An expert witness refused to act on cavity wall claims after accusing solicitors of not paying him and naming him on cases without his knowledge.
The allegations emerged from an email sent in August 2022 by the unnamed expert to the court in relation to claims handled by Sheffield firm SSB Law.
The email said that SSB Law had submitted reports for cases that purported to have the expert’s signature, but in all instances he had not seen or participated in the creation of the report. It added: ‘SB Law [sic] have routinely named me on cases, often without my consent of [sic] knowledge, and/then issued instructions after the event.’
A large number of these cases had been through an intermediary called Pearl Legal Claims Limited.
His Honour Judge Carter had read out part of the email during a pre-trial review which stated that the expert could not continue on a claim by Dermot Doyle worth £66,000 for breach of contract and/or negligence in cavity wall insulation from 2014.
In the light of the expert’s email to the court, the judge disallowed an application from Doyle for a six-month stay to allow time to liaise with him.
The judge told the claimant: ‘I think the difficulty that you have got, is that there is no real evidence to show that [the expert] is going to attend anyway. And it seems that you have not paid them.’
It also emerged during the pre-trial review that the expert had emailed the defence expert in July saying that SSB had ‘no money to pay my long overdue invoice until the end of September’ and that ‘I simply cannot work for free because I do not have the resources’.
Doyle appealed the decision not to vacate the trial, saying that the August 2022 email should not have been allowed into evidence and that other ways of proceeding ought to have been considered. Doyle said he was ‘ambushed’ by the expert’s email and not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations raised, with no chance to provide witness statements from his solicitors.
On appeal, it was argued that expert payment arrangements were made by Pearl and not SSB. Reports were provided to SSB through Pearl with the expert’s electronic signature applied. Pearl had told the solicitors that it did not issue an expert’s report that had not been completed by him.
Mr Justice Freedman, ruling in Doyle v HDI Global Speciality SE, said there had been no serious procedural irregularity and that the judge allowing only a brief time to respond to the email ultimately made no difference to whether the expert would act in the case.
He added: ‘The application was in effect a late application to break a three-day fixture with no information as to how and when the case could be restored, and in circumstances where the problems which had given rise to the need for further directions had been known about to Pearl and SSB for months before the matter was brought to the attention of the court.’
Freedman J also dismissed an appeal in a different action by claimant Eileen Rowe, who claimed for £52,000 against her cavity wall installers. (The Doyle and Rowe cases were conjoined.)
His Honour Judge Khan had concluded that the claim was bound to fail without an expert giving evidence for Rowe. This decision had again followed the instructed expert withdrawing his services because he had not been paid. The court in Rowe had also heard that the expert emailed SSB in May 2022 saying that costings had been ‘exaggerated in almost all cases’.
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