Expert evidence – no property in a witness

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Weeldon Waste v Millennium Insurance [2017] BLR 234 TCC, Coulson J

Facts

Weeldon had a waste processing plant and a fire occurred. They claimed on their insurance policy with Millennium Insurance. Millennium appointed Mr Braund as expert witness on the causes of the fire. His report to Millennium stated that the fire was caused by a faulty bearing on a conveyor belt. Millennium declined cover.

Weeldon decided to claim against the manufacturer of the conveyor belt, and asked Mr Braund to act in turn as their expert witness in a claim against the manufacturer. He produced a report saying the same thing. Eventually, Weeldon decided after all to sue Millennium Insurance.

In the proceedings, Millennium Insurance proposed to appoint Mr Braund as their expert witness and Weeldon objected to them doing so as a matter of principle.

Held

Mr Braund was well placed to act as an expert witness, having visited the premises immediately following the fire damage, and both parties considered him a suitable person. As a matter of fact, Mr Braund did not obtain any confidential knowledge about Weeldon when they instructed him and there was no good reason to prevent Millennium Insurance from relying upon Mr Braund’s expert opinion.

Comment

1. The overriding principle was that under the Court Rules (“CPR35”) an expert witness has an overriding duty to the Court, which overrides his duty to the person paying his bill.

2. Therefore, there was no good reason to prevent the Defendants from relying upon an expert whom the Claimants had also regarded as being a suitable person.

3. Further, the Court Rules provided (“CPR Part 1”) that the overriding objective of all court proceedings was to achieve justice. Using the only fire expert who had actually visited the premises was obviously in the interests of justice.

For more specialist legal advice call Keith Bishop, Head of Construction & Engineering, on
0191 211 7983 or email [email protected].