🤓 Paying For The Right Witness
By some estimates, expert witnesses are used today in 8 out of 10 trials in the United States. Their billings can be over $1,000 an hour, and easily hit six figures for murder trials or other high-profile cases. Welcome to the booming expert witness economy. But there's also an ethical quandary here. According to The Hustle, attorney John Lewis says “Experts who help lawyers win cases are often rewarded with more work and more money. They have a strong financial incentive to please the person paying their checks.” So, is this a corruption of justice for profit?
As far back as 1995, the University of Richmond law review wrote that “In two recent studies almost half of the lawyers questioned admitted to shopping for experts. In one of the studies, eighty-six percent of the lawyers identified the adamancy of the expert's support for the party's position as important or very important in selecting an expert.”
Wondering how much these witnesses make per hour? The Hustle reported that a horse expert is at the bottom of the range, making $225 an hour, and a hand surgery expert is the highest paid at $1,433 per hour.
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
While 1975 saw the creation of the Federal Rules of Evidence, it wasn't until 1993's Supreme Court ruling on Daubert v. Merrell that expert witnesses really took off in court settings. The court's ruling created the Daubert Standard which effectively states that evidence must be rooted in scientific knowledge, that it is the trial judge's discretion what qualifies, and that the evidence must have been arrived at by the scientific method.
If you’re paying me mid-six figures to make a claim, and I want to have more people in the future (including you) pay me to do the same, I will likely bend what I say to support you. So why do expert witnesses persist despite their shady ethics? Well, we all use them.