The Four Step Cross Examination

By IMS ExpertServices
There are numerous stages in the litigation process that are time-intensive, uncertain and stressful.  However, if your deposition was done properly, cross-examining an expert witness is not one of those elements.  While this will be a review for many, following these simple suggestions will ensure that your cross-examination is easy and effective.

1. Establish Common Ground

At the beginning of your cross-examination, when the expert is least hostile, start by covering the points of agreement between both sides. Almost every expert will have some opinions that support your case. The jury will give greater credence to this testimony coming from the opposing expert than they would from your own expert.

2. Take Advantage of the Hypothetical

After covering the areas where the two experts’ opinions overlap, you can begin to present hypothetical situations that support your theory.  Many jurors will give weight to even improbable possibilities presented in such a way.
If the expert claims that his opinion would not change in any hypothetical situation, use this time to bring to light these implausible expressions of overconfidence, especially when the hypothetical situation obviously demands the opposite conclusion.

3. Expose Limitations

Remembering to only ask questions that were answered in deposition, an attorney should then ask the more critical questions that expose limitations in the expert’s qualifications and work product:

  • Assumptions that can be disproved or questioned

  • Methods or work that would have made the expert more certain of his conclusions

  • Gaps in education and experience that would make the expert more credible

  • Other admissions that support your side of the case

Throughout the cross-examination, remember to use short, leading questions without absolutes (such as always and never) or qualifying adjectives (such as quickly) that the expert could use to influence their answer.

4. Close with a Bang

For your last question, ask something that the expert answered unequivocally in your favor during deposition.  This is not a question that could be argued in either direction but instead firmly assists your case.  After making your point, end the cross-examination and save the compelling explanation for summation.

Tell us: What other tips would you give for the effective cross-examination of an expert witness?

IMS ExpertServices

IMS ExpertServices delivers consultative trial and expert services for the most influential global firms. Over nearly three decades and through more than 20,000 cases and well over 1,000 trials, clients have trusted IMS to equip them with the perspective and tools they need to help their clients succeed. With offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, Pensacola, and New York, the company provides trial strategy consulting, jury consulting, trial graphics consulting, trial presentation consulting, and expert witness recruitment and management. IMS has earned nine consecutive rankings on the Inc. 5000 list, won recognition by The National Law Journal in six categories of its “Best of 2020” awards, by Corporate Counsel Magazine as winner in eight categories of its “Best of 2019” awards, and as “Go-To Thought Leader” for two consecutive years by The National Law Review.

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