Lawyers will often go to the engineer as a first point of contact for a complex legal case involving building defects. Dr Jon Drane explains expert witness selection and Expert Triage in cases involving building defects.
Whether it is Cracks, leaks or fires, lawyers or even insurance assessors can often reach for the engineer first. An engineer might be the right choice for part of the analysis, but what type of engineer, and what are the other pre-determining issues that led to the defect? Dr Drane of Expert Triage provides tips on where to actually start with an effective expert witness selection.
When the emergency ward triage nurse is presented with a patient with co-morbidities, he/she does not always go straight to one particular specialist. The patient is assessed and then a series of tests and consultations are reviewed first. An investigation path is formed with an unfolding of cause and possible remedy or solution.
In the case of a complex building matter relating to the cause of a defect, it often pays to use the same approach. It may not always be that the crack is caused by the next door demolition and just might be due to poor design integration between various consultants. It might be that the developer established a poor design and delivery system which encourages poor design practices due to financial stresses. Not all consultants are from large professional firms and can succumb to the pressure of the originating deal and their related commission.
Dr Drane has in some cases been presented with a ‘cot case’ where several engineers seek out an answer which was not actually attributable directly to their patch; whether structural, civil or geotechnical or other.
When buildings are designed and constructed there is a sequence of integrated design steps that are planned and implemented. After the building is completed and a problem arises, this pathway can be reviewed in reverse like a re-construction.
This re-construction then leads to the integrated assessment of the problem just like the triage nurse.
This is the central principle of Expert Triage.
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Dr Jonathan Drane
5 August 2021