Homeowners' Groups Need Expert Witnesses in Lawsuits
Byline: Jordan I. Shifrin
Consider this: an association is about to undertake a $1 million renovation project. Or, the association plans to sue the original builder for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages due to construction defects. The entire case hinges on the testimony of an expert witness ... so the board hires the expert from a listing in the yellow pages.
Sounds preposterous, right? Unfortunately, it probably happens in a vast majority of cases.
When an association is in need of the services of a consultant, particularly in larger contexts covering the structure's physical construction, or in matters that carry significant price tags, the way in which an expert is selected goes a long way in determining the outcome of the project.
Therefore, it is critical for a conscientious board of directors to retain the services of the correct expert so that either the contract is properly drawn up and supervised or the expert will be a star witness in a case where there is so much at stake.
As doctors, lawyers and engineers are tracked by areas of specialization, specialized expertise also is needed for certain types of cases. It is highly unlikely, for example, that you would use the same witness to testify about a defective roof as you would have for a case relating to problems with retention ponds.
In the case of a new contract, the correct choice for an expert is one that can assist in drafting specifications, negotiating the parameters and hidden costs of the job, monitor progress, inspect completed phases and approve or reject completion for final payment. If the wrong person, or for that if no one is used, the board is at the contractor's mercy.
Likewise, in a lawsuit against a developer or contractor, the association has to prove its case with the preponderance of the evidence. …