Construction Dispute Resolution Expert Witness Assistance

The construction of a new home or office building can be a daunting task to manage. From the beginning of the process, stress immediately sets in. The finding and selection of a contractor is not an easy task. In fact, the pre-construction part of the project can often be the most stressful part of the project.

However, if you have ever had to go through the process of having something go wrong with the project, and the subsequent legal action, then you know pre-construction stress is nothing compared to the stress of the possibility of needing construction dispute resolution.

The Legal Aspect of Contract Disputes

When you are in the legal realm of construction dispute resolution you will likely have to rely on a construction expert witness. If you are bringing legal action against the builder you will need to prove that the builder, or builders, breached their contractual obligation. In the area of construction there are often many gray areas that a homeowner or a business owner might not be fully aware of.

These gray areas typically involve things like disclosure of building practices and codes, the pulling of city or town required permits, and various kinds of hold-harmless agreements. The legalese involved in most construction contracts should signal to buyer that he or she ought to seek legal advice before entering into any agreements.

Getting an Expert for Your Case

Most people who are engaging a construction company for work are not experts in construction themselves. Therefore, when something goes wrong with the structure of the building or elements of the structure (like electrical work, mold issues, and settling issues) it is hard for the buyer to know who is legally liable. This is when a construction expert witness is helpful.

You can hire a construction expert to come in and review the contracts and workmanship. When it comes time for trial you can call this person as a construction expert witness to bolster your case against the defendant.

If something happens to your new home or office, and really even before anything happens, you should consider bringing an expert on board to help spot any issues before the situation turns into a complex, expensive, and stressful legal process that neither side wants to deal with.

Construction dispute resolution is really a stressful process unless you have the right construction expert witness.

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Lee Dodsons Website Gets Down to the Business of Empowering Contractors, Tradesmen in The Construction Industry

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) July 19, 2013

Lee Dodson, owner of, announced today a major push to place building contractors on a level playing field with clients, news organizations, state and local agencies, and the Federal government.

During the last six years, Dodson states, the construction industry suffered dire hardship as the economy plummeted. The industrys normal share of economy until 2008 ran in the 23-26% range, today it is less than 8%, marginally up from 3% in 2009.

Contractors abandoned their small businesses at an alarming rate, preferring to change occupations or to take employment with major builders if possible. Latest information from California reveals a 5% license renewal rate, the average age of a contractor is 58.

Additionally, public perception of the construction industry is at an all time low. In an upcoming article in The Brenner Brief e-publication, Dodson enumerates reasons as to why contractors and trades people have left, and are leaving the business in droves. The main reason is money.

The business has, indeed, shrunk, and with the pullback many reliable clients have left the market. What is left, Dodson says, is a very tough market that sees hard times in the building business as an opportunity to negotiate tough deals that leave the contractor taking cash-flow jobs with little or no profit.

Encouraged by biased news services, unregulated by any agency, and tight budgets give rise to post contractual negotiations, or just plain cheating, and the contractor/ tradesperson has few options. Court is expensive, regulatory bodies have their own agendas, and the public believes construction is a means of larceny on the part of the trade.

The was created as a venue where the tradesperson can detail his or her experience, good or bad, so others in the trade could discover if a problem was on the horizon. They could find out how to work contracts, specifications to avoid said difficulty or to avoid the situation entirely.

Look, says Dodson. People in the trades do things, they make things that we all need, and they are generally held in disdain as uneducated, but they are not. Contrary to commonly held regard, they do what the others cannot do. They deserve respect, but now they have to fight government attitudes, regulatory delay, and often, deal with difficult clients and situations.

This website gives the trades a voice, Dodson stated flatly. Ive seen almost every building situation in my career from bad weather to clients fighting each other, but theres nothing worse than not being paid. The tradesperson is the business, and if that person is damaged people are put out of work, bills dont get paid, and thats where we are right now. Its time we stood up for ourselves by standing together.

Dodson created six years ago under the name The site did well, but its creator was not satisfied with the robustness of the operation, so he honored all contracts, expressed and implied, and set about a new incarnation. He was seeking a new experience for his clientele.

The creator brought on a new programming staff from Colossal Ventures, and with the invaluable assistance of Colin Ryan, head of the company, set to work adding the availability of mounting pictures, sound bites, videos as part of users postings. With that, Dodson added space for other trades people to comment on postings and to add articles that might be of interest to the users.

The concept of mounting both negative and positive posts was paramount in Dodsons mind. Were setting about changing the business by giving, once again, a forum where anybody in a vital business who has something to say has a place to say it.

Dodson notes that women in the trades or connected by family are very interested in posts. is research, the creator states. for free. If the person or business is listed, the user can check them out for what to expect in doing business with that particular entity. And, if they have a gripe or an atta boy, the user can post it.

I discovered that many in the trade are uncomfortable writing things down, good or not-so-good, but they have no problem telling the story, so I put space to talk it through on audio or video. It works. Were get inquiries already.

In some cases, the post is legally delicate, whistleblowers, and the like, so anonymous posts are accepted. All posts are edited before final approval by the company, and are referred back for edit if necessary, but most are posted expeditiously. is the answer to Yelp and other websites that can be critical of people or companies in the construction business to level the field for trades people with this resource.

Dodson spent forty-one years in the construction trade, has written many articles for trade magazines, has served as expert witness in court cases, and has acted as mediator in many construction related issues. He is currently contributing to The Brenner Brief e-newspaper and has written and published two books, Infiltration, a fictional account of a terrorist attack in southern Arizona, and This Never Happened, a high desert murder mystery.



Twitter: skshtgr11

Lee Dodsons Focus Moves To Family Members Of Contractors, Tradesmen in The Construction Industry

Los Angeles, California (PRWEB) July 21, 2013

In an article today, July 20, 2013, Lee Dodson, owner of, discussed the family problems caused by the collapse of business of contractors and trades-people in the construction industry since 2007.

The construction business didnt just collapse, it disappeared. Dodson writes in The Brenner Brief. Jobs that were pre-financed continued for six months to a year, but when banks re-configured, house and structure values fell through the floor. There was not enough equity to support remodeling and additions, so an entire market evaporated. As the downturn continued, droves left the trade.

The new housing starts dropped by nearly 80%. Unless a company had major relationships with lending institutions, it cut back to bare essentials, laying off fully 70% of its workforce and dropped sub-contractors. Every contract was reviewed in cost cutting maneuvers designed to stay in business. Mergers were instituted to save viable companies.

What happened to the people in the trades? Dodson asked. They dropped prices, took marginally profitable jobs. Just to stay in the game, but conditions took their toll.

Trades-people suffered disasters the banks and large firms did not. In 2008, the construction business people were the first to face foreclosure. After selling off what assets they had accrued, rolling stock, retained materials, trades-people dumped real property. It was a no-win situation because values had reduced so severely that many went to short-sale, and when all else failed, the rest went into foreclosure.

Small business was assassinated. And with it, families bore the brunt. Women and children suffered the worst of it, Dodson writes. These were working people, wives sometimes doing the books, making sure that bills were paid, payrolls met, jobs moved.

And they are, perhaps, the angriest because they saw mates maligned by news services, burdened by government fees, and unprotected in court, if it was affordable. Banks were no better, Dodson opined.

This is why I focus on women today. The is an arena where spouses and family advisors can strike a blow for themselves and for their families. Many building professionals have a tendency to suck it up and move on, but the wives are actually much tougher when their lifestyle is threatened. If anyone can change the way business is conducted, it will be women, both in the business and on the sidelines. I encourage them to file.

The economic toll was overwhelming, but this toll was not the worst of occurrences. Fully 45% of families either divorced or de facto dissolved over a four year period from 2008 to 2012. Most small business trades-people could not qualify for unemployment or any other type of substantive relief. For these people, the recovery did not happen.

Jobs of any type were taken for sustenance, but this was not the worst effect of the downturn. Thousands of skilled workers either left the business or retired. Entry level work ceased to exist, therefore there are few workers to replace the natural attrition rate expected.

In California, the average age of a licensed contractor or subcontractor stands at 58, the renewal rate stands at 5%.

Have conditions improved?

In 2007, construction occupied 27-28% of the GDP. Today the trade is a bare 8%, up slightly from 3% a year past. The rate doubled, but when compared with four years ago, the rate is one third of what it was.

Competition is fierce, and the culture has evolved from a contractually solid commerce into a bazaar mentality where a signed deal is not set in stone, it is a starting point for further negotiations. Even in major dollar enterprises, amounts set fluctuate throughout the term of the project. Change orders are viewed as profit centers for both sides.

Can the business recover?

If women ally with their families, take advantage of, it will still be a climb. Things wont change quickly, but things will change.

Women are key.

The was created six years ago as a venue where the tradesperson can detail his or her experience, good or bad, so others in the trade may discover problems on the horizon.

Programmed by Colossal Ventures, Colin Ryan worked to add mounting pictures, sound bites, videos as part of users postings. Dodson directed space for other trades people to comment on postings and to add articles that might be of interest to the users.

The concept of mounting both negative and positive posts is new.

In cases, of legally delicate posts, whistleblowers, etc., anonymous posts are accepted. Posts are edited before final approval by the company, and are referred back for edit if necessary, but most are posted the day filed. is the answer to Yelp and other websites that can be critical of people or companies in the construction business to level the field for trades people with this resource.

Dodson spent forty-one years in the construction trade, has written many articles for trade magazines, has served as expert witness in court cases, and has acted as mediator in many construction related issues. He is currently contributing to The Brenner Brief e-newspaper and has written and published two books, Infiltration, a fictional account of a terrorist attack in southern Arizona, and This Never Happened, a high desert murder mystery.



Twitter: skshtgr11

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Expert Witness Corner: The Use of Experts in U.K Commercial & Construction Cases

There is a risk attached to the use of experts in the service of the Tribunal. The expert, the person experienced in the business or techniques of the dispute, can start a cold breeze of logic and common sense blowing through the dusty rooms of the law.

Involve an expert and you involve someone to whom the truth and the facts are more important than the tactics and games. More seriously, you involve someone to whom justice and fairness are more important than the esoteric details of positive law. Someone whose frustration, at the obfuscation found in much modern legal practice, sometimes may result in steps towards the truth being taken much more quickly than billing practice normally would permit.

My lawyer friends should be warned that, by bringing an expert into the service of the tribunal, whether as a member of a tribunal, as a sole arbitrator or as the tribunal’s own expert, they have a tiger by the tail.

Let me recapitulate briefly: I suggest the characteristics of an expert, and for this purpose I mean an expert in fields other than law, to include: knowledge and experience of his or her field – an expert knows what he or she is talking about; the skills of logic and common sense; an ordinary man’s, or woman’s, sense of justice and fairness; skills of communication and exposition, at least related to the field of expertise and often more broadly related – an expert knows how to express his or her findings or opinions.

Disputing parties, seeking a way to resolve or determine their dispute, may well look at those characteristics and think that they are precisely what is required.

That is right and that is, of course, the original purpose, the raison d’ĂȘtre of commercial arbitration, although a modern observer could be excused for thinking otherwise.

That was how arbitration began in commerce, before the modern structure of nation states became what it is today. Merchants would choose one of their peers, preferably one whose prestige and reputation put him out of the hurly burly of immediate competition, and agree to accept his decision. He was the arbitrator- knowledge and experience, logic and common sense, sense of justice and fairness, ability to communicate his findings. It was all that was necessary. Now is not the time to discuss how the need for control by the State has led to a corruption of the process. I have discussed that elsewhere, and the move towards a globalization of trade eventually may mean a return to the standards of the past, as trade once again passes beyond the grasp of nation-states.

My immediate point is that, far from being an exception to the arbitral process, the use of an expert is the natural, the obvious way to determine a private dispute in a specialist area of trade or professional practice.

That is my starting point. Of course there are trade disputes in which there is some obscure point of law; there are others in which a suitably obscure point of law may be invented. My essential proposition, however, is that most topics in trade and commerce are best understood by people in trade or commerce, experts in the field. That must be so, otherwise they would not be able to trade successfully day-by-day, as obviously they do.

That is why the expert plays an essential role in the service of the tribunal.

I will now turn to the principal ways in which that service may be provided. In the limited time available, I will deal with three categories.

First I will touch upon the role of the expert as a sole arbitrator and the ways in which, if necessary, additional legal support may be brought into the room.

Secondly, I will discuss the expert as a member of a plural tribunal, his or her relationship with others, and the possibility of creating a “dream team” to deal with a specific dispute.

Finally, I will look at the task of a tribunal-appointed expert and the relationship between the expert and the tribunal.

Before doing so, however, I would digress for a moment to discuss the relationship between two fields of law. For want of better definitions, I shall call them Positive Law and Natural Law. Positive Law is what it is. Holmes once said, to an attorney in his court, “This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice.” A great jurist, leader of the American Realist school of jurisprudence, whose definition of positive law is perhaps the most exact that can be found, he was right. To paraphrase something else he said, Law is no more and no less than the prediction of what a court will decide in practice. I would not presume to argue with that; it is unarguable.

As it happens, although I teach in a Law School, I am an engineer. Engineering is variously described as a useful art or the application of science. The aim of engineers, and I quote the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, is the harnessing of the great forces of Nature in the service of mankind.

Please think about that for a moment. No one is beyond the laws of nature. My colleagues and I serve the laws of nature every day of our lives. If the bridge is not strong enough, it falls.

Engineers know well the famous accident to the bridge at Tacoma Narrows and it exemplified what I want to say. Because of a peculiarity of the wind through the gorge, and the design of the bridge – it was a suspension bridge – oscillations were induced in it and became progressively more severe over a period, eventually it broke and sent at least one abandoned vehicle down with it. The incident led to changes in design to take account of the effects of wind. It was not the first instance of a man-made bridge failing in the wind. The Tay Bridge Disaster, in the nineteenth century was another.

Now, there would have been time, once the Tacoma Narrows Bridge started to oscillate, to apply to the court for an emergency injunction to prevent it. I daresay that it would have been easy to persuade the Judge of the public interest.

But, and this is the point I wish to make, the injunction would not, could not have been effective. The bridge would still fall. Canute demonstrated to his courtiers that all his undoubted power could not cause the tide to turn. Galileo admitted to his inquisitors that the Earth did not move around the Sun. It was res judicata, but nobody told the Earth, and still it moves. That is the nature of the law I serve. Unforgiving, inflexible, certain (but only insofar as it is correctly known). A hard mistress and not one whose rules may be changed by statute, by fiat or by a determination of the court. Natural Law.

And Natural Law governs both material and immaterial matters. There are laws of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, but there are also Laws of Aesthetics, of Logic, of Morals and of Human Behaviour. We specialise, of course, and we can learn more of some Natural Laws than we can of others, but none can pick and choose which Natural Law to apply. It applies without our intervention.

Now this may seem a little remote from Commercial Arbitration, but it is not. The principles of the Law of Obligations are essentially Natural Law principles. In Contract, they spring from the logical consequences of the ability to communicate ideas and wishes and, in particular, promises. In other areas, tortious obligations, they spring from the twin principles of free will, which makes us responsible for the consequences of our actions, and our duty to one another, a necessary part of social existence. And Arbitration, of course, is a creature of the promise. It has a foundation in Natural Law. That is fundamental and inevitable. International Arbitration is, by definition, universal; the Laws of nation states, the only positive Laws, are not. I am not here discussing state recognition, that is another matter altogether.

I will deal only briefly with the expert as sole arbitrator. The advantages of trusting a dispute to someone who understands the nature of the problem are self evident, as is the moral strength of an agreement to abide by the judgement of a peer in one’s field of work. There are three aspects which need attention. One is the need for such and expert arbitrator to acquire the appropriate procedural skills, for which training is available. Most senior professionals, in every sphere of activity, have experience of managing meetings fairly. Another is the occasional need for the arbitrator to seek legal advice, which has always been a traditional right, although occasions for it are rare. The third is the problem of transparency, which is overcome by the expert arbitrator setting out, for the parties, such personal knowledge as may be relevant, and inviting them to deal with it if they wish. Expert arbitrators may be in a minority on the international scene today, but there are several of them and there may well be a recovery of numbers as training becomes more widely available.

The advantage of at least one or two experts in a multiple tribunal is also, I suggest, self-evident. That is especially so in modern international arbitration, where the party appointed arbitrators are required to be neutral and not to act as a kind of quasi-advocate for their appointers. Non-lawyers are not accustomed to advocacy and do not have the contentious instincts of the professional advocate. That makes them well suited to a neutral role.

I wish particularly to alert you to the enormous opportunity which the parties have to create an ideal tribunal for the problem they have to resolve. I have called it the “dream team” approach. Imagine, if you will, a build-operate-transfer project, to manufacture ethical pharmaceuticals to be marketed in an area where only imported products have been available. Now assume that disputes have arisen, during construction, about the performance and profitability of the plant.

What I suggest is that the parties and their lawyers could put together a tribunal which comprised, say, a chemical engineer, an expert on project finance and a lawyer familiar with the country where the construction was taking place. Not only would those men or women be able to deal with their respective fields. If given the opportunity, they would create a collegiate team which would be able to discuss issues from widely differing points of view, bringing a synergy to the arbitral process. The whole would be greater than the sum of its parts.

That is what I had in mind when I spoke of the relationship between the members of a tribunal. It is a collegiate relationship, between colleagues, not a relationship of contentions.

Now I turn to the service which the expert may give as witness or investigator for the tribunal. I will not deal with experts appointed as members of the legal teams of the parties; others will discuss that role.

Various legislation covers the appointment of a tribunal expert. The English Arbitration Act of 1996 refers to advisors, assessors and experts, but does not differentiate greatly between them. Distinctions between those roles may be somewhat technical; Article 26 of the UNCITRAL Model Law refers only to experts and, I suggest, sets out the natural requirements for the task. An expert or experts may be appointed – no prescription as to the nature of the expert – and, unless the parties agree otherwise, that expert must be available for examination. The Model Law also imposes a duty of co-operation on the parties.

In any reference, the decision as to whether or not to appoint an expert is a decision of the tribunal. Although the parties have the right to agree otherwise, the tribunal’s discretion is complete, both as to whether to appoint an expert and as to who the expert should be. In practice, however, it often may make sense for the tribunal to invite the parties to agree upon an expert.

The expert’s role is defined by the tribunal, in the light of the views of the parties. Ideally, there should be precise terms of reference, which may take the form of a series of questions. The expert can play a useful role in suggesting additional questions and in drawing up the terms of reference, but the final decision will be that of the tribunal.

The tribunal’s expert is an extension of the power of the tribunal to make enquiry. That was brought home to me by a distinguished professor of law who described a mission which arose for a tribunal of which he was chairman. The field of the dispute was esoteric, and the tribunal could not find an expert in the field who did not have connections with one or other of the parties. There were documents to be examined and enquiries to make. Accordingly, the tribunal appointed a gentleman, not from that field of business, but from a generally similar discipline, to examine the documents, to make the enquiries and to report to the tribunal. Almost an agent de police judiciaire, you might think.

One method of proceeding, which I have found successful, is for the parties to give their reasoned answers to the questionnaire before the expert’s enquiries begin. This gives a structure to the enquiries. Then, the first report is given for their comments and the final report may incorporate the comments given by the parties. That may make unnecessary the examination of the expert before the tribunal, but the tribunal may wish to have the expert present to comment upon any further evidence. Because the expert can be examined, he or she may be relieved of the obligation to ensure that both parties are present at any phase of the enquiry. That can save a great deal of time and expense, but the expert must report upon anything he or she takes into account. The principles of Natural Justice are not suspended for the expert, only made a little more practical. Any basis for the expert’s opinion must be made known, and any documents made available to the expert ordinarily should be available to the parties and the tribunal. An exception may be made for trade secrets; the tribunal may order some material to be shown only to the expert, who may then refer to it in a way that protects the secret. It is a procedure that requires care by both expert and tribunal.

Remember, it is so important that lawyers not only

find an expert witness but are able to find one that not only specialises in his chosen field but also has a working knowledge of how tribunals work. That is crucial.

Professor Beresford Hartwell is an experienced Engineer/Arbitrator/Adjudicator. You can view his Profile and find an expert witness at X-Pro, the innovative expert witness directory.