Saturday, July 31, 2010

Negligent Building Design, Expert Testimony Required to Establish

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed the rule that expert testimony  is required to establish negligent building design. This rule was outlined in Lawrenchuk v Riverside Arena, Inc, 214 Mich App 431; 542 NW2d 612 (1995):
“In the absence of expert testimony providing standards for evaluating the relevant risks and advantages of [a particular] design, a jury would be denied an objective framework by which to evaluate [the] plaintiff’s claim, thus precluding any genuine determination whether the design was unreasonable.”  Id. at 434. Therefore, a plaintiff’s negligent building design claim must be dismissed if not supported by expert testimony.  Id. at 436.
See, Tappen v. Carlton 54th L.L.C., (Mich. Ct. App. July 30, 2010). A copy of the slip opinion can be found here.

In Tappen, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court  had erred when it failed to grant summary disposition to the Defendant where the Plaintiff failed to present expert testimony in support of its claim of negligent design.
"It is well settled that a jury must not be permitted to speculate or guess whether a defendant has been negligent; nor may a jury be permitted to speculate concerning the causation of a plaintiff’s injuries. (citations omitted)  Because plaintiff failed to present expert testimony to support his claim that defendant’s hotel was negligently designed, the circuit court erred by declining to grant summary disposition in favor of defendant with respect to this claim."

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