Expert evidence being presented in lay setting with judges gavel on desk

2022’s High Court decision in Coldunell Ltd v Hotel Management International Ltd [2022] EWHC 1290 (TCC) illuminates the pivotal role expert evidence plays in the built environment. This case considered a hotel landlord’s pursuit of compensation for his tenant’s alleged failure to return a property in good repair, as stipulated by a 20-year lease.

The case, with a staggering claim of nearly £1.1 million, demonstrates the importance of calling on good expert witnesses, as well as the scrutiny and crossfire that these witnesses can face in court. The court’s comments on the credibility, independence, and presentation style of the opposing experts showed the full impact that expert evidence had on the final ruling.

Court cases within the complex realm of the built environment often require the testimony of experts in their fields. Professionals such as surveyors, engineers, or architects are essential in assessing property conditions, determining necessary repairs, and offering valuations for these. Their role is pivotal in assisting the court to make informed decisions.

The Coldunell case delved into contrasting expert approaches, with the claimant’s expert demonstrating an authoritative grasp on the subject at hand as well as an independent interest in assisting the court. The defendant’s expert meanwhile failed to conduct his own investigation, relying instead on outdated reports and arguing for these aggressively despite substantial opposing evidence.

The court did not fail to comment on this disparity, praising the claimant’s expert for his credibility and measured presentation, while criticising the defendant’s expert for demonstrating bias and ignoring evidence. Meanwhile, the defendant attempted to discredit the claimant’s expert’s evidence by claiming that he lacked impartiality – a claim that the court overruled.

The ins and outs of this courtroom drama centred on three key factors affecting the quality of evidence: independence, credibility, and presentation. By demonstrating these, the claimant’s expert managed to clearly convey compelling evidence that worked in the claimant’s favour, winning him the case and £597,117 in costs not yet incurred.

In the context of built environment claims, knowing how to select an expert witness and in turn to present compelling expert evidence is critical. We’ve put together an in-depth exploration of what can be learned from the Coldunell case, as well as expert evidence best practices according to Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) Part 35. Take a look now and learn how to uphold professional standards and make expert contributions in the face of an ever-changing legal arena.

Read our Thought Leadership article to take a deeper look at the challenges present in Navigating Expert Evidence in Built Environment Cases.

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