The evolution of expert witness law under UK and US jurisdictions
The use of expert testimony in construction disputes is not new, but as the technical and logistical complexity of construction projects has increased, so has the need for expert testimony to assist the court to understand and resolve the issues of the dispute. This article describes some of the similarities and differences between the way expert witnesses should operate under the UK and US legal systems respectively, particularly in relation to judicial courts.
The need for expert witness
Expert witnesses were being appointed in England as long ago as 1784, when the well-known British civil engineer John Smeaton appeared before an English court on a case relating to the silting-up of the harbour at Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk, England.
Today, a brief exploration of the internet will identify many companies and individuals offering expert witness services in various branches of engineering and construction within individual jurisdictions or internationally, be it programming and delay analysis, or costing and valuation. In each case, the experts will usually advertise that they have years of experience in their chosen field and the skill, knowledge and expertise gained in that time will be relied upon when forming and presenting opinions on matters that are often key to the resolution of the dispute.
However, there are rules and guidelines within which expert witnesses must operate and these can differ considerably between one part of the world and another. This article will focus on the UK and US rules.