Richard Goodall, Chairman of the Baltic Expert Witness Association, speaks to the Baltic Briefing about how to make the best use of Baltic Exchange experts in legal cases. Richard has been practising as an expert witness for over 20 years.
Could you explain briefly what the expert witness provides?
An expert witness is appointed by a solicitor on behalf of the client to provide an impartial opinion on the merits of a claim, initially, they will provide a written report expressing their unbiased views. It is important to note that the expert acts solely as a servant of the court or arbitration, and not the party who appoints him. The expert witness will specialise in his own particular area of expertise, whether that be dry cargo chartering, tanker chartering, sale and purchase or within any other discipline in the shipping industry.
I enjoy being able to give something back to the industry that has provided me with a fascinating career.
What is your area of expertise, and how did you become involved as an expert witness?
Having been a member of the Baltic for nearly 50 years, mainly as a ship owner’s dry cargo chartering broker, I enjoy being able to give something back to the industry that has provided me with a fascinating career, which I still enjoy. My particular area of expertise is shipbroking practice, and dry cargo freight rates from 1990 and up to date.
Years ago I was working for a shipowner, and one of my colleagues had previously worked for a P&I Club. Having worked with expert witnesses in that role he suggested that with my experience, I should consider becoming an expert witness. To start with, I attended a course on report writing, and courtroom skills. Some years later I also undertook training to become a Mediator.
Once you have started practising it does take a while to establish yourself because you need to build up relationships with solicitors. This is where the Baltic Exchanges exert witness database comes in handy as a tool to log in to, in order to find the most suitable expert for the particular job.
What do you think is the key to being an effective expert witness?
The most important aspect is to have extensive experience within your chosen field of the shipping industry. An effective expert witness also needs to have patience, flexibility and the ability to think and present their thoughts logically.
What do you find most challenging?
Cross-examination by a barrister in an arbitration hearing or in court may on occasions be particularly challenging, and you need to develop a thick skin if you don’t already have one! It is essential to stay calm in what are perhaps trying circumstances and to give clear answers in a polite manner when questioned.
An effective expert witness also needs to have patience, flexibility and the ability to think and present their thoughts logically.
Has anything changed in the years of you acting as an expert witness?
Other than changes in the law, the major change has been the legal standing of the expert witness, whereby he is not now automatically granted immunity from prosecution for negligence. However, indemnity insurance is available from various sources.
What advice would you give to persons considering becoming expert witnesses in the shipping industry?
I would recommend that any potential expert who is a member of the Baltic, should come along to one of our meetings that take place at the Baltic Exchange approximately every two months. We always have guest lecturers who might be solicitors, barristers, arbitrators, P&I Club executives and other relevant specialists. We encourage new Members, and can put them in touch with organisations that can provide training.