Becker & Poliakoff

Winning Your Case: Selecting the Right Experts in Community Association Transition Litigation

Winning Your Case: Selecting the Right Experts in Community Association Transition Litigation

If your community association is in the midst of transition litigation or in the beginning stages of contemplating bringing suit for transition or construction defects against the developer of your community, then you’re going to need to assemble the right team. In New Jersey, that team will include an “expert.” But what is an “expert” and what is their role in a community association’s transition litigation? Read on to learn more and how to select the right experts to set your case up for success!

In the sphere of civil litigation, the role of “experts” can significantly influence the outcome of a case. An expert is a professional who possesses specialized knowledge, skills, training, education, or experience relevant to the issues at hand. These experts are enlisted to provide their professional opinions, analyses, or interpretations on complex matters that are beyond the understanding of the average person or typical juror.

Experts are crucial in helping parties prove their case or defend against claims by presenting objective and credible evidence and testimony. Typically hired by one or both parties involved in litigation, experts provide witness services based on their expertise and relevant data. These specialists can offer vital testimony on various topics, such as establishing the standard of care in a particular field, identifying the cause of an injury, assessing damages, and more.

In New Jersey, qualifying experts for trial testimony is essential. An expert must generally possess the requisite knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education pertinent to the matter at issue. Additionally, they must be able to articulate their findings clearly and withstand cross-examination.

The admissibility of expert testimony in New Jersey is partially governed by Rule 702 of the New Jersey Rules of Evidence, which states that expert testimony is admissible if it aids the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or determining a fact in question. Once admitted, the jury is free to evaluate the testimony as they deem appropriate.

An effective expert witness possesses several key attributes. They should have extensive knowledge and experience directly related to the subject matter. Additionally, they must be able to communicate complex technical concepts to the jury in an easily understandable manner. The expert’s credibility and ability to maintain a professional demeanor, especially during cross-examination, are also crucial.

Choosing the right expert is a critical decision. Important factors to consider include the expert’s knowledge and experience in their relevant field, communication skills, experience testifying at depositions and trials, credibility, objectivity, and, of course, fees. Thorough research is essential, and an in-person meeting is advisable to assess the expert’s suitability for the specific case.

In community association transition litigation, a community association will likely need various experts to address various complex issues. Transition litigation typically occurs when the developer of a community transfers control of the association to the homeowners. This process can lead to disputes and legal challenges, necessitating experts with specific knowledge and expertise. Here are some types of experts a community association may need during transition litigation:

Construction Defect Experts

Construction defect experts, such as engineers (including structural and mechanical), and architects, are crucial when a community association believes there are flaws or deficiencies in the design or construction of the development’s common elements or infrastructure. These experts can inspect the property thoroughly and provide professional assessments of the structural, design, and/or construction issues, the causes of those issues, the applicable building codes and industry standards that were violated, as well as quantifying remediation costs by developing remediation scopes of work for the community.

Financial Experts

Financial experts, such as forensic accountants or financial analysts, play a vital role in transition litigation. They can conduct a comprehensive review of the association’s financial records and transactions during the developer’s control. Their analysis can identify potential financial mismanagement, irregularities, or discrepancies. Financial experts’ findings can provide crucial evidence to support the association’s claims and establish the extent of damages incurred including a developer’s failure to properly fund reserves or other deviations from developer funding obligations.

Reserve Study Specialists

Reserve study specialists conduct reserve studies to assess the community’s long-term capital needs and funding requirements. During transition litigation, these experts evaluate the adequacy of the reserves established by the developer and compare them to actual costs needed for future repairs and replacements. Their assessment helps determine if the developer adequately funded the reserves and if adjustments are necessary to address potential shortfalls.

These professionals provide valuable insights, evidence, and support to the association’s case. Given the pivotal role experts play, it is essential to choose qualified and credible experts who can effectively communicate their findings to the court and jury. Community associations should work with their attorney to select the right experts for their transition litigation. Attorneys can assess the legal issues involved and determine the most suitable experts to bolster the association’s claims or defenses.

Navigate the complexities of transition litigation with Becker. Our seasoned team of attorneys are skilled in sourcing and engaging the best experts. By trusting Becker with your legal needs and expert selection, you can confidently move forward with your community association’s transition litigation, assured that you have the right team on your side.