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Exclusion of Expert Douglas Buchan Upheld

A Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a trial courts’ exclusion of expert Douglas Buchan’s proposed testimony.

Plaintiffs were occupants of a mobile home located in a mobile home park in Trenton, GA.  Their home, along with two other homes, were served by natural gas lines installed by Atlanta Gas Light Company (AGLC).  A master meter that regulated the flow of gas into the homes had been turned off a few months prior to the incident by the owner of the mobile home park so a new electric furnace and air conditioner could be installed in the Plaintiff’s home.  Employees of the park owner had left an uncapped gas line open under the Plaintiff’s mobile home.  On the night of the explosion, the owner of one of the other two mobile homes turned on the gas at the master meter.  Gas escaped into the Plaintiff’s mobile home, was accidentally ignited, and the Plaintiffs sustained personal injuries.

Plaintiffs proffered the expert opinion of Douglas Buchan that the standard of care applicable to AGLC required that it establish policies and practices that ensure that a closed meter valve is secured by lock or other acceptable device and that AGLC had breached that standard.

AGLC filed a Motion to exclude Buchan’s testimony which the trial court granted upon reconsideration.

The trial court noted that Buchan had failed to cite any treatise or authority supporting his belief that under the readily ascertainable and verifiable standards recognized by practitioners in the field, AGLS’s action in connection with the incident fell below the standard of care.  The court found that Buchan failed to demonstrate that companies that are similar to AGLC meet the standard of care that he advocates or that AGLC violated any applicable statutes or regulations.  The court concluded that Buchan lacked the requisite experience to serve as an expert or to provide a reliable foundation for his opinions on the natural gas practices and procedures at issue in the case, noting that he had no experience with warnings on natural gas master meters, locks on such meters, or master meter operations.  As a result, the court ruled that “Buchan’s opinions, based solely on his assertions, are unsupported by either the Daubert factors or any other reasonable reliability criteria.”

The Court of Appeals found that the record and the law supported the trial court’s determination and upheld the exclusion.

Anderson v. Atlanta Gas Light Co., No. A13A1620, 2013 WL 6052730 (Ga. App. November 18, 2013)

© Copyright 2021 Armstrong Teasdale LLP. All rights reserved National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 30
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