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ConnerK (Civil/Environmental) (OP)
10 Feb 12 15:01
Background:
I was recently sued by a client claiming damages for professional negligence.  The case against me was clearly frivolous and settled quickly.  I was personally out of pocket for my PL insurance deductible.  The plaintiff hired an expert witness who produced the affidavit of merit, which kept the case going and me in it, otherwise it would have been thrown out and would have been dismissed early.

My dilemma:
I believe the expert witness who produced the affidavit of merit, clearly did so to keep me going in the case to get to a monetary settlement agreement for the plaintiff.  PERIOD!
My stance on the issue is that this PE expert violated ethical standards and professional conduct laws, etc.  I was told by a few attorneys that personally suing the expert in this regard would not work.  I'm still wondering if this is true.  However, I have been seriously considering filing a complaint with the PE board regarding this matter, but wonder if its a waste of my time or should I just get over it and move on.  Any comments would be appreciated.   Thanks.
 
dik (Structural)
10 Feb 12 15:42
Can you give us a little background on the case?

Dik
JedClampett (Structural)
10 Feb 12 16:23
I'd file it away and wait for your chance to get even using other means. I highly doubt you'll be satisfied with the outcome if you go though with a board complaint.
I'd imagine lighting a paper bag of dog poo and leaving it on his front porch. Just don't do it.
SkiisAndBikes (Structural)
10 Feb 12 17:20
I was involved in a case about 10 years ago where my company and our client were sued by the contractor for a project I was in charge of. Not a great feeling, but in the end we were 100% exonerated. It was widely felt that the contractors expert witness went well beyond the realm of facts, fabricating technical arguments to support the contractors position that clearly could not be supported in court (thats the lawyers job, not the engineers). There was talk of submitting a complaint to the engineering association. In the end, we walked away, heads held high, without making a complaint. The essence of the court case was only money, not public safety.
Helpful Member!  casseopeia (Structural)
10 Feb 12 18:02
Expert witnesses are granted a great deal of latitude when it comes to 'Engineering Opinion.'  I imagine that is the basic hurdle you would have to clear for your complaint to get much traction.  But  go ahead and file a complaint if it's not too much trouble.  If the board receives enough of them, it will provide an incentive to investigate.

The sleazy expert is only part of the problem.  Insurance companies are complicit in that they pressure the insureds (you in this case) to settle by paying the deductible.  That way they minimize their own costs by not fighting it in court.  To fight the case would cost them attorney's fees and why should they pay?  That's what their clients (you) are for.

I've never figured out what keeps the Liars for Hire in business. I've sat through presentations and mediations where the Plaintiff's Expert was out-numbered and openly ridiculed by  Defense attorneys and their exerts.  I've participated in ridiculing presentations by one infamous expert from southern California.  But the man is without conscience or sense of shame.

 

"Gorgeous hair is the best revenge."  Ivana Trump

Ron (Structural)
10 Feb 12 20:55
Cass is exactly right.  The expert was providing an opinion based upon information provided to him or that he researched.  It is difficult to refute a nebulous opinion....you might disagree with it, but that doesn't make it "wrong".
zdas04 (Mechanical)
11 Feb 12 1:35
I had an attorney approach me last year to be an expert in a case against a pipeline company.  I listened to the facts and told him that I could not support his client's position and if it wasn't unethical I'd be calling the defendant to offer my services pro bono.  The attorney was shocked and appeared angry that I had the audacity to try to give him advice on the merits of his case.  I heard he found one of those liars-for-hire that Cass was talking about, but that the guy had to be back under his rock before dark.

I think the "expert witness" trade has a high potential for abuse.  I turn down 3-4 cases a year and have only accepted 2 in 3 years.  The last one I turned down came at a time when work was really slow and I spent over an hour with the attorney trying to find ANY merit in his argument.  If I had been busy I would have turned him down in 5 minutes.  Maybe deep down I was turning to the dark side.  They were offering a lot of money.  I'm still glad that I kept my integrity intact.

With regard to the OP, you really need to think like a lawyer.  They are taught in first year law school that when something is over it is over and revenge is a really non-rev activity.  For the most part it sticks and lawyers rarely do stuff like turning the other side's witness in to professional boards.  For your situation the law of unintended consequences should be considered.  You turn him in.  Your name is now on the board's radar.  They shine a light up your projects to see if the case really was frivolous (double jeopardy doesn't apply to a civil suit and a board action).  If you must get revenge, I would lean toward the flaming bag of dog poop rather than a board action.

David

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