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Jones v. LA Fitness International, LLC

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff was injured while playing basketball in one of Defendant’s facilities. Defendant removed the case to the federal district court. Defendant motioned for summary judgment and motioned to preclude testimony from Plaintiff’s expert. The district court reviewed Defendant’s motions.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under the Federal Rules of Evidence Section 702,a witness, who has been qualified as an expert, may testify in the form of an opinion.

    Facts.

    Khalif Jones, Plaintiff, was injured while playing basketball on an indoor court at one of L.A. Fitness International, LLC, Defendant’s, health clubs. Plaintiff had hit the back wall, resulting in the dislocation of his elbow. Plaintiff’s complaint stated that Defendant was negligent because it did not make the basketball court safe and it did not warn its members of the dangerous conditions that result from the insufficient padding on the back wall. Defendant timely removed the action from state court to federal district court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Defendant motioned for summary judgment and to preclude the testimony of Jones’s expert witness, Steve Bernheim, on the grounds that it is inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence (“FRE”) 702. Bernheim, a sports and recreation consultant, stated that the basketball court failed to comport to national standards because the basketball court had insufficient clearance between the baselines and the back wall and insufficient padding along the back wall. Defendant contended that Bernheim was not qualified to give a medical or biomechanical opinion. The district court reviewed Defendant’s motions.

    Issue.

    Whether, under the Federal Rules of Evidence Section 702, a witness, who has been qualified as an expert, may testify in the form of an opinion.

    Held.

    Yes, under the Federal Rules of Evidence Section 702, a witness, who has been qualified as an expert, may testify in the form of an opinion.

    Discussion.

    Under FRE 702, a witness who has been deemed to qualified as an expert may testify in the form of an opinion only if: (1) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will aid the trier of fact to determine a fact that is at issue; (2) the testimony is properly based on sufficient facts or information; (3) the testimony is developed from reliable principles and methods; and (4) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the present case. At a minimum, the person seeking to testify as an expert must possess skill or knowledge greater than the average layman. In this case, Defendant contends that that Bernheim is unqualified to testify as an expert because he is not an expert inthe medical or biomechanical field. Nonetheless, Bernheim’s testimony was not being used to present a medical or biomechanical opinion. Instead, Bernheim’s testimony was being used to demonstrate that the basketball court failed to conform to certain standards within the industry. Bernheim’s testimony is reliable based on his qualifications as a consultant and expert in sports-related risk management and liability. Therefore, Defendant’s motion to preclude Bernheim’s testimony must be denied. Likewise, to defeat Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff must proffer evidence to establish a reasonable basis for concluding that Defendant’s conduct more likely than not caused his injury. Here, Plaintiff has satisfied this burden. Therefore, Defendant’s motions are both denied.


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