CD: In general terms, what overall benefits can expert witnesses bring to the process of resolving a commercial dispute?
Wright: The main benefit brought by expert witnesses is the focus on the financial or technical issues they provide. It may not be until the legal team start the process of briefing experts that they turn their attention to these issues. While it is obviously critical for there to be a strong legal case, unless the parties are interested in disputing the principal alone, the question of ‘how much is it worth’ is critical to know. The quantum of the claim can inform strategic decisions about the materiality of the claim to the parties, how much to invest in resolving the dispute, or whether a settlement offer is reasonable. In Australia, mediations are used throughout a litigation process. At this stage, even a ‘back of the envelope’ range of estimates or exposure analysis can be helpful. Other technical expertise can also be used at this stage to put the focus on the right technical issues and inform the parties about the relative strength of their case.
Rowell: Experienced and credible expert accountants provide specialised knowledge which helps the parties to a dispute, including the court and arbitration panel, understand the key financial issues and achieve an appropriate financial outcome.
Hayler: An expert witness can provide a number of benefits. In particular a financial expert can provide insight as to the relative value of the arguments being advanced, and the financial interaction between those arguments. This can help legal teams focus their efforts on the most valuable elements of the claim or counterclaim, particularly where two elements are, from a financial perspective, mutually exclusive.
Apr-Jun 2016 issue