EXPERT REPORTS: TOO LONG AND NOT MUCH USE: CARE EXPERTS MUST TAKE MORE CARE
In the case of Harman -v- East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  EWHC 1662 (QB) Mr Justice Turner had some very clear criticisms of the expert reports. Some of the comments are of general importance.
“Against the background of longer and longer reports there is, however, little sign,.. that the care and attention spent on analysis and opinion, as opposed to history and narrative, is being given commensurate attention and priority.”
The judge was deciding the issue of future care and accommodation for a child who had been seriously injured a birth.
THE JUDGE’S COMMENTS ON THE EXPERT’S REPORTS
- The proper resolution of this issue is of central importance to both parties. It is important for Ben’s future and the sums of money at stake are very considerable. It was therefore disappointing that the expert evidence in some respects fell short, particularly on paper, of providing the Court with a level of assistance commensurate with the seriousness of the issue.
- I would make the following points, some general and some specific to this case:
i) There is a regrettable tendency for experts to produce reports which are simply far too long. The comments made by Sir James Munby in his article on this topic in  Family Law 816 are as apposite to personal injury litigation as they are to care cases:
“…too many expert reports…, are simply too long, largely because they contain too much history and too much factual narrative… I want to send out a clear message: expert reports can in many cases be much shorter than hitherto, and they should be more focused on analysis and opinion than on history and narrative. In short, expert reports must be succinct,focused and analytical. But they must also of course be evidence based.”
In the experience of this Court it is not unusual for care reports, for example, in catastrophic injury cases to exceed 100 pages in length. Very often the same narrative detail can be found repeated in report after report from different disciplines. The consequences are deleterious. All this involves the parties and the Court in spending a disproportionate time reading the reports which results in an increase in costs. Furthermore, the likelihood that important points are lost in the vastness of the context in which they appear is unhelpfully increased.
ii) Against the background of longer and longer reports there is, however, little sign, in some cases at any rate, that the care and attention spent on analysis and opinion, as opposed to history and narrative, is being given commensurate attention and priority.
iii) Experts should deal with the issues raised by the other side promptly. In this case, the defendant makes a legitimate point in emphasising that neither the claimant’s care expert nor educational psychologist dealt with the option of continued residential care in their reports until the joint statements and even then the matter was dealt with in an over concise way. One inevitable consequence of this was that the reasoning of the experts was only finally fleshed out in oral evidence during the hearing. This should not happen.”
RELATED POSTS ON EXPERTS
- More on experts: non-compliance with the rules taints the evidence badly
- The credibility of witnesses: joint meetings and overreaching experts: a case to point.
- Over eager experts just do not help: they hinder and harm the case of those who call them.
- Beware the expert evidence who “lectures” the court (and tells the judge who to believe).
- Expert evidence about the veracity of witnesses: well, its probably a waste of time.
- An expert must disclose details of professional relationship with a party otherwise the consequences can be dire.
- Irrelevant evidence, inferences and “forgery”: evidential issues in a High Court case.
- Principles of mitigation of loss & the credibility of expert witnesses.
- I didn’t mean it when I signed the joint report: what happens when experts change their minds?
- Expert evidence: the expert’s role: seeing the wood for the trees.
- Cross-examining expert witnesses: hints, tips and links.
- Experts going on a frolic: a family law case where the expert witness was “thoroughly unhelpful”.