Patrick Dorrian

If you’ve been involved in litigation for a while, it’s easy to be cynical about expert witnesses. Before I get myself in too much trouble, let me say that I know people who serve as expert witnesses whose integrity is beyond reproach and whose opinions can’t be bought for any amount. But I see many others whose opinions invariably support the side that’s paying them. In fact, it’s not unusual to see a party in litigation disclose an expert to support its position before it has provided the expert the information to review. They just know that the expert will say what they want him or her to say.

You could make a similar argument about lawyers – how we argue our clients’ positions regardless of what we personally believe to be right. But we don’t make any secret about the fact that we’re advocates. Experts, in contrast, hold themselves out as being impartial. 

Experts in human resources pose a more acute problem because their area of “expertise” is not well-defined. A recent case out of the federal court in Alaska (reported on by Patrick Dorrian at BNA – subscription required) illustrates the issue. In Blakeslee v. Shaw Infrastructure, the plaintiff offered an expert to testify that a reduction in force did not follow the “Golden Rules” articulated in a college textbook – Human Resources Management (by C. Fisher, L. Schoenfeldt, J. Shaw; published by Houghton Mifflin Co., 1996). Continue Reading Are Expert Witnesses on Human Resources Really Experts?