Using an Appraiser as an Expert Witness

Dani Alexis Ryskamp, J.D.

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— Updated on June 23, 2020

Using an Appraiser as an Expert Witness

Using an Appraiser as an Expert Witness

A number of cases demand the expertise of an appraiser to help the judge and jury understand key parts of the case, such as the value of property involved in the case, what a comparable sale of a similar item would be, what it costs to create an item, or the process by which a particular asset produces value. And while the matter of value can be crucial to a case, the estimation of that value can be highly subjective.

Here, we explore the types of cases that commonly call for appraisers as expert witnesses, the types of appraisal experts commonly seen in court, and the role a qualified appraiser may play both before and during trial.

What Types of Cases Call for Appraisers as Expert Witnesses?

Generally speaking, an “appraiser” is someone who evaluates the significance, status, or monetary value of an asset. While court cases involving business disputes, real estate disputes, or arguments over intellectual or personal property most often involve appraisers, an appraiser’s help may be necessary for any case in which the parties argue over what something is worth.

An appraiser may be called as an expert witness in any case in which the parties are arguing over value. Typically, the side that calls the appraiser as an expert witness would benefit from the item in question having either a higher or a lower value. The appraiser is called as an expert who can comment knowledgeably on what the item in question should be worth and why.

Attorneys may also choose to work with appraisers as consultants. When an appraiser works on a case as a consultant, he or she may be asked not only to conduct an appraisal or to critique the opposition’s appraisal, but also to help the attorney determine which questions to ask in discovery, deposition, and at trial. The more complex an appraisal is, the more likely that an attorney will consult an appraiser for assistance.

Appraisers can be called in a wide number of cases to testify about an appraisal they performed that is relevant to the case, such as an appraisal of land in a real estate malpractice case or an appraisal of a privately-owned art collection in a divorce. In this situation, the appraiser is not acting as an expert witness.

What Types of Appraisers Commonly Serve as Expert Witnesses?

Generally speaking, the larger the perceived or disputed value of an asset, the more likely it is that attorneys for one or both sides will seek the help of an appraiser as a consultant, an expert witness, or both. Consequently, appraisers who specialize in large business assets, investments, and intellectual property typically find themselves sought as expert witnesses more often than their professional peers.

Real estate is the most common field in which an appraiser’s help is sought as an expert witness. The value of real property can vary significantly depending on a wide range of factors, and it can be difficult to determine without expert knowledge and skill. As a result, appraisers are often asked to discuss the methodology for determining the value of real estate in order to help one side establish that a performed appraisal is too high, too low, or just right.

What Role Does an Appraiser Play Before and During Trial?

Like other experts, appraisers must be evaluated for their suitability for the role they will play in the preparation and presentation of trial arguments. Their methodology should be considered as well, particularly in states where the rules governing the admission of expert witnesses dictate that questions about the appraiser-as-expert’s methodology may be raised.

As with all experts, appraisers should be chosen with attention to due diligence. Membership in an appraisal organization, such as the Appraisers Association of America, American Society of Appraisers, or INS, as well as the appraiser’s education, experience, publications, and participation in previous litigation are examples of key areas to consider when seeking an appraiser to serve as an expert witness.

One particularly important point to consider is that appraising is, ultimately, subjective. As a result, it is vital to address the question of bias both before and during trial by exploring whether your appraiser has ever given an unfavorable opinion and under what circumstances.

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