As a landlord-tenant real estate attorney, there may inevitably come a time when you need an expert to help win your case, or at least help you better understand the facts of the case. You may want to engage an industry expert, also known as an expert witness, to explain industry standard or the standard of care, and whether the parties met them. Retaining an expert witness can be the key to a successful day in court. Today we’ll look at the most important things to consider when selecting an expert witness to aid your case.
What Exactly is an Expert Witness?
Simply put, an expert witness is an industry professional with an abundance of real-world knowledge in their field, called to provide testimony in a legal dispute. An expert helps the judge or jury understand a topic beyond common experience. An expert witness uses their extensive experience in the field to provide a lens through which to view the case. Their years of experience will aid your court case if they can be recognized as an authority on the matter by the court. For example, suppose you have a dispute involving a building or housing code. In that case, your expert witness could be a Certified Building Inspector with years of experience, well versed in the local regulations relevant to your lawsuit. The witness should be impartial, with their testimony providing their expert opinion on the matter at hand.
When is a Real Estate Expert Witness Needed?
When dealing with any legal matter, things can quickly become confusing without expert help. Whether you’re dealing with a habitability complaint, a wrongful eviction claim, or a property management dispute, an expert witness can provide a level of expertise that will add credibility to your case. A judge or jury will give more weight to an expert’s opinion, beyond their common experience. As real estate issues can be notoriously complicated, an expert witness can apply their industry experience to strengthen your case. The expert witness may start as a consultant to review the case and give the attorney a better understanding of the facts. Once the expert witness is officially designated, they can prepare reports, provide exhibits, and provide their testimony to support your case. Whether your client is a plaintiff or a defendant, the goal of utilizing a real estate expert witness is to provide clarity and understanding beyond common knowledge to the trier of facts to help them decide in your favor.
How to Select the Right Expert Witness
First and foremost, a real estate expert witness must have special knowledge, skill, experience, and training or education necessary in the field in the subject matter of your case. Real estate matters can be quite broad, and it would do no good to hire an expert in retail leasing for a dispute over a wrongful eviction in a multi-family home. For credibility, an expert real estate witness should possess any applicable licenses or certifications in their field, such as a broker’s license, or other recognized industry certifications whenever possible. The witness you choose must have a background that fits your case to be considered an expert in the matter. The expert witness does not need to be a lawyer, and they don’t need to have specific training in law. To be considered an expert on a matter, the witness must have special knowledge or experience of the issue at hand. The greater your witness’s experience, the more impactful their testimony will be, and the more likely they will hold up on cross-examination. Trials are a popularity contest and a performance. Your expert must be believable, likable, and a good presenter.
The Cost of Retaining a Real Estate Expert Witness
There are no definitive standards for what an expert witness will cost. For any case moving to litigation, you must thoroughly examine the cost/benefit analysis of retaining an expert witness. Spend too little on an expert or forgo an expert entirely, and you may not be able to provide the credibility necessary to convince a judge or jury to rule in your favor. On the other hand, a dispute with a relatively small financial sum at stake might not require investing thousands of dollars in the most highly qualified expert witness available. Some attorneys don’t want to spend money on experts only to find that the opposing party uses experts that add credibility to their case. It is up to you and your client to thoroughly examine the available pool of experts suited to handle your case and balance the pros and cons of each concerning their overall cost. Ultimately, most cases opt for the best balance of affordability and credibility that the client can reasonably afford.
When litigation is the only option to resolve a legal matter, retaining a real estate expert witness can be the difference that wins your case. At Edrington and Associates, we offer our decades of experience as landlords, property managers, brokers, building inspectors, and architects to those in need of expert testimony to build their case. We’ve worked both sides of the aisle for plaintiffs and defendants to resolve cases involving standard of care, wrongful eviction, habitability disputes, damages, and real estate transactions. Feel free to schedule a call to see how Edrington and Associates can help win your case.