their son abruptly sat on his sled. The sled traveled down the hill and onto the road, where the son was struck and killed by a passing vehicle. His parents brought a personal injury action, alleging that the defendant failed to exercise ordinary care by not maintaining a barrier at the base of its access path to prevent sledders from entering the roadway.

Both the plaintiff and the defendant presented an expert witness to testify as to the standard of care owed to the victim by the defendant. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the defendant should have installed a barrier between the access path and the road, and stated that by failing to do so, the defendant created a hazardous condition. The defendant’s expert testified that the access path was consistent with industry best practices. Before trial, the plaintiff moved to exclude testimony from the defendant’s winter recreation expert, arguing that he lacked a sufficient foundation. The trial court denied the motion. After the conclusion of the trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court erred by allowing the expert testimony.

In Washington, expert testimony is generally admissible if the expert is qualified, the expert relies on generally accepted theories in the scientific community, and the testimony would be helpful to the trier of fact. On appeal, the court agreed with the trial court’s decision, ruling that the defendant’s expert was extremely well-qualified to testify as to industry custom, with 39 years of experience and hundreds of inspections of winter recreational facilities. The court also ruled that the expert’s testimony that it was not uncommon to have a steep, snow-covered access trail funneling directly into a roadway was based on his experience and investigation of over 50 snow tubing, snow play, and ski areas. Therefore, the appeals court held that the trial court acted within its discretion when it allowed the defendant’s expert to testify about industry custom and practice.

If you have been injured as the result of another person’s or business’ negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. The personal injury attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC provide experienced and trusted legal representation to accident victims in Washington, in addition to handling criminal and family law cases. To discuss your claim with one of our skilled attorneys, contact our office at (206) 622-6562 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Washington Appeals Court Holds Denny’s Not Liable for Criminal Attack on Patron, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published October 21, 2015

Washington Appeals Court Examines Jury Award in Car Accident Case, Affirms Judge’s Grant of Additur, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published September 25, 2015

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