Expert evidence comes in many shapes and sizes. Circular shouldn’t be one of them.
On2 February 2014 Rose Peralta entered a California supermarket to buy bread. As she approached the bakery her left foot slid and she fell, suffering injury. She did not see anything on the floor before or after falling but said she felt as though she had slipped on oil or grease. She was observed to be wearing shoes with a 3-inch stiletto heel.
Peralta issued proceedings in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. She relied on an opinion from a civil engineer. The engineer opined that the flooring would be dangerously slippery if grease or oil were present, and that the fall would not be expected to occur without such substances on the floor.
The defendant sought summary dismissal of the claim which was granted: Peralta v The Vons Companies Inc (L.A. Co. Sup. Ct, Oki J, 14 February 2017, unreported). Peralta appealed.
The appeal was dismissed. Concerning the engineer’s opinion the Court said –
Peraltas … attempt to establish there was a slippery substance on the floor through Avrit’s declaration, in which he opines that the manner in which Rose fell is consistent with a slip created by a foreign substance. Mere conjecture, however, is “legally insufficient to defeat summary judgment.” (Buehler v. Alpha Beta Co. (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 729, 734.) The mere possibility that there was a slippery substance on the floor does not establish causation. Absent any evidence that there was a foreign substance on the floor, or some other dangerous condition created by or known to Vons, Peraltas cannot sustain their burden of proof.
The opinion was considered to be, in effect, speculation.
Peralta v The Vons Companies Inc (California Court of Appeal, 30 May 2018)