The case of ego vs. testimony

by Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert in packaging, marketing, logistics, human-factors, and warnings.

For an expert, ego is a job requirement; otherwise, there is no justification for holding oneself out as more knowledgeable, than is the jury, the attorneys, and the judge, about a subject before the court.  Too much ego, however, undermines an expert’s effectiveness, particularly when testifying at deposition or at trial.

Too much ego does not mean that the expert is egotistical, or worse, egomaniacal.  Such extremes are difficult to mask and likely would have manifested themselves before a matter progressed to testimony.  Too much ego is any amount that hurts the case; after all, an expert is retained to be an asset, not a liability.

Rational experts don’t intentionally sabotage their testimonial effectiveness; therefore, they must guard against doing it unintentionally.  One safeguard is to avoid being needlessly defensive.

When testifying at deposition, the expert’s qualifications, through vetting, already has been accepted by the retaining attorney.  When testifying at trial, the expert’s qualifications, through proffer, already has been accepted by the court.  The expert should bear those acceptances in mind and not fall into a defensive posture, distracted from letting the soundness of the testimony prove his/her qualifications.

The opposing attorney will appear unimpressed, and, overtly or covertly, impugn the expert’s qualifications vis-à-vis the matter-at-issue.  That’s the nature of the adversarial system, and the expert should not be seen as taking umbrage, as if to say, “How dare you, when I’m the smartest person in the room.”

The expert should not engage in verbal combat but should leave it to the retaining attorney and the judge to reel in an overreaching opposing attorney.  The expert should refrain from giving snide responses or saying anything personally directed at the opposing attorney.  The expert who descends to that level has lost perspective.

It particularly can be damaging at trial, when everything is on the line and so much time and resources have been expended in getting to that point.  The last thing needed is for the expert’s ego to alienate the jury.

Regarding what’s important, it’s about the expert only to an extent; what’s most important is the retaining attorney’s theory of the case.  In that regard, the expert should subscribe to a Hippocratic oath, of sorts, in that, first, do no harm.

An expert’s susceptibility to allowing ego to interfere with testimonial effectiveness might not be discovered during the vetting process; therefore, the retaining attorney needs to stay alert to warning signs.

It’s a warning sign whenever the retaining attorney’s responsibly for case strategy is challenged by the expert, beyond the giving of advice.  It’s a warning sign, for example, when the expert resists any and all proposed changes in his/her Report, down to the last comma.   More worrisome is the expert who ignores instructions, for example, when the retaining attorney, concerned with what’s discoverable by the opposing side, specifies the channels (phone, email, regular mail) through which communications are to be made.

The saying goes, “Check your ego at the door.”  That might not be totally possible or even desirable for the expert; nonetheless, ego should not be allowed to negatively affect the testifying expert’s temperament and comportment.

Sterling Anthony’s contact information: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 176, Detroit, MI 48243; 313-531-1875;;

Expert discusses court entrance

by Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert in packaging, marketing, logistics, and human-factors.

An expert’s impact on a jury does not being with testimony; rather, it begins with the expert’s entrance into the courtroom.  When the judge instructs the attorney to call the next witness and the attorney responses with a name, jurors ready themselves for a new stage in the proceedings.

The expert should walk to the witness stand at a normal pace, while mindful of good posture.  The expert should avoid the impression of wearing blinders; instead of a gaze fixed straight ahead, the expert’s head and eyes should divert normally, taking in the surroundings, an acknowledging nod or two, if appropriate.

As the expert walks to the witness stand, the jury sees the expert’s outer attire, and nothing about it should be off-putting.  Testifying is serious business; as such, the expert only should wear business attire, preferably of a conservative style.

During the oath, the expert should stand tall, while maintaining eye-contact with the person administering the oath.  A confident, “I do,” or even more succinct, a “Yes,” clears the way for the expert to be seated.

The expert should not nestle into the witness chair, using unnecessary adjustments that might be perceived by the jury as nervousness or lack of confidence.  At this time, the expert should adjust the microphone, preventing having to lean or otherwise change posture with each answer.  If water is within reach, this would be a convenient time to pour a drink, to have it at the ready for later consumption.

Now it’s time for testimony, to help the jury understand the issues pertaining to the expert’s specialty.  Throughout, the expert should not let the effectiveness of the testimony to be sabotaged by errors in comportment.  It begins with the entrance; after all, no one gets a second chance to make a good first impression.


Sterling Anthony’s contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center, Box-176, Detroit, MI 48243; 313-531-1875;;





Packaging expert discusses exhibits

by Sterling Anthony, CPP

Effective demonstrative exhibits leave jurors with a better understanding of the expert’s opinions than what they would have been left with otherwise.  Not all demonstrative exhibits meet that criterion.  Those that don’t are a waste of time, materials, and energy; worse, they can be counterproductive, if they confuse jurors.

The expert must know his/her opinions thoroughly, but not just in the professional sense; for, demonstrative exhibits should explain in ways that are juror-friendly.  Any expert may utilize demonstrative exhibits; however, the more technology-immersed and/or exotic an expert’s field, the greater the need.

Demonstrative exhibits should fulfill their purposes, without competing with the expert; for example, exhibits should not allow jurors to read ahead of the expert’s comments.  A good policy in that regard is for any one exhibit to feature only one opinion and to present it succinctly.  Jurors won’t resent multiple exhibits as long as the purpose and effectiveness of each are evident.  Jurors want to understand the issues.  Jurors want to feel intelligent.  Demonstrative exhibits should meet those jurors’ wants.

Experts should be mindful that their demonstrative exhibits might end up in the jury room during deliberations; but, of course, experts are not allowed in those sacrosanct quarters.  The significance is that the exhibits should be designed to be understandable in the absence of the expert.

Demonstrative exhibits should not be any more hi-tech than needed; for example, transparencies can be just as effective as PowerPoint.  Certain equipment, such as laptop computers and flash-drives, can be brought to court by the expert.  Anything not as transportable should be arranged well in advance; furthermore, the expert should arrive early to court to confirm that all needed equipment is present.

As advance preparations go, none is more important than that between the expert and the retaining attorney.  The expert contemplating demonstrative exhibits should get permission from the retaining attorney; after all, the development of such exhibits represents billable time by the expert.  In requesting permission, the expert must explain why demonstrative exhibits would be helpful; after which, the discussion can proceed to the nature and quantity of the exhibits.

Often, the retaining attorney will be able to provide valuable guidance; however, regardless of how involved the attorney is in the development of the exhibits, it’s the attorney who must clear the way for their use, whether by stipulation from opposing counsel or by court approval.  The expert who appreciates the time element never takes an eleventh-hour approach.

Depending on the types of demonstrative exhibits, the expert might have to involve other parties, such as graphic artists, animators, model-makers, etc.   Here, as with anything that affects billing, the expert must receive permission from the retaining attorney.

No matter who else is involved in the development of the demonstrative exhibits, it’s the expert who should be ever-diligent.  That’s because jurors aren’t concerned with the history of the exhibits, and nor should they be.  Jurors, nonetheless, will form opinions of the exhibits, and by association, form opinions about the expert, and even the attorney who called him/her to the stand.

In summary, the expert who uses demonstrative exhibits needs to demonstrate mastery over those tools.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant and expert, specializing in packaging, marketing, logistics, and human-factors.  His contact information is 100 Renaissance Center P.O.B 176, Detroit, MI 48243.  313-531-1875.




Packaging expert on the value of objections

By Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness in packaging, warnings, patent-infringement, cargo loading & securement, insurance claims on damaged cargo

Of all rules of testifying, there is one that a packaging expert should hold as inviolate: Always tell the truth.  To do so, however, requires that the expert hear the question, understand it, give due reflection, and THEN give a truthful response.

As a consequence, at deposition and at trial, the expert needs to stay vigilant, constantly alert and attentive.  It can take its toll, especially under lengthy examination.

Rare is the examination that is not interrupted by objections; and, when they come, the expert might regard them as respites, opportunities to tune out and to relax, as the attorneys wrangle.  Such would be a mistake.  An expert should regard objections as valuable information.

Since attorneys typically begin with the word, objection, before proceeding to declare what kind, all present are immediately put on notice.  Just as immediately, the expert should STOP, even if in mid-sentence, even if in mid-syllable.   If it’s a deposition, the expert should not make another utterance until the attorney-client gives permission to answer; if it’s at trial, silence should be maintained until the judge’s ruling.   Such restraint might be difficult for inexperienced experts, victims of a misguided eagerness to demonstrate their ability to answer all questions.

An expert should understand that it’s not uncommon for the same objection to be raised by both attorneys, at different times during the testimony.  The expert can stay focused by remembering that it’s an adversarial system.   Attorney-clients want to protect their experts’ credibility and effectiveness; opposing attorneys want to undermine it.  If, for example, an opposing attorney objects to form, to ambiguity, to the question as compound, or something else along those lines, the motive won’t be to clarify the question as a favor to the other side’s expert.  The expert should be ever mindful that the operative word in the term, opposing attorney, is, opposing, no matter how seemingly congenial the attorney.

In contrast, an opposing attorney who’s disrespectful and overbearing is likely to draw an objection from the attorney-client.   The expert should not regard the objection as merely protective nor as license to match the opposing attorney’s behavior; instead, the expert should regard it as an unspoken instruction to remain professionally calm.   The stark contrast between the conducts of  expert and opposing attorney will be evident in a deposition transcript and even more so before a jury.

In a different, although, related example, rather than regarding an attorney-client’s asked-and-answered objection as relief from the tediousness of repetition, the expert should regard it as an indication that the attorney-client is satisfied with the answer.  An inexperienced expert might alter the answer, in an attempt to better make the point, thinking that the alteration is not substantive.  That’s risky because it opens the door for the opposing attorney to exploit the differences in answers.  An experienced expert, under these described conditions, will give the same answer to the same question, no matter how many times the opposing attorney asks.

On direct examination, the expert can benefit from certain objections from the opposing attorney.  Good examples include: leading; argumentative; and, assumes facts not in evidence.  Whether they come during a deposition or a trial, embedded in the question that drew the objection is the attorney-client’s preferred answer.  Knowing that, the expert must determine whether it’s possible to ethically give that answer, consistent with the sworn oath.  Incidentally, the same advice can apply during cross-examination, if the opposing attorney characterizes an objection made by the attorney-client as a speaking objection.

When during cross-examination the opposing attorney declares, “Objection. Non-responsive.  Move to strike,” and it’s sustained, the expert should not attempt to append the answer to a later question.  The backdoor tactic likely would draw the ire of the judge; furthermore, the expert could be seen as behaving like an advocate.  An attorney-client who wants the answer in the record can solicit it through a properly-worded question during redirect examination.

An expert who has been adequately prepared by the attorney-client will know what will be asked during direct examination.  That, plus the open-endedness of the questioning, might lull the expert into long narratives, even though the expert should be committed to complete, but succinct answers.  To that objective, an experienced expert can recognize the attorney-client’s objection, even when it’s not in the classic form.  If, for example, the attorney-client interjects, “Thank you, Mr./Ms. Expert for your answer,”  the translation is, “You’ve said enough.”

On the other hand, if, during cross-examination, the opposing attorney tells the expert that the question has been answered, the expert likely will still be in the process of answering.  The attorney-client likely will raise an objection, requesting that the expert be allowed to finish; but, even if the attorney-client doesn’t, the expert should insist on being allowed to finish.  The expert should always remember: sworn testimony is carved into a permanent record; and, the expert will not have the convenience of having it assumed what would have been said had the expert finished the answer.

The expert should regard certain objections as red flags, regardless of which side raises them.  Examples are, “Calls for speculation,” and “Calls for a legal conclusion.”  At trial, the judge’s ruling might prevent the expert from answering; however, in a deposition, the attorney-client will give the expert permission to answer.  Under the former objection, the expert should be careful not to give an answer that might suggest a propensity to guess.  Such would undercut the expert’s reliability.  Under the latter objection, the expert should be careful not to give an answer outside the expert’s area of expertise, assuming, of course, that the expert is not an attorney.  Such also would undercut the expert’s reliability, in addition to exposing the expert to possible disqualification at trial.

Not all objections have been mentioned herein and they don’t have to be in order to make the point that an expert needs to know that there’s value in staying attuned to objections.   If an expert demonstrates that knowledge, the attorney-client likely will raise no objections to retaining the expert in the future.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors who also provides services to the legal community as an expert.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;

The packaging expert witness on site inspections

By Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness in packaging, warnings, cargo loading and securement, patent-infringement

A packaging expert witness’ performance in a site inspection depends on two factors: knowledge of the type of facility, process, machinery, or whatever happens to be at issue; and, preparation.  No expert should be convinced of having knowledge in such quantities as to be able to go to a site inspection and “wing” it.  On the other hand, without a requisite amount of knowledge, the expert’s preparation is sure to have deficiencies.

Having the knowledge and the ability to prepare notwithstanding, the privileges granted to the inspecting expert will depend largely on which side the expert represents.  An expert inspecting the opposing side’s site, unsurprisingly, will be under more restraints than faced by an opposing expert.  It’s prudent for an expert to communicate to the attorney-client what privileges are desired, so that the attorney-client can request them.

Regardless of how many privileges are granted, the expert can prepare accordingly, and, for example, need not arrive with camera, video recorder, or other equipment and not be permitted to use them.  Similarly, communications between expert and attorney-client can spare the former from arriving at a site, expecting interviewing privileges, but learning belatedly that it’s not to be.

An expert should insist on being able to observe operations that are, indeed, in operation.  Such daringness is justified from the common-sense perspective that there’s limited information and knowledge to be gained from dormant operations.  Agreement as to what’s to be up and running should be detailed in a formal memorandum; and, if the opposing side withholds such agreement, the aggrieved attorney-client can assist the expert by threatening to cancel the inspection and/or threatening to present the argument to a judge.

Regardless of the side that retained the expert, an inspection at the other side’s site likely will be “one bite of the apple.”   An expert who later realizes that something has been missed might not be accorded another inspection.  It makes it all the more important for the expert and the attorney-client to agree on why the inspection is needed, what areas will be the focus, how it’s going to be conducted, and in what form the results will be communicated.

When both sides have an expert, it’s unusual for one to make a site inspection and not the other.  It’s not unusual, though, for both experts to be present at the same time, a situation resulting from the host’s not wanting to schedule multiple dates, or perhaps, from one side’s wanting to witness what the other side does.   Neither is it unusual for the attorneys to be in attendance.  Among such company, an expert should be careful not to engage the opposing parties in conversation, other than friendly acknowledgements.

In all instances, an expert at a site inspection is a guest, there at the sufferance of the host; as such, the expert’s behavior should be professional, cordial, and respectful.   It would be self-defeating for an expert to attempt to operate outside of pre-negotiated parameters; for, to do so risks a summary end to the inspection.

Finally, in addition to all of the aforementioned, site inspections always involve travel, sometimes including airfare, taxi, lodging, and meals.  Whereas such expenses might be unavoidable, they obligate the expert to be cost-effective, by being efficient.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors who also provides services to the legal community as an expert.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;

Packaging expert witness not omniscient

By Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness in packaging, warnings, patent-infringement, cargo loading & securement, and insurance claims regarding cargo.

If there’s one answer that some testifying experts seem to have a hard-wired reluctance to utter it’s, “I don’t know.”   By virtue of being an expert, that person is presumed to be knowledgeable; nonetheless, being omniscient is not in the job description.

There is nothing inherently wrong for an expert to say, “I don’t know.”  In all instances it’s an admission, an acknowledgement, a confession, a concession; however, in no instance should it be a mea culpa.

There are answers that a testifying expert should have at the ready.  That’s because, by then, the expert should be acquainted with the case file.  In addition, by then, the expert should have been prepped, told what will be asked by the attorney-client and what might be asked by the opposing attorney.   Having that storehouse of knowledge, an expert should bring a quiet confidence to the proceedings, committed to listening to the questions, understanding the questions, taking time to formulate answers, and, then answering truthfully.  If that last step dictates an, “I don’t know,” so be it.

There are various ways that an expert can mishandle not knowing an answer; however, the worse is to give an answer that is factually incorrect.   The consequence to the thusly exposed expert is not just embarrassment but discredit.  Almost as bad is to deal in conjecture.  Even if the expert’s preamble is, “I’m guessing…,” a fundamental principal of testifying will have been breached.

An expert should guard against beginnings that are defensive and apologetic, as exampled by, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know,” or, “I’m afraid I don’t know,” or, “I must admit, I don’t know.”  Some opposing attorneys have a talent for triggering such responses through voice inflection, body language, eye-contact with the jury, or other tactics meant to imply that a reasonable expectation is for an answer other than, “I don’t know.”

If the follow-up question is “Why don’t you know?” the expert should not be intimidated, no matter how incredulously the question is posed.   In the absence of a sustained objection by the attorney-client, an expert should be able to answer in a way that does not bespeak dereliction.

An expert should be aware that a line of questioning by opposing counsel might be designed to repeatedly draw the response, “I don’t know.”   The expert should not succumb to concerns over being regarded as unknowledgeable nor to concerns over diversifying the responses.  An expert who has come adequately prepared is not the best target for the aforementioned line of questioning, the reason being that opposing counsel will need to go increasingly farther afield to sustain the tactic.  The opposing counsel who ventures into the irrelevant is not immune to taxing the patience of the Court and jury.

An expert should not confuse, “I don’t know,” with, “I don’t recall.”   The latter should be reserved for instances in which the expert either once knew or might have known something but presently can’t bring it to mind.   “I don’t recall,” is difficult to disprove; even so, an expert should not resort to it dishonestly.   One who does might have the memory “refreshed” by being shown what was said in a deposition, for example.   At such time, the jury will be keyed in, forming impressions on whether the I-don’t-recall claim was truthful.

An expert should never utter, “I’m not sure,” unless in association with having been asked, “Are you sure?”   Then again, if the expert was not sure, the initial response should have been, “I don’t know.”   Relatedly, when giving an estimate, the expert should let it be known that the response is an estimate; otherwise, “I don’t know,” is the advised response.

In summary, an expert should know that an essential part of testifying is the effective use of, “I don’t know.”

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors and an expert who provides services to the legal community.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;



The packaging expert witness on yes-or-no questions

by Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness, packaging, warnings, patent infringement, cargo loading & securement, insurance claims  

To an experienced packaging expert witness, a yes-or-no question is not one that CAN be answered that way but one that SHOULD be answered that way.  Knowing the difference is an important aspect of an expert’s testifying skills.

Opposing attorneys, immediately after posing a question, might add, “Mr./Ms. Expert, it’s a yes-or-no question.”  Something to the same effect might immediately precede the question, for example, “This is going to be a yes-or-no question.”  In either version, it’s the expert who should reserve the right to classify the question.

It is the expert who is under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; so, if a yes-or-no answer does not constitute the best compliance with that oath, the expert should speak up accordingly.  “I can’t answer the question truthfully with yes or no, Counselor.”

If an expert gives such a response, it ALWAYS should be in good faith and never an attempt to undermine the opposing attorney’s effectiveness.  The latter is being an advocate, which is not the role of an expert; besides, when the expert proceeds to give the expanded answer, the jury will decide whether the expert has been disingenuous.

Sometimes an opposing attorney will interrupt, saying that the expert will get an opportunity to expound during redirect.  The problem is that the attorney-client might not have plans to redirect, and, even to the contrary, would have a shorter redirect, if the expert does not move away from an honestly-held claim of not being able to truthfully give a yes-or-no answer.

An expert who gives a yes-or-no answer and then attempts to add context (i.e. “Yes, but…” or “No, however…”) also might be interrupted, this time with, “Thank you.  You’ve answered my question.”  The expert immediately should make it known that that’s not the case; better yet, the expert should begin the answer with the context.

Since court rules allow cross-examinations to utilize leading questions, and since such questions, by nature, lend themselves to yes-or-no reminders, an expert should expect them.  But no matter how authoritatively a yes-or-no reminder is posed, an expert should regard it as a request, an expressed desire by the opposing attorney and not binding on the expert.

In contrast, an inexperienced expert might misjudge yes-or-no as a demand and feel obligated to comply. That misjudgment is particularly possible if the attorney-client doesn’t voice an objection; however, such reliance on the attorney-client fails to recognize that an attorney-client has to cite a reason for an objection, other than the opposing attorney’s lobbying for a yes-or-no answer.

The inflection in which a yes-or-no question is posed can imply that the issue is so simple that the expert should give the sought response, a tactic that might cause the expert to comply, out of a desire to be seen as competent.  The far better way that an expert can demonstrate competence is to fully understand a question and then give a reasoned answer.

All of the preceding comments have been from a scenario in which the opposing attorney characterizes the question as being the yes-or-no type; but, that doesn’t mean that it never comes from the attorney-client.  When it does, it might be an indication that, theretofore, the expert has been too given to narrative, or worse, has been guilty of volunteering information.

It is the expert’s name that appears on the subpoena duces tecum, the deposition transcript, and the witness list: the point being made is that it’s the expert’s testimony, and that it’s the expert who must take responsibility for it.  The expert should be satisfied with each answer, knowing that a permanent association is being made.  Skillful handling of yes-or-no questions will lessen the probability that, someday, the expert will need to qualify a previously-given answer.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors and an expert to the legal community. He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities. His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;


The packaging expert witness on testimony style

By Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness in packaging, human factors, warnings, patent-infringement, cargo load & securement

Although depositions occur more frequently than trials, what they share in common is that they come late in the case.  Every deposition is preceded by discovery along with its associated expenditures of time, costs, and resources.  By the time of trial, the aforementioned expenditures have increased, as a result of all that goes into trial preparation.

With the signature aspect of depositions and trials being testimony, it stands to reason that ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that has been expended, prior to testimony, can be affected———for better or worse———by what is said after the administration of the oath.  That’s true of every type of witness; however, a packaging expert——turned packaging expert witness——should stay mindful of the uniqueness of that role.  The expert’s stock-in-trade is opinions, BUT it’s more than a matter of substance that determines efficacy; it’s also a matter of style.

Appearance, in terms of grooming and attire, is important.  For depositions, it has become common for the attorneys to be casually dressed.  An expert’s attire shouldn’t get too relaxed; for example, a male would be well served with a sports jacket, which can be taken off, if consistent with the mood in the room.  A female expert also should subscribe to the casual-but-not-too-casual guideline.  An expert should ask well in advance whether the deposition is to be videotaped.  If it is, the expert should arrive dressed more formally, as one would for trial, against the possibility that portions might be shown to a jury.

For trial, men can’t go wrong with a clean, crisply-pressed, dark suit, either of a solid color or a subdued pattern.  Neither the shirt nor the tie should be flashy.  Jewelry should be keep to a minimum (wristwatch and wedding ring, perhaps) and absolutely no lapel pin that denotes a particular membership, cause, or philosophy.  Women should abide in equivalent measure.  For either gender, the attire should not speak louder than the expert.

An expert’s behavior is vitally important.  The legal system is adversarial; nonetheless, the expert should never give the impression of being an advocate.  Opinions that come across as unbiased and without agenda carry greater credibility.

The expert who is overly defensive or overly combative sacrifices effectiveness.  An example is the expert who refuses to make any concession, no matter how logical, to opposing attorney.  Question to expert: “If the assumptions that factored into your opinions are incorrect, would that change your opinion?”  Answer by expert: “No.”  By such an exchange, the expert has given the impression of being inflexible, a characterization that could have been avoided with a different, more reasoned answer, perhaps along the lines of, “That would depend on the specific assumptions you’re referring to and on how substantive they were in the formulating of my opinions.”

At no time should an expert demonstrate frustration or impatience, for example, over being asked the same thing repeatedly, something more likely to be encountered during a deposition, since at trial the retaining attorney will give an asked-and-answered objection, after which, the judge will make a ruling.

Moreover as to depositions, the expert should never demonstrate hurriedness, even when having been previously informed that the deposition is to take a specified amount of time.  If it runs over, it should be regarded as the concern of the attorneys, not of the expert.  Under all conditions, whether at deposition or trial, the expert should take the proper time to understand the question and to provide a thoughtful answer.

An expert’s attitude——or, at least what attitude might be inferred——likewise, is vitally important.  A professional, respectful demeanor always should be extended to the opposition, no matter what the provocation to get riled.

On a different, although related note, an expert should not convey an attitude of superiority.  It’s not self-serving for an expert to ridicule a question, for example, or even to engage in banter with opposing counsel.

Specifically, in a trial, the testifying expert has been proffered by the retaining attorney and qualified by the Court; as such, there’s no reason to convey an attitude of being the smartest person in the room, a surefire way of alienating a jury.  In keeping with that, the expert should guard against facial expressions and gestures that signal a less-than-serious regard for the opposition.

Also to be avoided is having the pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction, which happens when the expert is too chummy with opposing counsel, as if to have forgotten that the operative word is, opposing.  In a deposition, the expert should not digress into personal asides, even off the record.  At trial, the expert should not attempt to lighten matters with humor, even the self-effacing variety.

Style-consciousness should not end at the conclusion of testimony.  After a deposition is over, the expert should make a prompt exit, rather than remaining to socialize, which might result in an inadvertent gift to the opposing side.  If there is some debriefing to be done by the retaining attorney, it should be done privately.  After trial testimony a prompt exit, likewise, is advisable, in that, someone has eyes on the expert until the expert clears the door.  Even in instances of sitting in on later testimony, the expert, now known to the jury, should be more self-aware than others in the gallery.

Establishing rapport with the jury overarches all of the preceding comments.  It’s something that every expert should strive for; however, it’s important not to be obvious in the attempt.  The expert, at all times before the jury, needs to project professionalism personified, under an aura of it being par-for-the-course.

And, the expert should not overlook little things that can have big impacts.  An example is occasionally looking in the direction of the jury and making eye-contact during answers and always when providing an explanation.  As for providing explanations, the expert should stay reminded that the jury is comprised of laypeople and take care neither to talk over their heads nor condescendingly down to them.

The retaining attorney is use to prepping experts as to substance, the, what to say.   The how to say it and all its engendered perceptions is less under the direct control of the retaining attorney.  That said, the expert who’s already style-savvy should be held in high favor.  An expert who testifies with substance AND style, tells, The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth——EFFECTIVELY.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors and an expert to the legal community.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;

The packaging expert witness on composing an Expert Report

By Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness in: packaging, logistics, marketing, warnings, patent-infringement, and cargo loading & securement.

From the onset, a packaging expert witness should regard an Expert Report as a communication of persuasion, the purpose being to convince stakeholders that the contained opinions are true within the standard of a reasonable degree of certainty.  The stakeholders will vary in their willingness to be convinced, and the opposing side will be skeptical, if not hostile.  The Report, therefore, should constitute a gestalt, the whole more than the sum of its parts.

In federal cases, an Expert Report must comply with the statutory elements detailed in Rule 26 of The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; and, although an Expert Report in state cases isn’t governed under that rubric, it must embody certain elements, just to meet the threshold of professionalism.

Whether the venue is federal or state, an Expert Report should contain: the case caption; the expert’s name and business address; the client-attorney’s name and business address; a statement of purpose; a summary; a synopsis of the facts; an explanation of methodology; list of case materials reviewed; list of references i.e. books, articles, standards, tests, etc.; discussion of opinions; conclusions; statement as to the right to supplement; and, date and signature (notarized, if required).

As for aesthetics, the look of the Report should invite reading; however, as fundamental as that is, it’s only window dressing, if the Report fails in other key aspects.  Opposing counsel will dissect the Report for opportunities to shoot holes in it.  The experienced expert will not supply ammunition, in the forms of: poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation; poor paragraph composition; disjointed sequencing; imprecise wording; a lack of command of the facts; weak correlation between opinions and Counts contained in the Complaint; distortion and misrepresentation; and most damaging, faulty reasoning and fallacious logic.

An expert should not rely on the client-attorney as proofreader, despite the fact that no client-attorney will submit to opposing counsel or to the Court an obviously flawed Report.  Opposing counsel, believing the Report to be flawed, will eagerly await deposition or trial.  A worse possible consequence of a flawed Report is that the Court disqualifies the expert.  Another incentive against composing an inferior Report: in some states, juries are given access to Reports.  That aside, an expert can’t be effective in front of a jury if the majority of cross-examination is spent defending an ambiguous, or otherwise, flawed Report.

It’s common practice for a client-attorney to request strategic changes to the Expert Report.  An example would be a rewording that more effectively captures a particular legal concept.  What’s not common practice is for a client-attorney to have to essentially rewrite the Report, an unwanted expenditure of time and effort; moreover, if the expert is questioned under oath about “authorship,” the answer might cast the expert as a hand puppet whose supposed opinions are those of, and controlled by, the client-attorney as the puppeteer.

Regardless of how well a Report is (or isn’t) written, the client-attorney should not be blindsided by the opinions, because they should have been disclosed during prior discussions.  An expert’s opinions should be independently derived and honestly held, but there’s no ethical requirement that those opinions be favorable to the client-attorney.

Faced with previously-disclosed unfavorable opinions, rather than commission an Expert Report, the client-attorney can evaluate options, for example, receptiveness to settlement.  When it’s known that the opinions are favorable, a good policy is for the initial submission to be titled, Preliminary Report, a distinction to be removed after review and revisions.  Added insurance is accorded if the Preliminary Report is read over the phone to the client-attorney before submission.

An Expert Report does not have an expiration date.  It forever lurks somewhere, and the expert never knows when it might surface.  The expert should bear that in mind with every syllable.

Not every expert is an excellent writer; however, since Report writing is integral to being an expert, a reasonable level of competency should be mandatory.  An expert who doesn’t measure up in that regard lacks a key component in the delivery of services.

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors and an expert to the legal community.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail;

A packaging expert witness should avoid indefensible opinions

by Sterling Anthony, CPP, expert witness, packaging, warnings, patent infringement, cargo loading & securement, insurance claims  

A packaging expert witness can become infamous for indefensible opinions, and the consequences can be ruinous.   It only takes one celebrated case, and celebrity comes easily in this era of 24-hour news channels, social media, and YouTube——all in addition to the traditional channels that attorneys tap in vetting an expert.

No expert would jeopardize a career, at least not intentionally; however, toxic cases don’t carry warning labels.  An expert needs to develop perspectives that protect against the formulating of indefensible opinions, opinions that later will have to be worn around the neck like a yoke.

During initial discussions with a potential attorney-client, the expert should seek information necessary to determine whether the case falls within the expert’s expertise.  Some attorneys are given to going beyond that point, generous with details.  The expert politely should interrupt and announce an interest or decline further consideration.  In the event of the former, the expert should offer to forward the pertinent documents, i.e. curriculum vitae, fee schedules, references, etc.   That way, the expert won’t end up conflicted, if not chosen but afterward is contacted by the opposing side.

The greater threat is that too much initial information can trigger the hard sell on the part of an expert, who, eager to land the case, endorses the attorney’s theories, seemingly unmindful of yet not having reviewed any case materials.  Such a scenario subsequently might develop along these lines: the expert is retained; and, afterwards, the expert formulates opinions shaped by the prior endorsement, rather than by objective and ethical analysis.

Even when information overload is not a factor, an expert can inadvertently end up saddled with indefensible opinions, typically under one of two scenarios.

One is that of the relatively new expert, desperate for business and willing to say whatever is thought to be desired.   That expert is not sufficiently appreciative of the possible risk to reputation and to future business .

Although it might seem counterintuitive, the other is that of an experienced expert who feels insulated by an impressive curriculum vitae.   That expert is not appreciative of the fact that such credentials make indefensible opinions all the more indefensible.

Any expert can expect to be portrayed unfavorably by the opposing attorney as a human vending machine: insert payment and withdraw the desired opinions.  “Tell the Court, Mr./Ms. Expert, how much you are being paid to testify in support of the side that retained you.”

An experienced expert will recognize the question as the landmine that it is.  The thornier task is to give a response that defends the expert’s integrity while setting a foundation for the defense of the forthcoming opinions.  Be that as it may, if the opinions are prima facie indefensible, any attempt to dress them in different garb will reduce the expert to laughable.

For the expert who has given indefensible opinions, there is no refuse in blaming the attorney-client, particularly under the rationale that, had the expert not given the opinions, the attorney would have found another expert who would have given them.

Such is never the concern of an ethical expert; besides, no attorney-client should be averse to being educated about deficiencies in the theory.  Thus educated, the attorney-client can weight options, such as settlement, or, if the education comes early enough, not filing the case.

The expert who gives indefensible opinions digs a hole as soon as they are conveyed to the attorney-client, and the hole gets deeper with time.  The deepening continues when the indefensible opinions are incorporated into an expert report.  From there, they become high-caliber ammunition at deposition, causing the opposing attorney to salivate over the prospect of going to trial.  At trial, they cause jurors to roll their eyes incredulously and to disregard the expert.  The sequence is bad in its own right, but as previously noted, it won’t be limited to that one specific case.

The attorney-client likely will go unscathed, the case standing as a testimonial to a willingness to go any length to aggressively represent a client.  You can’t win them all; therefore, how doggedly an attorney fights means a lot.

An expert is not accorded the same pass.  Justifiably.  An expert’s stock-in-trade is opinions; therefore, an expert who provides faulty wares can’t expect that fact to go unnoticed

Sterling Anthony, CPP, is a consultant to the industrial, institutional, and government sectors and an expert to the legal community.  He is a former manager at Fortune 100 companies and a former instructor at two major universities.  His contact information is: 100 Renaissance Center-Box 43176, Detroit, MI 48243; (office) 313-531-1875; (cell) 313-623-0522; (fax) 313-531-1972; thepackagingexpertwitness@gmail; www.thepackagingexpertwitness