Premises Liability Expert Witness’ Testimony Limited due to being based on Observable Contents

Premises Liability Expert Witness’ Testimony Limited due to being based on Observable Contents

In May 2021, Plaintiff Drew Krantz visited Adrien Crastes’ apartment at Lewisburg in Pennsylvania. The Defendant, Market Street Investment Corporation, Inc owned the premises. Krantz and others decided to install a window air conditioning unit in Crastes’ window. But when Krantz tried to open the window, the windowpane broke and fell on his wrist, causing the injury which prompted this lawsuit.

Market Street’s motion in limine sought to preclude the testimony of Brian Krason, one of Krantz’s expert witnesses, on four matters. First, Market Street moved to preclude Krason’s testimony on medical causation, as Krason’s lack of any medical expertise made him unqualified to offer medical testimony about Krantz’s injuries. Krantz agreed and stated that he had never intended to offer any such expert testimony from Krason in the first place. Therefore, Market Street’s motion in limine was granted as to Krason’s testimony on medical causation. Market Street’s motion in limine also moved “to preclude Krason from offering opinions and/or testimony regarding tempered safety glass; adequacy of inspections; [and] the condition of the subject window.”

The Court decided not to hold a Daubert hearing because there was a full record before the Court on these issues including Brian Krason’s expert report and deposition. Krason provided sufficient responses in his deposition testimony for this Court to rule upon each of the contested issues presented by these motions in limine.

Premises Liability Expert Witness

Brian Krason specializes in safety and management across various sectors, including residential, hospitality, and retail. His areas of expertise encompass accident and safety management, premises liability with a focus on slip and fall incidents, fall prevention, property management, workplace safety, hotel security, and hotel administration.

Krason has experience in the construction management of small projects including window replacements, he was a member of the Institute of Real Estate Management for more than ten years, and he has worked closely with many building inspectors in his capacity as a property manager. Krason has put his inspection expertise to non-judicial uses during his long career.

Discussion by the Court

Adequacy of Keystone COG’s Inspection

Krason stated that Defendants failed to properly inspect the window where Krantz was injured and recklessly disregarded safety of the tenants and guests. Krason accused Scott Stieler and Market Street Investments Corporation of violating common and acceptable industry standards and good practices by believing that the COG inspection was a thorough property inspection.

The Court found that Krason’s opinion was simply based on a quotation from Keystone COG’s website, and on the contents of the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) inspection checklist which may or may not have been used by Keystone COG.

The Court concluded that simply reading Keystone COG’s website and inspection checklist requires no specialized knowledge.

Therefore, the Court deemed Krason’s testimony that Keystone COG’s inspection did not ensure that the windows were free of safety hazards inadmissible. Of course, this did not prevent Krason from testifying about the frequency or intensity of inspections required for safe property management based on his own experience in the industry; it merely prevented him from rendering an expert opinion as to the thoroughness and contents of Keystone COG’s inspection specifically because this opinion was based almost solely upon the clearly observable contents of its website and the IPMC inspection checklist.

Tempered Safety Glass

Krason opined that tempered glass is the industry standard for property managers. But because an industry standard describes generally accepted
requirements, personal experience alone cannot reliably demonstrate it.

Krason being a qualified and experienced expert did not justify his expert testimony that installing tempered safety glass is a “best practice”
in the property management industry.

Krason admitted that he was not aware of “any building codes anywhere that required tempered safety glass in apartment buildings;” that he had no “sense for how many apartment units used tempered safety glass versus how many didn’t.”

Conceding that he was aware of no source opining on the merits of float glass or tempered safety glass at all, Krason contended that he had nevertheless supported his opinion with industry standards, but stated: “[t]he only standard would be that they [the windows] have to be safe.” The Court held that the conclusory “standard” neither required technical knowledge nor assisted the fact-finder. The issue in need of support was not whether windows must be safe; it was what conditions rendered them safe. Krason skipped the important step: explaining the basis on which he concluded that tempered safety glass was the industry standard for property managers.

Condition of Windows

Market Street contested the following conclusion in Krason’s report: “The window at 220 South 7th Street, Lewisburg exhibited signs of inadequate maintenance, including dry rotting framing and allowed the dangerous condition to exist causing Krantz’s injury.”

Krason delivered no explanation of his experience inspecting windows or of how he applied that experience to determine that this window was unsafe because it was improperly. However, Krason’s deposition testimony filled these gaps, demonstrating his relevant experience, the non-judicial contexts in which he had evaluated the safety of residential windows, and his explanation as to how improper maintenance contributed to the accident.

Although Market Street contended that Krason had not applied any methodology in its brief, Market Street did not otherwise explicitly object to Krason’s methodology for evaluating the condition of the window.

Unsafe Condition

First, Market Street objected that because Krason had equivocated on his views during his deposition, he had unreliably applied his methodology for inspecting the condition of windows to the facts of this case. Specifically, Krason testified several times that he had seen “what appeared to be rot” on the window frame. Krason also “guesstimated” that the gap caused by rot in the window corners was about an eighth of an inch, which “meant that the glass could then move and shimmy,” creating a dangerous condition.

Whether or not the gap was caused by rot, and whether or not Krason’s “guesstimation” as to the gap’s size was slightly too large or small, the Court noted that his testimony was the same; allowing the gap to persist created an unsafe condition.

Photographs of the Window

When Market Street alleged that Krason did not know when or by whom the photographs of the window were taken. The Court noted that the photographs were obviously taken after the accident and before the window was repaired; they showed that the glass was still broken. The Court held that Market Street’s objections were without merit.

Prior Expert Witness Testimony

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B)(v) provides that an expert witness’s report “must contain . . . a list of all other cases in which, during the previous 4 years, the witness testified as an expert at trial or by deposition.”

In his deposition, Krason directly stated that he did not have a list of cases in which he has testified, despite testifying “10 to 20 times” at trial and “25, 30” times in depositions. Krason also claimed that he had not testified in the last five years due to COVID. However, Krason made no statement in his expert report indicating that he had not testified in any cases within the last four years.

The Court held that Krantz must either provide a list of the matters in which Krason has testified within the last four years, or else certify to Market Street that he has not testified in any matters within the last four years. If Krantz fails to do so, the Cour may exclude Krason’s testimony in full.


The Court granted in part and denied in part Market Street Investment Corporation, Inc.’s motion in limine to exclude Brian Krason’s testimony.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Personal Experience: No matter how qualified and experienced expert an expert may be, his personal experience still does not justify expert testimony if it only speaks to the expert’s own practice.
  2. Equivocations: The Court held that Krason’s minor equivocations over the rot and size of the gap did not render that testimony unreliable in any event. The evidentiary requirement of reliability is lower than the merits standard of correctness.
  3. Specialized Knowledge: Simply reading Keystone COG’s website and inspection checklist requires no specialized knowledge. Laymen or property management experts are equally competent to make these observations, and therefore admitting them as expert testimony has the potential of misleading the jury.

Case Details:

Case Caption:Krantz V. Steiler
Docket Number:4:21cv1217
Court:United States District Court, Pennsylvania Middle
Order Date:April 05, 2024


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