Expert Witness Reports – Avoiding Litigation Sand Traps – What They Should and Should Not Include
1. Compliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. This probably is a good
place to start. The Rule provides in pertinent part as follows for witnesses hired in anticipation
(2) Disclosure of Expert Testimony.
(A) In General. In addition to the disclosures required by Rule
26(a)(1), a party must disclose to the other parties the identity of
any witness it may use at trial to present evidence under Federal
Rule of Evidence 702, 703, or 705.
Regarding reports, the Rule goes on to state:
(B) Witnesses Who Must Provide a Written Report.
Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, this disclosure
must be accompanied by a written report—prepared and signed by
the witness—if the witness is one retained or specially employed to
provide expert testimony in the case or one whose duties as the party’s employee regularly involves giving expert testimony.
The report must contain:
(i) A complete statement of all opinions the witness will
express and the basis and reasons for them;
ii) The facts or data considered by the witness in forming
(iii) Any exhibits that will be used to summarize or support
(iv) The witness’s qualifications, including a list of all
publications authored in the previous 10 years;
(v) A list of all other cases in which, during the previous 4
years, the witness testified as an expert at trial or by
(vi) A statement of the compensation to be paid for the study
and testimony in the case.
As to those witnesses who are typically skilled witnesses or fact witnesses with specialized or
technical knowledge, it states:
(C) Witnesses Who Do Not Provide a Written Report. Unless
otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, if the witness is not
required to provide a written report, this disclosure must state:
(i) The subject matter on which the witness is expected to
present evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, 703, or
(ii) A summary of the facts and opinions to which the witness
is expected to testify.
The timing of these disclosures is typically outlined in the Case Management Plan as noted in the
(D) Time to Disclose Expert Testimony. A party must make these
disclosures at the times and in the sequence that the court orders. Absent a stipulation or a court order, the disclosures must be made:
(i) At least 90 days before the date set for trial or for the case
to be ready for trial; or
(ii) If the evidence is intended solely to contradict or rebut
evidence on the same subject matter identified by another
party under Rule 26(a)(2)(B) or (C), within 30 days after the other party’s disclosure.
(E) Supplementing the Disclosure. The parties must supplement
these disclosures when required under Rule 26(e).
Do not forget the obligation to seasonably supplement your expert responses!
This obligation is continuing and requires no additional request by the opposing party.
2. Narrative of facts versus summary of materials reviewed.
Narrative formats are time consuming and subject your expert to attack if he misstates or
misinterprets a record. It also poses problems when there are conflicts in the evidentiary record
that have to be resolved by the jury. Providing a factual summary does require your expert to
review and analyze the record and shows that he has considered all relevant evidence. This
process also better prepares the expert to testify and draft reports may expose gaps in your
expert’s knowledge before final conclusions are reached. However, ultimately the documents are
the best evidence, and listing the items is both cheaper and avoids the pitfalls associated with
summarizing voluminous records.
3. Oral reports versus written reports. Early reports should probably be made
verbally. A summary of findings can be made by counsel in his notes which is protected under
the work product privilege. Once the record matures and the facts are clear, reports should be
considered depending on the requirements of your jurisdiction.
4. The problem with draft reports. Such reports only pose a problem if
discoverable. In federal court only the final draft is discoverable. Check your state law on this
topic to see if it differs.
5. Communications with expert and the work product privilege.
Such communications only pose a problem if discoverable. In federal court only correspondence
containing assumptions of fact or which outline the factual basis for the expert’s opinion are
discoverable. Check your state law on this topic to see if it differs.
Working with your expert on providing a report that is accurate, complient, clear and concise is critical. This checklist should help.