On a bright sunny, January day in Southern California Dr. Vardi, a seasoned construction expert witness, gets up at 5:30 a.m. so he will be on time for the continuation of his testimony at the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica. Some 95 miles north at the Lancaster location of the Los Angeles County Superior Court another construction related trial begins. In a single day of his professional life, Dr. Vardi finds a way to appear and give expert testimony in both trials, and that’s not all.
The jury trial in Santa Monica continues at 9:00 a.m. with Dr. Vardi’s expert witness testimony continuing from the day before. Dr. Vardi was hired to assist with the defense in this case which involves a personal injury incident at the Mimi’s Cafe located in Northridge California. Dr. Vardi is specifically addressing an allegation that steps within the cafe are illegal and do not meet the building code requirements involving “contrast” and lighting issues between each of the steps.
The plaintiff’s expert, a well known civil engineer, provides testimony that the stairs lack proper contrast and do not meet the required illumination (light) levels. This gentlemen, with an engineering degree and a Ph.D in the area of human factors, does not provide any empirical data to prove his opinions nor is he able to overcome his lack of experience as a building contractor. In comparison Dr. Vardi provides expert testimony that includes specific empirical data based on recognized standards as required by the building codes. In addition, Dr. Vardi provides a simple method to demonstrate to the jury how contrast can be tested. Dr. Vardi also demonstrates to the jury the proper use of a light meter and the difference between the light levels at the cafe versus the minimum requirements set by the building code. Dr. Vardi’s evidence shows that the light levels at the specific location in the restaurant are as much as three times greater than the minimum standard.
Dr. Vardi concludes his testimony in Santa Monica at approximately 10:30 a.m. and immediately proceeds to conduct a site inspection of an ongoing project in Calabasas where a retaining wall is being built. Dr. Vardi was asked to provide guidelines for waterproofing and drainage behind the retaining wall.
At precisely the end of that site inspection, around 12:20 p.m., Dr. Vardi receives a call that he is needed for testimony in a construction related trial at the Lancaster courthouse. This time he will need to give testimony on the plaintiff side involving subrogation action by an insurance company against a building contractor who left the roof of a McDonalds restaurant open during a rain storm. The insurance company was seeking to recover the cost of repair and replacement of damaged equipment. Dr. Vardi provides testimony regarding the standard of care for a contractor who is working on an occupied building.
Statistically 98.2% of cases are settled prior to any trial. That leaves only 1.8% of cases that may see some kind of litigation such as a jury trial, bench trial or arbitration. The chances that an expert will be required to testify in two trials on the same day are remarkably small. For Dr. Vardi it was the first time in his decades long career as an expert witness that such a coincidence occurred.
What made it possible to be ready for such an occurrence was detailed preparation. It takes absolute organization of both materials and mental preparation. Document preparation may be the easier of the two. Mental preparation is crucial when you are going to testify on the defense side in the morning and plaintiff side in the afternoon. The mental focus and adrenalin that your body produces in the morning to deflect any attack from the plaintiff’s legal team must immediately be turned off and turned back on in reverse later in the day to deflect any attack from the defense team in the afternoon’s case.
What makes an expert witness a key tool for the legal team is the ability to stay calm under extreme adversity. There is a clear reason why expert testimony is more expensive than general consulting. The courts have rightly found that testimony in court is more “stressful” and therefore deserve a higher compensation. The trick is for the expert witness not to allow the stress to show during the time he/she is on the witness stand.
Dr. Vardi has testified in dozens of court cases and even more in arbitration. His calm demeanor under pressure, thorough grasp of the subject matter, and ability to relate to a jury have made him ever more valuable. The subject he is asked to testify about can be very dry and boring to the average person. Dr. Vardi has the ability to take a plain dictionary and turn it into a best seller in front of a jury. He does so with passion, patience, and understanding so the jury can take the information into deliberation with a clear understanding of the difference between what is and what is not fact.
A glass of red wine at dinner time and a full healthy meal awaits the expert at the end of a challenging day. A day that will not soon be forgotten and will be archived as an experience that will certainly be challenged in the coming days and weeks as other cases are primed for their day in court.