When appointing an expert witness, if a potential conflict of interest exists, it is important that this is disclosed with full particularity at the very earliest stage. If this does not happen, the court is likely to be highly critical of those who failed to disclose the facts and also reject that evidence.
In the course of cross examination in a recent case, it was revealed that the expert witness and the defendant had a long-standing professional relationship and that there had been a substantial failure to disclose the nature and extent of this relationship. It was found on appeal that the expert’s independence and objectivity had been very substantially undermined and therefore the expert’s evidence was rejected by the court.
In certain circumstances there may be a limited number of experts qualified to give evidence which will in turn result in a higher probability that the expert would know one of the parties.
Although that in itself may not compromise the independence of the evidence it is imperative to disclose the nature and extent of any relationship at an early stage.