Expert Witnesses and Attorneys: Anger Isn’t Good

Legal
How to Make an Attorney Angry: The Seven Deadly Sins I have noted over the years and in close to 1000 litigated assignments I have been named an expert witness on, all attorneys have melting points – negative or angry reactions to actions of their expert witnesses. As is almost always the case in life, it’s the little things in business (and life) that count. So here are my Top 7 negative reactions attorneys have for expert witness conduct. 1. Nickel-and-diming: While not of the greatest importance, nickel-and-diming an attorney to death never fails to light a fire on their already short fuse. I know experts who keep time clocks on their invoices. They have their tasks reduced to the minute; sometimes, to the second. Seriously. Yes, I know attorneys…
Read More

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. Trees and Neighbor Disputes.

Insurance, Legal
As the old saying goes, good fences make good neighbors. I’m not an attorney and certainly not qualified to give legal advice. However, after scores of litigated cases where I served as an expert witness, I can offer some significant take-home lessons for anyone involved with a neighbor who is a poor steward of their trees, causing you a nightmare of possible consequences as a result. The first issue regarding trees and neighbors is always reduced to who owns the tree. At the simplest level, with one tree and two neighbors, the land on which the trunk is wholly located is always the owner of the tree. If the trunk stands partially on the land of two or more people, then the tree typically belongs to all property owners in…
Read More

Eminent Domain Takings: New Florida Formula

Legal
Let me tell you a story . . .In the early 2000s , I received a telephone call from one of the nation’s leading eminent domain attorneys. It was a call that arborists only dream of getting, a call that started my fierce defense of Article 5 of the Bill of Rights. A call that spurred me  to have my career revolve around it. Eminent domain centers around Article 5 of the Bill of Rights, property rights to be exact. Our country was founded on the principle of property rights:  “. . . Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” These attorneys are highly skilled at appraising the value of anything taken by the government for public use. A road widening is a classic example…
Read More

Failed Tree Liability

Insurance, Legal
Is the Whole Always the Sum of its Parts? The “Green Industry” is governed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI A300). The Standards consist of 10 Parts that cover the various categories of work and provide for certain standards in the writing of specifications and performance. This of course affects where liability lies for a failed tree. The question becomes: Are these Standards separate and apart from one another or is there one Standard with 10 Parts? This question is central to the matter at hand. A man standing near a tree dies instantly when a limb fails and kills him. Negligence or an accident? Perhaps an Act of God? Was the  failure covered by insurance or did a preexisting tree condition exempt coverage? There are many instances where…
Read More

The Interview: It’s the Same But Different.

Insurance, Legal
The most published work on LinkedIn may be the topic of the dreaded job interview, followed quickly by how to write a résumé. Thousands of professionals comment on this topic, and LI has some very smart and credentialed masters who know what advice to give to real-life questions. However, there is another type of job interview also requiring a résumé that speaks to keeping the position one already has after the interview ends. If you are successful in getting past the interviewer and the questions, you keep your job. If you don’t, you don’t. It’s a sink-or-swim scenario. In this plot, you already have a job and are trying to keep it. The rules of the road are simple: You must answer every question honestly. If you don’t, you lose…
Read More

Permission to Approach the Witness

Insurance, Legal
The direct examination went rather well considering that most people expect the retaining attorney to be a great orator worthy of Cicero accolades when, in fact, they might have little experience or expertise in oral presentations at trial. The exchange between me, as the expert tree witness, and my retaining attorney was not over-rehearsed and was a more natural reflection of the facts. The jury was attentive and had a genuine interest in the value of the trees subject to the dispute. Then came the dreaded cross examination, the other side’s attorney and her opportunity to convince the jury I was a blithering idiot. And the golden ring of all cross examinations, the chance to prove me a liar under oath. Few realize that the number one fear of the…
Read More

The Expert Witness on a Litigation Team

Insurance, Legal
One of the most important components of an attorney’s litigation team is the expert witness. An attorney going into a court without the best expert is like a solider going to battle without a rifle. And so it came to pass in a federal courthouse some time ago that a black limousine pulled up in front of the courthouse steps. An attendant quickly stepped to the rear door to open it for his passenger. It was at that time one of the guards at the courthouse shared with me this quip: “You (me) are in for one hell of a ride, my friend.” Not a particularly a comforting message with my appearance for testimony scheduled for first thing in the morning – just about 15 minutes away. It seemed this…
Read More

Death, Injury, & Property Damage from Trees

Insurance, Legal
During February, I received four requests from different insurance companies to render an opinion on the unfortunate outcome of trees falling on people and onto property causing property damage. One death, one personal injury, and two homes with extensive damage. One month. Trees can be and are dangerous. That danger grows exponentially when the subject trees are not inspected for hazardous parts or repairs, or when removals are not implemented. The one constant in all of these assignments was the insurance companies, which only wanted to know the truth of the matter. Could the tree failure have been prevented? Was the insured at fault?  I have read, as has most everyone, the available news that paints insurance companies as monsters for not providing proper and ethical coverage. I work with…
Read More

Fat Cats and Honesty: An Expert Witness Needs to Tell the Truth

Insurance, Legal
One commodity weighs heaviest among all professionals: the truth. Nothing separates success in the professional marketplace and private relationships quite like the truth. Synonymous with honor, integrity, and character, the truth and a reputation for telling it (especially as an expert witness) are priceless, except when the truth interferes with a constructed reality based on miscues driven by deception. In this instance, I was having what is irreverently known as “A Coming to Jesus Meeting” with my client, an attorney. Seasoned and successful attorneys retain an expert well in advance of filing suit. The expert, supposedly, teams with the attorney, and perhaps other experts to inform the attorney regarding the strength or weakness of the case. Two things can go wrong during this exercise: One, the expert isn’t expert enough…
Read More

Signs, Signs: There are Signs Everywhere!

Insurance, Legal
Have you noticed that signs are everywhere on our highways? But there are rules and laws that govern most, if not all, of them. In this matter, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association (FOAA), and Citizens for a Scenic Florida (Citizens) were caught in a quagmire of legal lawsuits regarding the appraisal of trees in front of billboards along Florida’s scenic highways. In Florida, a billboard owner has a legal right to have 1000 feet of clear sightline distances. These clear sightline distances may be divided into whatever visual corridor the billboard owner desires; however, most billboard owners opt for 1000 continuous linear feet of clear sightline corridors. If a tree or other vegetation obscures the face of the billboard within that sightline distance, billboard…
Read More