Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Refinery Expert Witness

It is vitally important that an attorney understand an expert witness. As stated in an earlier post on this blog, an attorney who fails to meet his obligation with respect to an expert witness is liable for malpractice in California. Expert witnesses may testify for the plaintiff or the defense. In either event, the party who hired the expert gets to ask the expert questions on direct examination, and ask the opponent's expert questions on cross-examination.

Mr. Sowell had an opportunity as an engineer to interact with a very senior engineer who was truly an expert in refining. The man was a genius, a registered professional engineer, and knew virtually everything about each refinery unit's design, chemical reactions, catalysts, process conditions, process control, startup, shutdown, optimization, simulation and data analysis, the list seemed endless. There was truly no end to the man's knowledge. His experience spanned more than 40 years.

The only problem was that he was so brilliant, most people could not understand him. As is fairly common with geniuses, he had a tendency to only verbalize the high points, and skipped over the mundane points. Mr. Sowell was assigned to work with the genius, and try to decipher what he said and wrote. There was some urgency, because if the genius left the company, his knowledge would depart, too.

After getting over his awe and feelings of inadequacy, Mr. Sowell learned how to draw the genius out and get good explanations for what he was trying to communicate. Everyone was pleased, and from then on Mr. Sowell was assigned as the interpreter for the genius.

This successful experience in dealing with a difficult expert serves Mr. Sowell well in his law practice. With that, and his own experience gained in 20 years of working in refineries with all manner of engineers and technicians, Mr. Sowell knows how refineries and chemical plants are designed and operate. He also knows what questions to ask when an expert witness is brought in. Mr. Sowell also can detect wrong answers, and inconsistent testimonies.

For more information on how Mr. Sowell can assist other counsel when dealing with expert witnesses, please see his website at www.resowell-law.com, and the tab For Attorneys.

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