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New Mexico Federal Court Rejects Defendant’s Attempt to Disqualify Plaintiff’s Witness in Slip-and-Fall Case

Posted in Firm News

In a recently released ruling by the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, the Court rejected a defendant’s motion to prevent an expert witness from testifying for the plaintiff in a New Mexico personal injury lawsuit. In Coll v. BNSF Railway Company, the Court agreed with the arguments made by the plaintiff that the testimony of an expert in floor safety would be relevant in the slip-and-fall accident lawsuit that they had filed.

The Accident
On March 18, 2009, an employee of the Defendant Railroad Company slipped and fell down the steps of a locomotive and severely injured his elbow and shoulder. The employee was unable to continue working after the injury. By September of 2009, he had recovered and was able to return to work. When he requested compensation from the company, they offered him only $800 and he refused. The Plaintiff in this case was the appointed trustee of the injured employee, and pursued a personal injury claim against the Railroad Company.

The Lawsuit

As the case made its way toward trial, the Plaintiff proposed to present the testimony of an expert on floor safety. He would testify that the Railroad Company had not constructed or maintained the steps on the locomotive up to the relevant standard of care, and were therefore responsible for the employee’s injuries. The Defendant argued that because the proposed expert testimony was from an expert on floor safety, and not train safety, that his testimony would not be relevant or helpful to the fact finder.

The Relevance and Admissibility of Expert Testimony in New Mexico Personal Injury Cases

The rules for the admissibility of expert testimony in New Mexico slip and fall lawsuits are very similar to those applied by federal courts. Under the federal rule for the admissibility of expert testimony, Federal Rule of Evidence 702, expert testimony which does not relate to any issue in the case is not relevant and non-helpful. Federal rules further define evidence as relevant if it tends to make a fact, which is consequential to the case, more or less probable than it would be without the evidence.

The Defendant’s Argument and Plaintiff’s Response

The Defendant here admitted that the proposed expert was an expert in slip and fall accidents and floor safety, but their argument against the admissibility of his testimony was that his floor safety expertise is inapplicable to the proper design of steps located in the interior of a locomotive, as trains are different than buildings or walkways. The Plaintiff’s response was quite simple, and they argued that “floors are floors and steps are steps,” and the expert’s opinion was clearly somewhat relevant.

The Court’s Decision

The Court here acknowledged that the design of trains and buildings are different, and that the standards for floor safety could vary depending on whether the floor was on a train or in a stationary location. In spite of this, the Court focused on the Rules of Evidence and decided an acceptable expert’s testimony must have “any tendency” to support the Plaintiff’s claims, and this proposed expert’s testimony “clearly does.” As a result of this, the Court decided to reject the Defendant’s motion to exclude the testimony and allow the jury to hear the expert’s testimony. This decision will likely help the Plaintiff to collect damages from the accident.

Have You Been Involved in a New Mexico Accident?

If you or someone you love has been involved in a slip-and-fall accident, or any other kind of accident at work or elsewhere, it is important to call a skilled New Mexico personal injury attorney today. Although the above case resulted in a ruling that was favorable to the plaintiff, if he had not had a knowledgeable attorney, the defendants could have excluded the expert testimony and substantially hurt the plaintiff’s case. The dedicated New Mexico accident attorneys at The Fine Law Firm are well versed in New Mexico slip-and-fall cases, and consider each client’s individual needs. We have a detailed knowledge of all of the relevant state and federal laws that are needed to obtain the results our clients deserve. Call the Fine Law Firm at 505-889-FINE (3463), or click here to contact the firm.

More Blog Posts:

Recent New Mexico Appellate Court Decision Harmful to Medical Malpractice Plaintiffs, Increases Importance of Quickly Consulting an Attorney, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2014.

New Mexico Appellate Court Opinion Discusses the Adoption of the Doctrine of Circuity in a Recent Negligence Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 27, 2014.