Two experts justified in design claim

Posted: 21st December 2012

Car DashboardThe highly technical nature of a businessman’s claim that his car's engine seized up due to a design flaw merited the instruction of two expert witnesses despite the relatively low value of the claim, a High Court judge has ruled.

The claimant is seeking damages from Jaguar Cars Limited, claiming that the engine of his car suffered serious mechanical failure due to the faulty design of a diesel particulate filter. He is also suing a garage, which he claims failed to adequately service his car, but faces claims that the most likely cause of the failure was an 'unidentified third party' over-filling the engine with oil.

In a preliminary hearing at the High Court, the claimant sought permission to instruct his own expert witness, having lost confidence in the joint expert that had previously been appointed by the parties. Granting the application, Mr Justice Eady said that the expert’s evidence was ‘far from peripheral’ and could well prove ‘fundamental’ to the resolution of the issue of why the engine failed.

The judge recognised that the instruction of two expert witnesses is only appropriate in ‘substantial’ cases. However, giving the example of libel actions which are ‘undoubtedly substantial’ although only modest damages may be recoverable, he said it was impossible to distil any general rule.

He concluded: ‘The issues raised in litigation may be important to the parties, or to the public generally, for a variety of reasons other than purely financial considerations. I am unable to derive anything approaching a general principle to the effect that, in claims of less than certain monetary value, the court should decline to allow a litigant to engage his own expert evidence where he has lost confidence in a single joint expert – especially where the expert evidence is of a technical nature which is likely to be determinative of the case on liability.’