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Appraisal Reports for Litigation 5 - At Trial

by Administrator on Feb 7, 2014 Litigation / Expert 2017 Views

Make sure when you have a trial date, time and location that you check and double check your information.  Showing up late when you have a room full of attorneys, jurors, your client and the judge kept waiting is as bad a start as you can imagine. 

While preparation is of utmost importance, you can't defend your appraisal if you can't remember what you wrote in it, trial situations are stressful and not what appraisers are used to.  When you get the first 20 trials behind you it will get easier, but even then there are some cases in which the attorneys and judges are difficult to deal with.

There are a few appraisers out there who can withstand the torture of the witness stand and come away unscathed, just another day in paradise.  For many it is however an experience that they would rather forego.  Those who have been there understand that the level of the cross examination assault has a lot to do with the quality of the oppositions’ attorney, flaws in the report you prepared and how well you as an appraiser can hold up under pressure.

Some appraisers provide as little detail as possible in their litigation reports they prefer not to be grilled about issues like how they derived their adjustments.  They just put everything in their work file.  Simplicity is thus important in litigation appraisals, the more difficult it is to explain what you did the less likely the jury or the judge in some cases will understand what you did and why you did it.

Just because you think that you did a great job giving testimony, don't start thinking that it made the same impression on the jury or the judge.  I have come away from trials thinking that I slammed the other side only to find out that the party I supplied my report to lost the case miserably.  There is a lot going on in a courtroom and only a fraction of it has anything to do with reason and logic.  Believe it, there are things like bias, politics and poor representation happening in some courtrooms.

So how does an appraiser prepare for trial?  Read over your appraisal report and work file and bring a copy of it with you.  It's amazing how often parts of my report have been missing from attorney files when I got to the witness stand.  Bring the graphs, books and background materials from your work file, especially if you were not deposed.  You relied on that information and you can rely on it again when you testify.

At trial I just try to get comfortable, I know that I am probably going to be there longer than I anticipated because that's what usually happens, because attorneys do have a tendency to go on and on.  I usually drink a lot of water while I am on the stand so I like to have it ready in front of me.  I always roll my materials to the witness stand in my briefcase on wheels, hauling stacks of books and reports is for me a distraction that I can do without.

When the cross examination comes I try to think each question through before I answer it and I am not shy about asking for the attorney to repeat or restate a question.  I can't answer a question if I don't understand it, and attorney's love to ask two or three of them at a time.  On the stand is not the time to think about how you completed your appraisal process.  If you think you are going to stumble through it, write down an outline and hit the points when you are asked.

There's a lot more that goes into preparing an appraisal report than is outlined in the text books, so if you are going to present your process, don't take the steps from the text, use your own words and talk about how you did it.  The mysterious part of completing an appraisal report, for a jury or judge, has to do with what was going on in your mind when you decided that a property should be classified as a specific type.  It may look like a retail plaza that I’m appraising based on the photos but it is a group of doctor offices, they will want to know how you came to that conclusion?

I have found that most appraisers like to be paid a premium for litigation work, but even though they attempt to bid high enough to get paid for their time they discover that they didn't consider how much effort it was really going to take.  Then they figure out that their deposition and trial time compensation is woefully low and that they are losing money or working for very little.  Make sure you understand what you are getting yourself in to and how long it will take to consider all of the issues.

For more appraisal information contact the author, Glenn Rigdon, MA, MRICS, ASA a Las Vegas / Henderson Nevada real property 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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