By Michael Haggard, Managing Partner – The Haggard Law Firm
Former Special Agents for the FBI, former CIA, decorated Soldiers, medical doctors with illustrative careers. These are the individuals who make up the field of experts. Their resumes can be impressive and most often, they present well to a jury. Unfortunately for you, they are experienced, well composed, and generally speaking, very cunning. Although it seems as though you are fighting a lost battle, it is accepting this realization that will help you the most in defeating the expert.
In terms of the negligent security expert, he/she will undoubtedly say it…“This crime was unforeseeable and unpreventable because the offender could not have been deterred.” You could have a thousand armed robberies and twenty murders, but someone will sit across from you in a chair or on the stand and tell you it was unforeseeable and unpreventable. As frustrating as that reality might seem, you should be grateful for having the knowledge of what the defense negligent security expert is going to say. How you will use the statement against them is where your attack becomes most effective.
The best way to select your cutlery is by identifying which area of expertise the defense listed the expert. The foreseeability expert will rely on certain evidence and the preventability expert will rely on different evidence. At this point, you have amassed information from building your liability case and conducting research on your expert. It is now time to select the appropriate materials to use against them.
The foreseeability expert traditionally relies upon the past criminal history of the property, the level of crime in and around the area, and the types of crimes occurring on the property. As general as those topics appear to be, it boils down to what threshold the expert requires in order to determine if the crime against your client was foreseeable. The threshold is something that will fluctuate depending on which side the expert testifies. If he is testifying for the plaintiff, he will testify that it does not matter if a targeted crime occurred because a robbery is a robbery or a murder is a murder. If the expert is testifying for the defense, then it makes all the difference whether the robbery was a drug deal gone bad or a targeted murder. Knowing the expert will switch back and forth, you must determine if you are going to “gut” the expert right off the bat, or give them a thousand tiny “cuts.”
For example, we deposed a defense security expert in a case involving a convenience store. It just so happens we had used this expert six months prior on a similar case involving a robbery at a gas station/convenience store. After the introductory questions, I used the “gut” method. I directly asked if he testified six months prior whether or not the defendant should have had an armed security guard. He faltered and stuttered, trying to give an explanation on his contradictory opinions. On our particular property we had at least seven robberies against the defendants customers, and at least four or five more they were made aware of by way of the customer retreating back to their establishment. The case the expert testified in for us six months ago had five previous robberies. We knew he had just made the same argument for us that he was now attempting to say was incorrect.
A little while later, I decided to employ the “cut” method by asking him about the relevance of the crime grids for the property. He replied that he relies on police reports for the actual property, so I “cut” him with his prior testimony where he relied on grime grids heavily because there were only a handful of police reports for crime on the property. The difference between the two techniques lies in how you administer the questioning. The former question was after he revealed his opinions in the case. The latter questioning was by way of leading him into a trap. The “cut” technique is accomplished by getting the expert to commit to a particular methodology or particular statement, allowing them to feel comfortable by giving their opinion(s), and then “cutting” them question by question during the deposition with all the contradictory testimony in your possession.