When to Hire an Expert Witness for Construction Defect Litigation

cbeecherBuilding Envelope

Construction defect litigation is complex. Understanding how and why construction defects occur requires a rare combination of construction knowledge, technical know-how, and litigation expertise. As a result, attorneys often rely on expert witnesses to help support their cases. How do you know when hiring an expert witness for your construction defect case is necessary?

When the Case Involves Technical Expertise

Construction practices are constantly evolving. An essential benefit of an expert witness is their familiarity with the technicality of building construction, defects, materials, codes, and standards.

When an expert witness is called upon to investigate a construction defect, their first course of action is determining whether there actually is a construction defect. In some cases, alleged construction defects are actually due to issues outside the scope of construction.

If a construction defect did occur, the expert witness will review and assess the conditions to understand what caused the defect and when it happened — did it occur during pre-construction, construction, or post-construction? This type of assessment also includes reviewing any and all documentation on the design, construction, and maintenance of the property.

An expert witness should also be able to inspect building components, such as windows, to ensure they were installed and are performing correctly per industry standards, product manufacturer’s instructions, building codes, and project-specific requirements.

When There are Disputes Over the Cause of the Defect

In litigation, it’s common for disagreements to arise, especially when the parties have a monetary or emotional involvement in the case. An expert witness provides an objective and scientific third-party perspective.

In some cases, a dispute will require testing to assess the performance of the various building components. At GCI, as an expert witness, we utilize proven scientific methods based upon industry standards to ensure that building envelope components can stand up to things like wind-driven rain. This helps zero in on the cause of the defect—it could be the defect was caused during installation, by the manufacturer, or something else.

An expert witness should provide consultation and presentations during mediation to provide clarity as to the disputed conditions, but they also provide expert testimony should the dispute move to a deposition, arbitration, or trial.

If the Case is Going to Trial

If a dispute can’t be settled, then the case may move to trial. This is where an expert witness can give a professional testimony, which can provide important context to the construction defect.

Litigation expertise is also valuable when communicating with judges and juries, especially when they’re unfamiliar with construction defects. The experience and expertise that comes with working day in and day out on construction litigation and building envelopes means that expert witnesses can explain complex construction issues in a clear manner.

If the Opposing Side has also Hired an Expert Witness

Communicating complex topics, providing technical expertise, and performing necessary investigating and testing of construction defects may make one side appear more prepared and influential than the other during arbitration or trial. If you see the opposing side has hired an expert witness, you’ll want to follow suit to ensure balance and that your side of the story is well-represented.

Hiring an expert witness for construction defect litigation can be a wise investment. If you are facing a construction defect dispute, consult an experienced attorney or talk with the team at GCI to find out if an expert witness is necessary for your case.