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Expert Witness Fails to Complete Work, Overcharges and then Sues Plaintiffs’ Counsel

October 20, 2014

Ronald Harstad, a professor at the University of Missouri, was retained as an expert witness to calculate damages in a class action lawsuit. The case revolved around “alleged misrepresentations in the sale and marketing of prepaid calling cards.” The plaintiffs’ counsel (who retained Mr. Harstad) had come to an agreement (via a formal letter) that Mr. Harstad would produce monthly work logs, use students to help at a lower hourly rate, and that he would accept payment for each invoice over time. In April 2008, the plaintiffs’ counsel had supplied him with all the necessary information and Mr. Harstad calculated that the total costs for completing his reports would be $17,000 to $21,000.

Irrespective of his estimations, Mr. Harstad was paid $164,604.79 by September. In addition, he failed to complete invoices for October and November 2008 until December when he billed a total of $160,800 for all unpaid services through the end of that year. In January 2009, the plaintiffs’ counsel rejected that number and Harstad told them that if they did not pay, they were not allowed to use the reports that he completed. The plaintiffs’ counsel decided to hire a new expert witness who was able to complete everything they needed for $22,500.

The plaintiffs’ counsel “filed a declaratory judgment action to establish that they owed no futher amounts to Harstad. Harstad counterclaimed for breach of contract and unjust enrichment and sought $410,000 in damages.” The court rejected Harstad’s claim and decided that no further compensation was necessary. The court explained their decision, noting that Harstad broke the terms of the agreement and he had already received an amount that was far greater than his estimated price. Lastly, the court pointed out that because Harstad chose to void the agreement by refusing to let counsel use his reports, he could not sue for damages based on a breach of contract.


Source: The National Law Review

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