Today I’m talking to John Staves, Chartered Structural Engineer and Managing Director at Michael Aubrey Partnership about his role as an Expert Witness.
John, can you tell me about your role as an expert witness structural engineer, what type of disputes do you get asked to help with?
In my role as an expert witness, I am appointed to provide an impartial opinion on technical cases within my area of expertise – normally disputes arising from defective structural design or construction
Can you describe a recent case?
A recent case was a leasehold first tier tribunal (property division).
We were appointed by the freeholder of a property who had proposed structural works to an estate, the leaseholders on the estate challenged the need for the works and the cost of the works.
How did you help?
The initial witness statement was a joint statement from the whole of the professional team on the freeholder’s side; myself, the barrister and the managing agent.
As the Leaseholders’ technical advisors were not in attendance, and as a Chartered Structural Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers the freeholder’s barrister requested that I be moved up to “Expert”.
This meant I could give my professional opinion as well as confirm facts.
What is the role of the tribunal?
The Tribunal reviews the situation and makes sure that the freeholder is behaving sensibly and fairly.
Did you have to go to court?
Normally I would attend court, however due to COVID the case was heard online.
I was in the witness box for 2 hours and was cross examined by the first applicant and the barrister acting for a group of leaseholders who were party to the application.
Who makes the decision?
The three panel members, including a judge, will determine the application.
How long before a decision is made?
The verdict is usually within 6 weeks.
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