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Expert’s Failure to Establish Proximate Cause Results in Exclusion

In Westover v. Jersey Central Power & Light Co., 2012 WL 1722582 (N.J.Super.A.D. May 17, 2012), plaintiff’s barn was destroyed by fire. Plaintiff alleged electrical service conductors owned and maintained by defendant power company caused the fire. The court excluded plaintiff’s origin and cause expert, finding that his reports contained critical omissions and inadmissible “net opinions.”

He simply concluded, without any facts or data to support the conclusion, that the fire was caused by a short circuit due to the power company’s failure to maintain the aerial service lines. He did not state how the short circuit occurred, identify any specific defect, or state how the alleged failure to maintain caused or contributed to the failure. 

Further, his failure to exclude other possible causes of the fire was fatal to his opinions and to plaintiff’s strict liability claim. “Nowhere in [the expert’s] reports are there any detailed technical or scientific explanations of how the short circuit occurred. [He] merely proffers that the fire was caused by an ‘electrical short circuit’. . . [T]he reports neglect to provide the requisite ‘whys and wherefores’ that our jurisprudence requires from an expert’s opinion.”

© Copyright 2020 Armstrong Teasdale LLP. All rights reserved National Law Review, Volume II, Number 288

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Our fire and electrical liability attorneys are fully immersed in fire and explosion issues. We are experienced in fire and explosion training, are active members of professional and legal organizations devoted to these areas and are respected leaders in the industry. In fact, our attorneys are so well-versed in the industries they serve, they are often called upon to share knowledge and experience as instructors, authors and advisors. Our fire and electrical liability clients include well-known companies in the energy, chemical, gas and petroleum industries; product manufacturers and...

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