We have been asked in recent months to look at an uncommonly large number of expert witnesses, both for clients thinking of hiring experts and by people checking out the other side’s experts.
What an eye-opener. Nearly half of these people turned out to have something in their backgrounds that would give someone pause before hiring them. Consider just some of our findings:
- A graduate degree that could not be verified (and which seemed suspicious because of a class rank in a field that doesn’t usually rank people);
- A financial expert with multiple bankruptcies and tax liens in his recent history;
- An expert who was not allowed to testify in his area of expertise last year in federal court because a judge held that he was not competent;
- An expert who testified last year that his hourly rate was 20 percent lower than what he was proposing to charge our client.
Is there anything special about checking out an expert versus due diligence on anyone else? For the basics, the answer is no. Criminal and civil litigation everywhere they’ve lived and been based are a must for review. If the expert has a consulting company, check on litigation and liens for that too.
When it comes to the resume, you want to see not only that everything on there is accurate, but what’s been left off. Associations with companies and cases that did not end well have a way of falling off the resume to make room for uncontroversial jobs.
See also our entry from two years ago, Due Diligence on Expert Witnesses: Assume the Worst, here.
Our conclusions, now as then, could not be clearer.
- If you hire experts, do a basic public records and press search on them to verify that they have not been in serious trouble. If your matter is worth millions and you are paying an expert tens of thousands, why not spend $2,500 to $5,000 and make sure your case won’t be derailed by something so easy to check?
- If you are an expert, clean up your resume and get the false stuff off of there before an inquisitive client finds out about it.