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Stephenson v. Big Oaks Trailer Park, Inc

Superior Court of Delaware

September 10, 2019

SCOTT STEPHENSON and DANIELLE STEPHENSON Individually and as Guardian ad Litem for her Minor Daughters, AVA STEPHENSON, and LILLIAN STEPHENSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
BIG OAKS TRAILER PARK, INC, d/b/a BIG OAKS CAMPGROUND, and BOYER'S TREE SERVICE Defendants.

          Submitted: June 14, 2019

         Upon Defendant Big Oaks Trailer Park Inc. 's Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony of Dr. Nicole Gable, Dr. Steven Grinder, Allegra Hamman and Jacqueline Blair Denied.

         Upon Defendant Big Oak Trailer Park Inc. 's Motion for Summary Judgment Denied.

          Sean P. Gambogi, Esquire, Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O'Neill, Newark, Delaware, Attorney for Plaintiffs.

          Michael I. Silverman, Esquire and Adrienne M. McDonald, Esquire, Wilmington, Delaware, Attorney for Defendants.

          CALVIN L. SCOTT, JR., JUDGE

         Background

         Plaintiffs Scott and Danielle Stephenson bring this personal injury claim on behalf of themselves and their minor daughters, Ava and Lillian Stephenson, against Defendants Big Oaks Trailer Park, Inc. and Boyer's Tree Service.

         On July 3, 2015 Scott, Danielle, Ava, and Lillian Stephenson were camping at campsite PV-1 on the property of Big Oaks Campground. Plaintiffs allege that on or about 9:30 pm on July 3, 2015, a large tree limb from an oak tree near campsite PV-1 broke and fell into the Stephenson family's campground, bringing smaller tree limbs from a nearby hickory tree down with it. Plaintiffs allege that they were hit by some of the falling tree limbs and suffered physical and mental injuries as a result.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Big Oaks Trailer Park, Inc. ("Defendant") acted negligently by failing to properly inspect, maintain, and remove trees on its property, creating an unsafe condition.[1] Plaintiffs assert that Defendant's negligence proximately caused the accident.[2] The complaint requests general and special damages for physical and mental injury, property damage, and loss of consortium in an amount to be determined by the jury.[3]

          Plaintiffs identified their medical experts in a disclosure on December 18, 2018.[4] Defendant now moves to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' medical expert witnesses Dr. Nicole Gable, Dr. Steven Grinder, [5] Allegra Hamman, and Jacqueline Blair. Concurrently, Defendant moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude the Expert Testimony is DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

         Parties' Assertions

         On May 20, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony of Dr. Nicole Gable, Dr. Steven Grinder, Allegra Hamman, and Jacqueline Blair, arguing that Plaintiffs failed to comply with the Trial Scheduling Order by not providing Defendant with the experts' reports.[6] Defendant argues that the "treatment notes" provided by Plaintiffs did not contain the experts' opinion on the cause of Plaintiffs' injuries and thus, do not constitute expert reports.[7] Defendant asks the Court to exclude Plaintiffs' medical experts' testimony.[8]

          On May 20, 2019, Defendant also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that Plaintiffs cannot establish causation, a prima facie element of their claim, without the medical experts' testimony.[9]

         On June 14, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude the Testimony of Dr. Nicole Gable, Dr. Steven Grinder, Allegra Hamman, and Jacqueline Blair, arguing that their disclosures comply with the requirements of the Trial Scheduling Order.[10] Plaintiffs contend that medical records suffice as expert reports and ask the Court to deny Defendant's Motion in Limine and Motion for Summary Judgment.[11]

         Standard of Review

         The Court may grant summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law."[12] The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that no material issues of fact are present.[13] Once such a showing is made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there are material issues of fact in dispute.[14] In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the record in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.[15] The Court will not grant summary judgment if it seems desirable to inquire more thoroughly into the facts in order to clarify the application of the law.[16]

         Discussion

         A. Defendant's Motion in Limine

         Pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Rule 26(b)(4)(A)(i):

A party may through interrogatories require any other party to identify each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial, to state the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, and to state the substance of the facts and opinions to which the expert is ...

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