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5 Improvements to Civil Litigation Procedure for Financial Expert Witnesses

Reducing client costs in civil litigationHow can civil litigation become less costly and complicated and more fair for all involved? Although rules of civil procedure call for a quick, inexpensive and fair determination of all civil actions, those goals often are not met. The AICPA Forensic and Valuation Services Executive Committee and the members of the FVS membership section are well aware of the many problems within the system that can cause lengthy delays and unnecessary expenses. Because CPAs have a unique perspective on the issues involved, the FVS Executive Committee, in conjunction with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, surveyed FVS Section members, many of whom are frequently retained as expert consultants or testifying witnesses in civil litigation. Based on the survey findings, the executive committee has released a new report, “Another Voice: Financial Experts on Reducing Client Costs in Civil Litigation.”

The report offers stakeholders in the civil justice system--including judges, attorneys, financial experts and clients--five recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of financial experts and efficiency of their use in the civil pretrial process:

  1. Judges should implement early and consistent active case management. The report spotlights particular problems, such as continuances, that can lengthen preparation time and drive up financial expert witness costs.
  2. Clients and attorneys should involve experts early in the process. Although financial experts often are brought in late in the game, earlier involvement can lead to more effective case management and lower overall costs.
  3. Attorneys should target, focus and streamline expert depositions and discovery. While beneficial, discovery can be a lengthy and expensive process. FVS Section members recommended changes that would reduce gamesmanship and encourage substantive information gathering.
  4. Attorneys’ Daubert-like challenges should be appropriately targeted and acted upon promptly by the court. Among other observations, the report noted that if a challenge is brought, it is important that the expert involved be notified and given an opportunity to participate effectively in the challenge process.
  5. Attorneys and the court should develop a process for the collaboration and cooperation of opposing experts where appropriate. Financial experts can be instrumental in putting this recommendation to work.

The FVS Executive Committee hopes that the report recommendations will be an important contribution to the ongoing conversation on how best to improve the system. They can serve as a starting point for dialogues among all types of expert witnesses. Some are already being tried in state and federal jurisdictions across the country. At the same time, the FVS Executive Committee and IAALS are involved in outreach and education efforts to encourage further consideration and implementation of needed changes. I recommend the report to all CPAs, because we all have a stake in any effort to promote a more accessible and reliable civil justice system.

Elaine Leggett, CPA/CFF, Technical Manager - Forensic and Valuation Services, American Institute of CPAs. Most of Elaine’s career has been spent in public accounting.  Prior to joining the AICPA, Elaine was with a large local firm, working with clients from a broad range of industries, including construction, nonprofits, insurance, and healthcare, on tax, audit, and consulting engagements.

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