Court Excludes the Testimony of Safety Expert Witness after it Fails to Assist the Jury

Court Excludes the Testimony of Safety Expert Witness after it Fails to Assist the Jury

This case involved a lawsuit filed by the Plaintiff Daniel G. Mann against Defendant Quiktrip Corporation for negligence related to a slip and fall incident. On July 20, 2022, the Plaintiff initiated legal proceedings by filing a Petition in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. The complaint alleged common law negligence against Quiktrip in connection to an incident on February 17, 2021, when Mann fell on a Quiktrip property in Maryland Heights, Missouri. Subsequently, on October 4, 2022, Quiktrip exercised its right to remove the case to the federal Court, citing diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441. Following this, on December 14, 2022, the Plaintiff filed a Consent Motion for Leave to File a First Amended Complaint, which was granted by the Court. In accordance with the granted motion, Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint focused on a single cause of action, asserting negligence against Quiktrip. The basis for this claim was rooted in premises liability, specifically related to the Plaintiff’s fall on February 17, 2021.

Quiktrip initiated a motion to exclude the expert report, testimony, and opinions of the Plaintiff’s designated expert, Christopher E. Janson, a Certified Safety Professional with over thirty years of experience in safety, intended to provide a safety analysis to determine if there were conditions deemed defective or unreasonably dangerous.

In his report, Janson outlined several general opinions:

1. On the morning of February 17, 2021, QuikTrip employee Tommy Burrow attempted to clear snow and ice from the exterior steps and sidewalk and put down ice melt on the morning of the incident before 8:15 am.

2. QuikTrip had established policies and procedures for maintaining outdoor areas, including inspecting them for snow and ice conditions.

3. QuikTrip’s policies and procedures seemed to align with recognized standards for identifying and controlling slip and fall hazards.

4. Surveillance video footage for the relevant day did not show a QuikTrip employee inspecting the steps in question for at least one hour before Mann’s fall, despite documentation suggesting otherwise.

5. QuikTrip allegedly failed to adhere to its policies and procedures by not ensuring the inspection of the steps and associated landings.

6. If QuikTrip had performed the required upkeep walks as per its policies and procedures, Mann’s fall could have been prevented.

7. Mann’s fall was attributed to the unreasonably dangerous condition of the steps as maintained by QuikTrip.

Quiktrip presented two main arguments for the exclusion of Janson’s report, testimony, and opinions. Firstly, Quiktrip contended that Janson’s opinions lacked reliability in their principles and methods. Quiktrip asserted that the initial four opinions are factual statements, while the remaining three opinions did not possess a scientific or technical basis and would not provide the jury with insights beyond their own evaluation of the evidence. Quiktrip supported this argument by referencing the case Hall v. Target Corp., 8:22-cv-0914-KKM-AAS (M.D. Fla. July 21, 2023) where the Court excluded a majority of Janson’s opinions, deeming them speculative, not grounded in proper methodology, and surpassing industry standards. Secondly, Quiktrip argued for the exclusion of Janson’s opinions on the basis that they encroach upon the jury’s role and are generally speculative. Quiktrip maintained that the opinions in question are inadmissible as the jury can adequately weigh the evidence without the assistance of an expert.

The Plaintiff contended that Quiktrip’s motion to exclude expert testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 should be denied, emphasizing that the admission of such testimony is permissive. In response to Quiktrip’s assertion that Janson’s opinions lacked reliable scientific principles and methods, the Plaintiff argued that the first four opinions were based on Janson’s knowledge, information, and experience applied to the case’s evidence, without directly addressing the reliability issue. Additionally, the Plaintiff argued that Janson’s remaining opinions were appropriate as they would assist the jury in understanding Quiktrip’s policies and procedures, particularly the alleged violations. The Plaintiff pointed to conflicting testimony from Quiktrip’s employees, suggesting confusion about the policies, and asserts that experts are permitted to testify on policy violations. Finally, the Plaintiff contended that Janson’s testimony, even if addressing the ultimate issue in the case, should be allowed as it aids the jury in its deliberations. The Plaintiff also contended that rules, standards, or training materials of a Corporate Defendant were invariably admissible. However, the Court emphasized that the admissibility of Janson’s testimony concerning those procedures was not necessarily influenced by the admissibility of such corporate documents.

Safety Expert Witness

Christopher E. Janson has over 30 years of experience as a safety professional. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Science from Truman State University and a Master of Science degree in Industrial Safety Management from the University of Central Missouri. Janson is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP). He is currently the Principal of Haines, Janson & Associates, LLC, which provides forensic and safety consulting services to attorneys, industry and insurance companies.

Discussions by the Court

The Court determines that the Plaintiff has not successfully demonstrated, by a preponderance of the evidence, the admissibility of Janson’s expert opinions. The Court’s assessment is that Janson’s opinions either consist of straightforward statements of fact, speculative conclusions lacking proper methodological support, or are otherwise deemed irrelevant and, consequently, not beneficial to the jury.

The Court deemed Janson’s opinions 1, 2, and 4 as mere statements of fact, making them impermissible as expert opinions. The determination of whether Burrow cleared the steps and applied snow melt, as well as Quiktrip’s policies and procedures for upkeep walks, could be established through other admissible evidence or by the policies and procedures themselves. The surveillance video itself provided insights into whether a Quiktrip employee inspected the area before the Plaintiff’s fall. The Court noted that the facts in question, including Burrow’s actions, Quiktrip’s policies, and the content of surveillance video footage, did not require expert testimony to be established. Drawing a parallel to the Hall case, the Court asserted that, akin to that precedent, Janson’s opinions concerning these factual matters should be excluded.

The Court found that the Plaintiff’s attempt to draw parallels between Janson’s opinions and those permitted in the Hall case was not persuasive. In Hall, Janson’s testimony was limited to statements such as “wet floors can be a slip and fall hazard” and “while walking, pedestrians look towards their objective, not directly in front of their feet, unless something draws their attention to that area.” These opinions were deemed acceptable as they pertained to industry standards of care. However, the Court noted that Janson’s report in the present case lacked similar opinions, and the Plaintiff did not successfully demonstrated how the opinions in Hall were comparable to those in question. As the Plaintiff has not established, by a preponderance of evidence, that these opinions did indeed necessitate Janson’s expert testimony, Opinions 1, 2, and 4 were deemed to be excluded.

The Court acknowledges that Opinion 3, though potentially an opinion, lacked demonstrated relevance to the issues in the case. While it is considered appropriate for a safety expert to testify on recognized standards for identifying and controlling slip and fall hazards, the Court concluded that whether Quiktrip’s policies and procedures met such standards did not have a bearing on the company’s potential liability in this negligence action. Consequently, the Court deemed the opinion inadmissible, subject to reconsideration.

The Court determined that Opinion 5 was not the type of opinion necessitating expert testimony. The jury was deemed capable of evaluating the presented evidence and deciding whether Quiktrip adhered to its own policies and procedures regarding the inspection of the steps. The Plaintiff’s argument suggesting the need for an expert due to alleged confusion in Quiktrip’s policies was deemed unconvincing. The Court asserted that the conflicting deposition testimony cited by the Plaintiff was evidence that could be presented directly to the jury, requiring no expert assistance for evaluation, as it did not involve scientific or technical knowledge. Similar to the discussion on Opinion 3, the Court was not persuaded that the issue of whether Quiktrip violated its upkeep walk procedures was relevant to the ultimate issue in the case. Consequently, Janson’s Opinion 5 was also excluded.

The Court concluded that Opinions 6 and 7 were speculative, lacking an explanation of the principles or methodology used by Janson to formulate them. Janson’s report failed to elucidate any scientific or technical basis for his opinion that a proper upkeep walk would have prevented the Plaintiff’s fall, as well as the assertion that the fall was caused by an unreasonably dangerous condition of the steps. The Plaintiff had not presented evidence demonstrating that Janson employed recognized principles or methodologies to derive these speculative conclusions. Consequently, as the Plaintiff had not established by a preponderance of evidence that Janson’s opinions relied on reliable principles and methods, Opinions 6 and 7 were also excluded.


The Court granted Quiktrip Corporation’s Motion to Exclude the Expert Report, Testimony, and Opinions of Christopher E. Janson. The Court has not arrived on an outcome for this case since the remaining issues involved in this case still await resolution.

Key Takeaways

The Court found that Janson’s opinions lacked reliability, with some being considered as simple statements of fact that did not require expert testimony. Additionally, opinions deemed speculative and lacking a clear scientific or technical basis were excluded. The Court emphasized that Janson’s opinions failed to provide insights beyond what the jury could determine through available evidence, and some were deemed irrelevant to the issues in the case. Ultimately, the Court ruled that Janson’s entire report, testimony, and opinions would be excluded, granting Quiktrip’s motion in this regard. This decision underscores the importance of establishing the relevance, reliability, and necessity of expert opinions in legal proceedings to ensure their admissibility.