• Melbourne Quantity Surveyors

CASE STUDY - EXPERT WITNESS PROJECT

Dispute Resolution Greater Shepparton (Value $700,000)



In this case, the local council had planted trees close to a heritage listed building. The trees drew all the moisture out of the ground which caused the footings to drop and the building to shift. We were engaged by the owners of the building to provide expert witness costings and related construction techniques associated with the rectification works. We also provided the costs related to moving the business out of the building and into a temporary facility during the completion of the rectification works. The client used the reports in a court of law as one of the pieces of evidence in the damages lawsuit.



THE CHALLENGES

During the project, we faced several challenges, including:

  • Costs associated with rectifying a heritage listed building: Costing heritage listed buildings can be difficult. They can be built using questionable construction techniques that were the norm in a previous era and often the visible damage is completely deceiving concerning how much underlying damage there actually can be. Couple this with the expensive and highly labour-intensive repair techniques. Ultimately, these costings can be difficult to price accurately.

  • Costs associated with moving the business into temporary facilities during construction: As part of the lawsuit, we had to provide an estimate for temporary structures and services to allow the business to function as it normally would during the construction period.

  • Cross-examination of all reports and costings by an expert witness engaged by the defendant: The defendant employed an expert witness to defend their case. He would cross-examine all of our reports and costings and provide evidence to the contrary. This made a difficult task all the more intensive knowing that all assumptions and estimates had to be watertight, knowing they would be tested and cross-examined.


THE SOLUTION

This project required extensive analysis of the structural engineer’s report to document the proposed works needing rectifying. We conducted a thorough site visit confirming the damage and proposed works to help with any assumptions that needed to be made. Including:

  • Visiting the site and comparing the structural engineer’s recommendations for rectifications with the on-site damage. Then we prepared a report stipulating the cost of works to rectify the damage based on the structural engineer’s recommendation. This helped outline the outstanding amount owed by the defendant for reimbursement to the client.

  • Providing a detailed cost report to provide the temporary services (including kitchen, storage, temporary access and services). The report helped the client determine the associated costs of setting up the temporary facilities and whether it was financially viable to go through with this process or simply shut down the business for the construction period.

  • Attending mediations with the defendant’s expert witness to assess and negotiate the differences between the two estimates. This was an attempt to come to an agreement outside of court, but as the cost variance was too great, we were not able to do so.

  • Providing expert witness advice and consultation during the client’s legal proceedings to recover the outstanding amount.

  • Attending the court hearing as an expert witness, justifying our estimates and methodology in a court of law.

  • Providing expert witness advice and consultation during the client’s legal proceedings to recover the outstanding amount.


FINAL RESULTS

Going into the court hearing, the defendant had agreed they were liable for the damages. The court hearing determined the acceptable amount in damages for the plaintiff to receive.

The defendant’s expert witness estimate totalled less than $100,000 for the proposed recommendations set out in the structural engineer’s report. The client also engaged a builder who had priced the same works at approximately $350,000; this was the basis of the client’s claim to which the client was seeking the full amount.

Our independent assessment of the recommended heritage restoration works, based on our experience, was in the order of $750,000; this was $500,000 more than the $350,000 the client was perusing from the defendant, an undeniable variance. The judge ruled in favour of our client a total slightly over $700,000 for the recommended works and temporary services.

In this case, based on our previous experience with heritage listed buildings and their repair costs, the judge ruled unquestionably in favour of our reports and estimates of costs in almost all instances. The outcome was far better than we could have expected.





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