“Willy Nilly” expert evidence not allowed

New High Court rules regarding expert evidence became effective on 1 October.

The changes introduced include the necessity to plead in the statement of claim or defence the discipline of each parties' expert as well as a summary of the issues these experts will address1.  Significantly, parties may now only offer evidence from one expert in a particular field unless permission to do otherwise is provided by the Courts.

The new rules also provide the Court with the ability to exclude expert evidence that is not "reasonably required to enable the Court to determine the proceedings"2 and this provision was considered by the High Court earlier this month3

This case involved the admissibility of a foreign legal expert on matters of Irish law.  Ultimately the High Court found that such expert evidence was inadmissible but took the opportunity to emphasise that even if it had been admissible the Court would have had to thereafter consider whether it was reasonably necessary to determine the issues in dispute. Mr Justice Kelly stated that:-

"the court is entitled to restrict such evidence to that which is reasonably required to enable the court to determine the proceedings. No longer are parties free to call expert witnesses willy nilly. The court can determine what is needed and restrict expert testimony accordingly"

This case highlights that the Courts intend to fully enforce the new rules regarding expert evidence, further emphasising the importance of ensuring any expert retained is "reasonably required" to advance the core issues in dispute.

We have prepared a briefing note on the new rules regarding expert evidence as well as those relating to the Conduct of Trials and Case Management. For a copy of this briefing note, please contact Mark O'Shaughnessy.

1  Order 20, Rule 12 and Order 21, Rule 23 of the Rules of the Superior Courts  

2  Order 39, Rule 58 of the Rules of the Superior Courts  

3  O'Brien –v- Clerk of Dáil Éireann [2016] IEHC, 597

For further information please contact Mark O'Shaughnessy or Paula Mullooly.

Date published: 15 November 2016