An expert was not needed in a negligence case against Costco Wholesale Corp., in a case where a customer claimed he was injured when a wine bottle fell off a conveyor belt, says a federal appeals court, in a divided opinion that
"This was a legal claim for negligence in state law, "said the majority view from a panel of judges at the 9th American Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco Robert Johnson v. Costco Wholesale Corp.
The decision overturned a U.S. district court decision in Phoenix that granted Issaquah, Washington-based Costco, a summary judgment dismissing the case.
"Johnson claimed he was injured by a bottle of Prosecco that fell off the conveyor belt. "All he needed to overcome Costco's summary assessment proposal was likely to establish facts supported by admissible evidence at least a genuine question of substantive facts, so that a jury could conclude that his injury was caused by Costco's negligence," the decision states.
"The district court considered that he needed expert opinions, and he did not submit anything," the statement said. But "Everything Johnson needs to avoid a summary assessment is tangible evidence of a prima facie case.
"Had he made an esoteric case out of the ordinary experiences for most people ̵
" But nothing in his papers suggests that he was. This seems to be a simple case of a bottle falling from a regular conveyor belt at the checkout counter, ”appears from the decision, in reverse order of the lower court's decision and readmission of the case for further negotiations.
The dissenting opinion would confirm the District Court's testimony that expert assistance was needed to determine whether Costco "violated the appropriate standard of care."
According to the protocol, the railing of the conveyor belt was estimated to be between one and six inches in height, the dissent said. “Who will inform the jury members about the range of guardrail heights in the industry, and what is a minimum and maximum height that is in line with best practice? These are the kind of issues that are usually raised by experts. "
Lawyers could not be reached for comment.