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Stanley v Rawlinson, Court of Appeal, 12 April 2011

20 April 2011
The issues

Expert evidence – scope of expert evidence – whether expert entitled to advise a party on evidence.

The facts

The parties were involved in a building dispute. They were neighbours. A wall between their properties collapsed. The Stanley’s blamed the Rawlinson’s. Eventually they issued a Claim Form claiming the cost of rebuilding the wall. Both sides obtained expert evidence. The matter went to Trial in the Chelmsford County Court for three days when the Judge found for the Defendants.

The Claimant’s Appealed.

The decision

The Judge had been entitled to reach the decision he had and his findings would not be disturbed.

In the course of his Judgment, the Judge had been critical of Mr Croucher, the expert instructed on behalf of the Stanley’s. In particular he had been critical of Mr Croucher in respect of an email sent by him to Mr Stanley and copied to Mr Stanley’s solicitor, advising them on the evidence they needed to meet the opposing case. The Judge found that this went beyond the usual role of the expert witness. He was also critical of Mr Croucher for saying in cross-examination that he owed a dual duty to the Court and to his client.

Mr Croucher had been right to say he owed a duty to his client. This was inherent in CPR 35.3 which provided that it was the duty of experts to help the Court on matters within their expertise and that this duty overrode any obligation to the person from whom they had received instructions. Similarly the Practice Direction of paragraph 4(1) emphasised the overriding duty of an expert to help the Court, which overrode any obligation to the person instructing or paying them and noted that the “expert must not serve the exclusive interest of those who retain them”. Experts were often involved in the investigation and preparation of a case from an early stage and there was nothing inherently objectionable, improper or inappropriate about an expert advising his client on the evidence needed to meet the opposing case. There was nothing improper in pointing out to a client that his case would be improved if certain assumed features of an incident could be shown not in fact to have occurred or if conversely features assumed to have been absent could in fact be shown to have been present. The Judge’s criticism of Mr Croucher was misplaced.

Appeal dismissed.

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