If you are involved in any form of common law litigation, the Court is likely to order a joint expert conference (or expert conclave) as your claim approaches a hearing.

Expert conclaves are particularly common in medical negligence proceedings, given the complexity of issues disputed, such as whether a doctor breached its duty of care, or whether the negligent conduct of that doctor caused the harm suffered.

The use of expert conclaves only continues to increase. It can therefore be helpful, as a party to litigation, to understand what an expert conclave is and why they are used.

Put simply, an expert conclave involves the experts engaged by both parties to litigation coming together in order to produce a joint report.

The experts are generally provided with a set of agreed assumptions or facts, a bundle of relevant material and a list of questions, which they are asked to answer in their joint report. If experts participate in a conclave, the experts will then be required to give their evidence together (or concurrently) at trial.

Sometimes an independent facilitator may be used to aid the conclave process. This can be particularly helpful where the number of experts involved is high.

The purpose of expert conclaves is to assist in the “just, quick and cost effective” disposal of proceedings.

They do this by helping to narrow issues in dispute, bring clarity and bind experts to their position on a particular issue prior the trial. When experts produce a joint report it becomes quite clear where they agree and where they disagree.

Unfortunately however, these objectives are not always easily achieved through expert conclaves. In particular, parties may experience the following practical difficulties in the organisation of expert conclaves:

  1. There are often a number of experts involved in the conclave. They may be interstate, international or extremely busy, making the arrangement of a suitable date/time for the experts to meet difficult in and of itself;
  1. Where the parties do not agree on the basic facts or circumstances that form the foundation of the claim, it will be near impossible for agreement to be reach on the assumptions to be provided to the experts;
  1. There can also be significant disagreement between the parties as to what questions and material are relevant and should to be provided to the experts.

For these reasons, it is increasingly common that matters will be brought before the Court to make findings in relation to agreed facts and issues in dispute, agreed questions and relevant the material, before the conclave can take place where the parties are unable to agree. This is a costly and timely exercise.

Of course, there is also the cost associated with the experts’ participation in the conclave itself, the facilitator’s fees and the preparation work done by both parties.

However, and despite these difficulties, expert conclaves continue to be used by the Court and, in many cases, they prove to be an extremely helpful tool in the litigation process. Nonetheless, it is useful to understand not only the benefits of expert conclaves, but also the various difficulties that may be encountered in their preparation and execution.

Our experienced personal injury lawyers are available to answer any enquiries you may have in relation to your rights after an accident, including motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence, injuries at work, public liability accidents, or injuries overseas. To speak to one of our helpful lawyers or to arrange a free no obligation assessment of your claim, please call us on 1800 25 1800 or contact us online.

Written by Laura Green.

Laura Green is a personal injury solicitor in Julie Mahony’s Practice Group. Laura works with Julie in a variety of personal injury claims, but has a special interest in representing plaintiffs in medical negligence claims.