Arguing that an expert's evidence should be inadmissible on the basis that he lacks expertise in the relevant field

A valuer admitted that it had negligently overvalued a property. On the facts, the judge concluded that the claim was time-barred. Two further issues considered in the case were:

  1. Should the costs of repossession and sale be taken into account when assessing damages? The judge held that that they could be.
  2. Of more general interest, it was argued that the evidence of an expert in the case was inadmissible, on the basis that he was a chartered accountant, with no expertise in mortgage lending. The judge rejected that argument. He noted that no evidence was called to show that there is a recognised method for valuing the personal covenant of a mortgagor. Evans-Lombe J held in Barings v Coopers & Lybrand [2001] that expert evidence is admissible "in any case where the court accepts that there exists a recognised expertise governed by recognised standards and rules of conduct…and the witness to be called satisfies the court that he has a sufficient familiarity with …the expertise in question".

The chartered accountant here was governed by rules of conduct and had applied recognised principles and assumptions and so, the judge concluded that "I am therefore assisted by hearing evidence from a competent accountant who is used to evaluating the worth and future prospects of individuals, even if he has never previously had to value a mortgage covenant as such".

COMMENT: This is an unusual case, in that parties rarely submit that an expert's evidence is inadmissible because of a lack of relevant expertise – instead the other side will usually argue that little weight should be given to the evidence. The judge was clearly prepared to allow some leeway on the issue of expertise in this case (and it is noteworthy that the other side did not call its own expert to value the mortgage covenant).