Retaining an expert witness is expensive and may not be necessary in every case. Don’t try to keep up with the Jones & Jones firm: Just because the other side has an expert or because experts have traditionally been used in similar cases doesn’t mean you need one. And if you decide you do need an expert, make sure it’s the best type for your case.
Despite the political rhetoric, public confidence in scientists has “remained stable for decades.” You can bring this confidence into the courtroom through expert testimony based on the scientific method, i.e., physical observation and testing, not just untested hypotheses. Experts should be “hands on” when it comes to collecting and investigating physical evidence.
Although in the “real world” scientists changing their minds may be the badge of intellectual honesty, in litigation the expert who backs away from a position or changes an opinion is supplying the opposition with a source of impeachment. Any time the expert makes a written record of his or her thoughts or opinions, the opposition gets a “paper trail” of potential impeachment material. To avoid this, tell your expert to keep writing to a minimum.
The task of deposing the opposition’s expert is simplified immeasurably by keeping in mind the deposition’s fundamental purpose: to discover all of the expert’s opinions and all of the bases for those opinions. Your goal should not be to impeach the expert but rather to concentrate on learning everything the expert thinks about the case, has been told or learned about the case, and has done or plans to do in connection with the case. To help reach that goal, here’s a checklist of questions to consider asking when you’re deposing the opposition’s expert.