Going To Court For The First Time

Back in March of 2021 I did an inspection on a very old house that was in very poor shape. The inspection was for a “Rent-to-Own” type of purchase. The client told me that he wanted the inspection as a means to justify the purchase price under the advice of his attorney, blah blah blah. With reluctance I took the job, got paid, etc… and was assured that should there be any litigation or lawsuits or whatever, that I would be left completely out of it.

A couple of days ago, I was called by an attorney representing said client. The attorney told me that their case was finally going to trial in a couple of weeks. Apparently, the owner of the home ended up selling the property to someone else out from under my client and a Snite show followed. This attorney is wanting me to take the stand in this trial as a witness in their case. He , in a round about way, told me that if I didn’t volunteer my time that he would file a subpoena to make me have to appear. This attorney has already submitted and/or is planning to submit portions of my inspection report as evidence in the case. He also said that his questioning will revolve around 3 very specific issues that are in the report and I will only have to be on the stand for a few minutes. Basically he made it sound like he wanted me just to verify what is already in my report.

Anyway, my questions to all of you are:

  1. Have any of you been through this type of situation?
  2. How would you handle this situation?
  3. Should I make the attorney sign some sort of contract w/ me before the hearing?
  4. Should I put an attorney on retainer myself?
  5. Should I show up to court and just be like Oliver North and claim that “I don’t recall…” or just answer
    every question with “what ever I have to say is in the report”?
  6. Or lastly, should I simply tell this guy to pack sand and hop I don’t get served?

I have already reached out to fastreply@internachi.org in hopes of getting some advice from the legal team. I am still awaiting a reply.

What would you do and what advice can you share?? THANKS!!!

If your gonna get subpoenaed consider your pro-witness hourly fee including prep, drive time, minimums.
These people are not your friends.

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Are you saying your client didn’t buy the house and is in no way involved in the case?

Subpoena me or pay me. This is their circus and not your monkey’s.

The only reason he wants you there is to say yes that is my report (which you will need to bring your copy to verify every single word). Otherwise, the report is hearsay.

(Here in GA, if someone is suing for damages, they cannot just bring in an invoice or estimate…they have to produce the actual contractor in person in court. You’re state may be different, but this is where I get my opinion)

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And, my bold above is all that you do because you do so many inspections that you cannot remember anything that is not in the report.

And, personally, I would tell him that. :zipper_mouth_face: :confounded:

…and give him your $ rates for day and partial, etc…

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Can’t really answer that without a whole lot more info.

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My Client is the plaintiff in the case, and filed a suit against the Owner/landlord that sold the property in question to a third party (in breach of contract with my client).

I would need a contract agreement for this, correct?? Otherwise, he could just tell me to pack sand. I don’t see any “honor system” working out for compensation of my lost wages.

I can’t see how your report plays a role in this. The seller sold the home to a third-party who was not your client. Have you reached out to your client for an explanation?

The case will probably be settled before it goes to court. Your inspection report, if it was presented to the Seller or Seller’s Agent, gave Notice of defects which the Seller was then legally obligated to disclose to the next prospective buyer. Chances are that the Seller never even provided a Seller’s Disclosure to that second buyer, much less an honest Disclosure. Good luck with that three-ring circus, anyway.

As part of the counter suit filed by the landlord, my client supposedly stopped paying rent when the basement flooded because of a Broken drain line in the basement ceiling that was draining toilet water. Causing water damage, mold, etc… The landlord never fixed it. Hence why the attorney advised an inspection. I shared this very leak here a while back. There were also many other issues including wood rot from a leaking shower pipe, leaking cracks in the foundation behind finished walls, and some other stuff. I can’t help but remember this house. It was SERIOUSLY messed up. My client was trying to use my report and estimates from contractors as a bartering tool to drop the final sale price since he was going to buy it. Didn’t work out for him. It’s a screwed up scenario.

The attorney told me there is a state law that would make the home inhabitable due to the leaking foundation and :poop: pipe, which would protect the client from the counter suit of not paying the rent making the landlord in breach of contract for the sale. It took the attorney 20 minutes to explain it all.

^^^^^THIS^^^^^^

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The case has been in litigation for nearly a year. It’s going to trial in front of a jury. Trial dates are set for the 2nd week of May. The attorney wants me to take the stand in the trial. There were no realtors involved BTW…

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I’m going to buy more printer paper this weekend. It’s an 80 page report. Had I included all of the pictures of all of the defects, it would have been double that…

Do NOT mention that there are/was any photos that were not included in the report! That will only open the ‘rabbit hole’ of BS from the attorneys!! All that you remember is what is in your report, and because the inspection was a year ago, you will need to refer back to the report to refresh your memory of the details. PERIOD!!

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Cool. This is your chance to showcase your professional knowledge as a home inspector. Write a letter to the Attorney informing them of your per diem charge. Even though he says you will only be on the stand for a few minutes, you have no way of knowing exactly when you will go on the stand, so it may put your whole day on hold. It may even roll into the next day.

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Agreed. Unless they specifically subpoena your records, keep those to yourself for now. Personally, I would lawyer up at this point.

I hear you there JJ. Most of the ones that didn’t make the report were out of focus, too dark, or multiple pics of the same thing like damaged siding, shingles, that sorta thing. I put it in the report as “damaged blah blah blah found in numerous locations on all sides of the home.” That sort of thing. Who wants to put 100 pictures of damaged siding in a report. LOL. The issues the attorney wants to bring up are very well documented in the report. None the less, I don’t plan on sharing anything that’s not on one of those pages. The attorney doesn’t know I made a video of the leaking :poop: pipe flowing water out of it. The software I was using at the time didn’t support videos, so…

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Keep this in mind…

If they pay for your testimony… you are an “Expert Witness”.

If they subpoena your testimony… you are simply a witness with a cluttered memory lacking in exacting details other than what is in your report. That may not play well for the attorney that contacted you.

JMHO.

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Judges love expert witnesses, especially if the case has anything to do with houses, or cars, or anything they have an interest in or they can learn from. Judges have such mundane jobs being the traffic cops for the hurry-up-and-wait judicial process, that they are like children on ice cream when they hear new and unique facts such as the building sciences may divulge. When I was a real estate appraiser back in the 80’s, a judge in an apartment complex foreclosure case (involving termites of Biblical proportions) wrote me a two-page letter thanking me for being such a good expert witness with regard to teaching rhe jury the specifics of the appraisal process. I hope you will serve the home inspection industry just as favorably. And don’t forget to clear your throat as often as you need to before you speak.

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