10 Apr Expert Witness: The Secret To Avoiding The Courtroom
Learning from other’s mistakes is often a valuable experience; as an Expert Witness we utilize this knowledge to guide our clients.
Retaining a Project Management Consultant for a development program enables the developer to benefit from a broad range of experience learned from other projects. As an Expert Witness, DRB Development Solutions can more importantly help with “what to avoid.” It has been my experience that litigation is often caused by the parties failing to perform some simple tasks or simply communication failures. I have found that the lessons learned as part of our Expert Witness practice has kept our clients out of litigation and trouble. In fact, over the 40 years we have been leading projects, not one of our Project Management assignments has resulted in litigation. However, there are many projects that did not use DRB as their Project Manager who needed our Expert Witness talents to resolve the mess they found themselves in.
An ad for an oil filter company used the slogan “You can pay me now or pay me a lot more later…” and that is very true in the Project Management business.
As an Expert Witness, DRB will evaluate the project records and facts to determine the cause of an issue and what the parties did that resulted in a disagreement requiring litigation or leading the project astray. Furthermore attorneys share that they believe we are better experts for their cases because we are active in managing projects instead of just being a hired testifier.
Expert Witness n.
A person who is permitted to testify at a trial because of special knowledge or proficiency in a particular field that is relevant to the case
A construction expert must have extensive knowledge and understanding of the industry practices, rules and processes. As the expert, their role involves more than just testifying at a trial. They assist lawyers in understanding certain facts of the case regarding construction practices, design impacts, schedule impacts and the cost implications of the issues being claimed.
Disputes often involve several parties and offer very intricate issues. While trial lawyers are very good at presenting or defending a case, they may not have the specific experience related to the specific case details. Expert Witnesses help the attorneys become familiar with the details and processes relevant to the matter being disputed. In short, it is not the Expert Witness’s only job to testify but to educate the legal team about construction practices and details related to the case.
Each case provides new information that can be shared with clients to help them avoid similar challenges. For example, on a high-rise condo project, the design team used glass handrails for the balconies. This design left the top edge of the tempered glass exposed. During the case, it was explained that exposed tempered glass edges are very weak. When the edge is hit the entire panel disintegrates to pieces. Due to that experience we directed a design team away from a similar situation on another project.
Communication skills are also an important criteria when retaining an expert. The expert must be able to easily convey the key points of the case in simple, clear and understandable concepts. The concepts must be simple for a jury, judge or arbitrator to understand and retain for when they are determining their verdict. I have found analogies or simple stories to be a great way for my points to be easily remembered long after I have finished testifying.