Court Determines that Land Surveyors Are Considered “Professionals” for Negligence Claims

A man filed a negligence case against a land surveyor after he tripped and fell on a stake while on his own land. The stake had been placed there by a surveyor while he was performing a survey of the land. When the surveyor had surveyed the land, he marked the boundary of the property with wooden stakes tied with ribbons, which were driven into the ground. They were surrounded by grass but still visible. Shortly after the completion of the survey, the landowner was unloading some equipment into a storage building when he tripped on one of the survey stakes. He seriously injured his hip and then sued the land surveyor for negligence. An appellate court recently issued an opinion in the case.

Fence BoundaryThe plaintiff did not present an expert witness to support his case. The surveyor argued that the plaintiff was required to show that his conduct fell below the standard of care in his placement and removal of the stakes. The plaintiff argued that placing stakes in a way in which they were not clearly visible was ordinary negligence, rather than professional negligence. He also argued that it was within the common knowledge of laypersons and that an expert was not required under the “common knowledge” exception. Under the common knowledge exception, a party can make out a case of professional negligence without expert testimony in cases in which the evidence and alleged negligent conduct is within the understanding of laypersons.

First, the court had to decide whether or not land surveyors are “professionals” in order to decide whether expert testimony was required. The court found that based on the specialized knowledge, high standards, and continuing education of surveyors, registered surveyors are technically professionals. Since the defendant was a professional, a plaintiff is normally required to present expert testimony to establish the standard of care.

However, the court neglected to decide whether or not an expert was required in this case under the common knowledge exception. That was because, in this case, the accident occurred on the injured man’s land, but the surveyor was hired by prospective land buyers. Thus, there was no contract between the man and the surveyor, and there was no evidence the surveyor had a duty to the property owner. Thus, summary judgment was granted in favor of the surveyor.

Evidence and Expert Testimony in Negligence Claims

Negligence can be established in different ways. For example, it can be shown through direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony. It can also be shown through circumstantial evidence, such as skid marks to show that a car was speeding. Moreover, it can also be shown through expert testimony. Expert testimony is often allowed in negligence cases that are particularly complicated and outside the common understanding of the average person.

While Illinois courts were hesitant in the past to admit expert testimony in ordinary negligence claims, courts now will generally admit expert testimony as long as it will assist the jury or trier of fact in understanding the evidence or explaining a key issue. However, experts on issues of common knowledge are not generally allowed.

Have You Been Injured?

If you have been injured, you may be entitled to compensation. Filing a lawsuit is a complex process, and it can be difficult to know how to argue the case and what is required. At Moll Law Group, our Chicago attorneys are skilled in many personal injury claims, from premises liability to medical malpractice. We provide legal representation to individuals in Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and communities throughout Cook County. Billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we have been involved. Use our online form or call us at 312-462-1700 to set up a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Automated Driving Presents New Risks for Drivers, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, August 16, 2016.

Defendant Allowed to Reopen Case After Filing Response Seven Months Late, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, September 16, 2016.

Court Hold Adults Who Serve Alcohol to Minors May Be Liable for Related Injuries, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, August 9, 2016.