Expert in courts—Strickland challenges business valuers who are adversarial or too keen

BVWire–UKIssue #13-1
April 14, 2020

expert testimony
expert witness, expert testimony

Experts who attack other experts, behave discourteously, or slavishly follow the instructions of solicitors will not be treated favourably by the courts because they are deeply dependent on the knowledge that their experts, including business valuation specialists, maintain independence and professionalism.

So said Andrew Strickland, speaking at a free webcast with the ICAEW on 7 April (slides from the webinar available here). He recounted high court and other rulings by judges who were so angered by the failure of their experts, whether medical or financial, that they issued career-ending statements regarding the flaws.

‘For any expert appointed by the court comes power to influence judicial decisions, and with power comes heightened duty to deliver and to communicate fully with those involved in the case,’ Strickland said.

His review of recent UK case law reminds of us to avoid the most common errors in professional judgment experts commit:

  • Failing to answer the questions the court asked.
  • Not reflecting the need for deep courtesy and consideration, particularly avoiding abrasive conduct, including ‘salty comments’ toward fellow experts in either testimony or written reports. ‘We need to keep any waspish comments in check; they’re likely to rebound against us.’
  • Not being aware of relevant facts so that testimony is easily contradicted, particularly when the tone of the presentation is high-handed.
  • Putting through changes in draft reports suggested by instructing solicitors, thereby creating the impression of having an opinion that can be bought. The solicitors can erode the independence and integrity of the appraisal process.
  • Failing to make assumptions required in the role of experts. We are obliged to make assumptions and answer questions based on hypotheses.
  • Failing to follow the instructions of court because the valuer fails to comply with the terms of the determinations. ‘The courts want determinations to work, and are reluctant to overturn them.’ So if an independent joint expert fails to follow the instructions of the determination, the courts will not be pleased.
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