A client comes to you and says the injuries are related to an event. You conduct a preliminary review and find the scenario sufficiently credible to warrant offering the retainer agreement and starting work. And when you involve the expert witness, you hear him say that your client had it right.
Is the expert witness adding anything of value to the case?
The legal standard that the expert witness be able to add something of extra intelligence and insight to assist the evaluation of the trier of fact predisposes us to anticipate something complicated – or at least more complicated than our client can discern. After all, our client is merely a witness of fact, while the expert witness is, well, the expert.
But if you discount the capabilities of the expert witness simply because he agrees with your client, you’re missing the opportunity to present an expert witness who will make sense to the jury. An expert witness who is willing to consider the opinions of others and to give credit where it is due is an expert witness worth keeping.
Too often, expert witnesses talk straight over the heads of the juries and judges. It is not intentional. These are people who are leaders in their field, who are immersed and up-to-date on industry publications and news, and working out in the field. Without a doubt, the technical aspects of the case must be covered with all the attendant specificity, reports, charts, graphs, videos, and whatever else will try to educate and inform the decision-makers and raise their own education level to a higher point.
So when an expert witness can say in plain English that the nexus was a pivotal event and your client was right to complain, the expert witness also endorses the intellectual capacity of the jury and judge as having valid instincts for wrong-doing and as being capable of cutting through all the details to see the most important point.
The example that comes to mind is the qui tam action involving a whistleblower. Perhaps the employee collected a small group of e-mails. Or perhaps he was a participant in a meeting. The triggering event can seem to be a flash of illumination amidst a huge federal contract or a complex piece of defense equipment or a single accounting entry. Indeed, the defense may well adopt a theme that the whistleblower doesn’t understand the enormity of operations, the complexity of design, or the standard operating explanation.
Then how is it that every trial, no matter or long or how complex always seems to boil down to just a few key sentences and one or two exhibits? Because those ah-ha! moments stand out for a reason – whether it’s your client or your expert witness, there should be consistency on what is sufficiently important upon which to base a verdict in favor of your client.
By: Paloma A. Capanna, Attorney at Law