By Bruce Jervis
Expert witnesses frequently have a lot to offer. Their specialized expertise can assist the finder of fact, be it judge, jury or administrative board, in understanding factual evidence or resolving a fact that is in question. But expert testimony can also be misused.
In a recent federal case, the government attempted to introduce the testimony and report of an expert regarding the foreseeability of a cost overrun. The individual expert had an impressive array of credentials, including academic degrees and professional licenses. There was no question regarding the individual’s qualifications.
Unfortunately, the government was attempting to use the expert opinion in seeking a ruling on a matter which was within the competence and understanding of the fact finder. No expert opinion was required. And expert opinion under these circumstances can improperly influence a factual finding. The testimony and the report were excluded from admission into evidence.
Have you seen expert opinion used in inappropriate circumstances? Does the opinion of a highly credentialed expert sometimes dazzle the fact finder and alter what should be a common sense determination? And if expert opinion is going to be allowed, doesn’t it force the other party to bring in an expensive expert of their own? I welcome your comments.
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