Over the years, I have become an enormous fan of Michael Hoenig, a partner at Herzfeld & Rubin, who writes the Products Liability column in The New York Law Journal. More than any other product liability commentator, Mr. Hoenig has served as a muse and inspiration. His columns are thoughtful and well-written.
Mr. Hoenig’s column titled, “When Attorneys Ghostwrite Experts’ Reports,” published December 14, 2009, is a case in point. Shortly after the column appeared, I prepared a motion for filing in the EDNY to disqualify an adversary’s expert after he confessed in deposition to not preparing his own expert report. In his article, Mr. Hoenig poses the following questions: How much attorney involvement in the drafting of experts’ reports is permissible? Must the entire work product be that of the expert? Or, at the other extreme, would it be acceptable for an attorney to draft the entire expert’s report with the expert “adopting” it? And, if at least some lawyer input is tolerable, then what is the boundary line between permission and perdition? Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) calls for disclosure of experts retained or specially employed to provide expert testimony and which “must be accompanied by a written report prepared and signed by the witness.” Mr. Hoenig discusses the federal district court case law discussing the circumstances under which an expert’s failure to prepare his own report might lead to his being barred from testifying at trial. In evaluating the individual facts presented to determine Rule 26 compliance, courts will most likely base their decisions not on who actually penned the report but, rather, whose opinions and analysis the report contains. One federal district court has held that “substantial participation” by the expert in the preparation of the report is required. Even if your motion to disqualify the expert altogether does not succeed, if you can demonstrate to the trial court that much of the expert’s report was ghostwritten by your adversary, the court may be more kindly disposed to your Daubert arguments. After all, if the expert cannot be bothered to write his own report, how painstaking can his methodology be?