When can a single joint expert be challenged by a party’s expert?

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Bulic –v- Harwoods [2013] BLR 89. QBD

Mr Bulic sued Harwoods’ Garage for allegedly faulty servicing of his Jaguar motor car.  Harwoods’ defence was that he’d over-filled with engine oil.  The parties had previously agreed to appoint a single joint expert (“SJE”), but the opinion he produced was very controversial.  Bulic produced an opinion from a subsequent expert, appointed by himself, which was highly critical.  The judge refused leave to allow Mr Bulic to call his own expert witness.

HELD:

  1. The question was very much a matter for the discretion of the court.  It is not possible to set a hard and fast rule although a number of considerations were listed by the Court of Appeal in Peet –v- Mid-Kent Healthcare Trust.
  2. In this case the judge was concerned about the real sense of grievance Bulic would be likely to have if barred from pursuing the many criticisms which his own expert had of the SJE.  He also considered, on the facts, that the court was likely to obtain assistance from comparing 2 experts on these crucially important technical issues.  The appeal was accordingly granted.

Comment

There is a general presumption in the courts, particularly in less valuable cases, that a single joint expert is the way to go. The courts are always willing to be persuaded to the contrary.  Particularly where the expert issue is crucial to the outcome and where there are likely to be widely differing technical views.  The Judge reviewed the various cases however and concluded that there is no hard and fast rule.  Whether to insist upon a single expert in the face of one party’s grievance is a decision which will depend upon the facts of the particular case.  This is helpful for those who have worried that obtaining an adverse SJE opinion is tantamount to losing the case.  Clearly there is much encouragement to fighting on and seeking new experts.

For more information, help or advice on any construction issue please contact Rob Langley on 0191 211 7975.