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Appraisals Reports for Litigation 4 - Evaluating the Assignment

by Administrator on Oct 11, 2013 Litigation / Expert 1977 Views

Many an appraiser has been tempted into providing an appraisal for a court case.  An attorney calls and tells you that he needs your opinion and then asks "how much would you charge?"  Maybe you have even taken a short course on being an expert witness there are a number of them being offered.  At first the employment offer sounds like a great opportunity to make more money for an appraisal than you would normally charge.  You tell yourself "I have been trained, I took a course," but there are many downsides that don't occur to appraisers until after they have accepted a litigation assignment.




Appraisers often don't realize that once they have accepted a litigation assignment they have stepped into a complex battle between two or more parties.  The attorney says, "Oh it's just a simple divorce" or "it's just a deficiency case" or "it's a case about a construction defect."  After you give them a bid, they accept it and you start reading the documents related to the case and meet with the client it hits you that someone's financial life may be seriously altered by your value opinion and how it is received by the court.




It's important to not accept an assignment when you know you have serious weaknesses like not knowing an area or a property type.  It's difficult enough to struggle through a case as an appraiser where you feel competent appraising the subject property.  It's much easier to just say "I have a conflict of interest and while I would really like to take your assignment I simply can't."




What you have bought into by taking an assignment is an opposing attorney with his client and their appraiser all of them now looking to destroy your credibility, they risk losing tens of thousands to millions of dollars if they don't.  They may take weeks or months to critically read your appraisal and work file before they take your deposition, they may even hire a rebuttal expert just to point out all of the problems with your report and have him take the stand against you at trial.




You will likely be deposed by the opposing attorney during "discovery," which is always an unpleasant situation for an appraiser, and if the case goes to trial a great deal may ride on how well you present your appraisal and how well you defend the development of you opinion under cross examination.  I have seen many well qualified appraisers reduced to apologizing for their work after only 30 minutes on the stand when cross examined by a top quality attorney.




Thus the quality of the opposing attorney will likely make a big difference in how a case goes for you as the appraiser.  There are many attorneys, like many judges, who just don't get the appraisal process.  It's not rocket science but it just escapes some while the ones who understand it can be merciless in their attacks.  You will be wondering why you charged so little when you step up on the witness stand.

So the questions that you have to ask yourself as an appraiser are, “am I qualified to complete this work?” and "Is taking this assignment going to be worth the fees that I am going to be paid?"  Appraisal experts are, hopefully, paid for their time and expertise and for their intense efforts and for the added stress related to the entire litigation process.  Or alternately you can ask yourself "am I lucky?" 

For more appraisal information contact Glenn Rigdon, MA, MRICS, ASA a Las Vegas / Henderson Nevada appraiser via email or via his business website Horizon Village Appraisal (, or you can also click on “Contact Us” on the home page of this website.

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