Judge Strikes Expert Report Containing OSHA Policy Interpretation

On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted summary judgment to the owner of a slag plant in a case brought by a worker who sustained serious injuries from falling off an unguarded screen deck in a tower. Summary judgment became possible once the court decided to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s primary expert witness.

The proffered expert witness report contained a section regarding OSHA’s policy with respect to allocation of duty and responsibility among employers at multi-employer work sites.  The expert used this policy to conclude that the owner was a prime and controlling entity who actively participated in workplace safety.  The expert then relied on that conclusion to determine that the owner had and failed to fulfill its safety obligations at the plant.

The court ruled that the expert could not make these assertions given that the interpretation of the OSHA policy and the allocation of duty and fault is a matter of law, not one of engineering or plant safety.  The court explained further, “[the expert’s] reiteration of the record and brief conclusions do not evince any specialized knowledge, but instead simply act to include inapplicable state and federal law.  I find these conclusions unhelpful and, at times, potentially confusing to a trier of fact.”

The case is No. 15-cv-613 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

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