“Expert” witness inspections


When writing for the court, they often start giving legal opinion too and this practice needs to be nipped in the bud.

Author: Jason Williams
Reading time: 2 minutes

This article is 8 years old.

Read our disclaimer keyboard_arrow_down

This website content is intended as a general guide to law as it applies to the motor trade. Lawgistics has taken every effort to ensure that the contents are as accurate and up to date as at the date of first publication.

The laws and opinions expressed within this website may be varied as the law develops. As such we cannot accept liability for or the consequence of, any change of law, or official guidelines since publication or any misuse of the information provided.

The opinions in this website are based upon the experience of the authors and it must be recognised that only the courts and recognised tribunals can interpret the law with authority.

Examples given within the website are based on the experience of the authors and centre upon issues that commonly give rise to disputes. Each situation in practice will be different and may comprise several points commented upon.

If you have any doubt about the correct legal position you should seek further legal advice from Lawgistics or a suitably qualified solicitor. We cannot accept liability for your failure to take professional advice where it should reasonably be sought by a prudent person.

All characters are fictitious and should not be taken as referring to any person living or dead.

Use of this website shall be considered acceptance of the terms of the disclaimer presented above.

It is not unusual for a court to order those in dispute over an allegedly defective vehicle to obtain a report that has not been written by a “hired gun”.  

A jointly instructed expert is agreed, whose job it is to produce an independent report for the court.  However, we are finding that these experts often exceed their role and so their findings need to be scrutinised and challenged.  

The rules state that an expert cannot pass comment on matters that are beyond their expertise.

However, when writing for the court, they often start giving legal opinion too and this practice needs to be nipped in the bud.  For example:

“I believe that the car was not of merchantable quality when sold 8 months previously”.  In this case, the fact that “merchantable quality” was removed from the Sale of Goods Act a decade ago clearly shows that this engineer has no grounds at all for making this type of assertion.  It is not for him to give an opinion as to whether the car breached the law or not.

“I think that the seller should have noticed this at the point of sale / be held responsible / have to pay for the cost of repairs”.  Again, the engineer examining must stick only to what he finds and leave the decision making to the court.

From our point of view, experts need to give a considered opinion as to what the likely cause of failure was.  It may be beyond doubt that a head gasket has blown but establishing why it is likely to have done so if often the real crux.  Has it blown because it was itself defective or as a result of it having been driven continuously with no water in it?  

Great care therefore has to be given to what an expert witness is instructed to report on during his or her inspection of a vehicle but not to the extent that they are given the freedom to become Lord Chief Justice at the same time!

Jason Williams

Legal Advisor

Read more by this author

Getting in touch

You can contact us via the form or you can call us on 01480 455500.