Fall victim can't prove dentists knew their parking lot curb was crumbling
Linda Skrine fell and suffered injury on her way out of her dentist's office. Apparently no one disagrees that the concrete curb leading to the parking lot crumbled under her foot. She argued that the dentists and their land-owning entities "should have known" of the condition of the concrete in the curb and replaced it before it became a fall hazard. In support of her claim, she offered the affidavit of an expert witness who stated that the concrete "should have shown" cracks and degradation before it crumbled. Unfortunately, no one had photographic evidence of the curb on the day Ms. Skrine fell.
Relying on the fact that Skrine suggested the parking lot looked "beautiful" and "very safe" on the day she fell, the Court of Appeals ruled that the expert's opinion that the dentists should have seen evidence of the deterioration of the concrete before it crumbled (if they met their duty of reasonable inspection) the Court ruled that the expert's opinion constituted inappropriate speculation or conjecture. It upheld the dismissal of Skrine's claim. This is either bad lawyering or evidence of an activist judiciary. It should have been possible for a legitimate expert on concrete composition and maintenance to explain his opinions in a manner that rendered them legitimate expert testimony, if, indeed, his stated opinion was legitimate--and in our experience it would have been. Concrete doesn't invisibly deteriorate and suddenly crumble without warning. It sounds as though Skrine's attorneys needed to spend more time investigating the age and maintenance (and salt use) of the dental office curb, and should have drafted an affidavit that more clearly articulated the engineer's assumptions, in order to provide a more solid foundation for her expert witness's testimony.