Coulson J slates Expert Witness’ evidence after witness box meltdown

The importance of selecting a capable and experienced expert witness has been highlighted by the recent case: Van Oord UK Limited and SICIM Roadbridge Limited v Allseas UK Limited [2015].

The expert in question was instructed by a commercial claimant to assess the amount of damages due for delays in a gas pipeline project. The expert had arrived at a damages figure of £10m, however the Judge said the following:

“[the expert’s] abrupt departure from the witness box at a short break for the transcribers, never to return, was an indication of the stress he was under. But I regret to say that I came to the conclusion that his evidence was entirely worthless.”

Coulson J stated 12 reasons which led him to conclude the evidence was worthless:

  • The expert did not check underlying documents referred to in the pleadings;
  • Only the witness statements from the claimant were considered;
  • All quantification of claims relied solely on evidence from the claimant;
  • Estimated cost rates were preferred to the actual costs incurred in calculation;
  • No critical analysis of the claimants statements was carried out;
  • During cross examination the expert admitted he was unhappy with his report;
  • The expert also admitted that his report was confusing and potentially misleading;
  • He was not fully familiar with some documents which were appended to his report;
  • Much of the calculation was subjective with broad assumptions made to concur the witness statements;
  • He had not prepared the error-strewn calculation documents which he had claimed to have prepared;
  • Rather than checking the claimants assertions, he had “preferred to recite what others had told him”;
  • The expert had not cross referenced the rates used in his valuation of each separate claim to the source of these rates
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