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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here is the situation...I got called by being a word of mouth referral to look at building a home in the area. This new client has stated that I will be doing the project as long as we can meet the budget and he told me the budget. It will be tight, but it is a high probability we can get to that number. In this process, there has been a property boundary dispute between he and the owner of the lot next door. He asked that I come and look at it and then on another occasion I had to meet with his attorney on the site to look at it along with possible solutions. (The boundary dispute would affect the placement of the house and if the lot was even buildable.) Yesterday, I had to witness as an expert witness in court as to the costs of delay due to winter costs (the project is at 8000 ft elevation and gets over 10ft of snow in the winter) because of how long this dispute is going on.

Question: Do I charge for going to these meetings and being a witness for him? If so, how much should I be charging for this? I have mixed feelings on this because we haven't started the project and I don't want to lose the job over me charging too much or even charging at all for my time. I've probably spent about 8-10 hours on this with most of it being yesterday in court, but I did have to go out of my way for this.
 

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If your client wins (due in some part to your "expert witness" testimony) and you end up doing the project....don't you think the neighbor is going to be keeping a keen eye on the work? ...and will flip out when he sees that the "expert witness" is now his neighbor's contractor?

He will be making a hasty call to his attorney then, you can bet on it.
 

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I got $90 an hour for a day when I was called in on a licensed contractor doing his own plumbing and electric to be the expert witness, I had to answer questions and write on a big easel to explain a few things.

My buddy gets $125 for the same thing now days.

Why would you work for a lawyer for free?
 

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This is an interesting thread. Part of what we do is help solve problems that people may have with their contractors. I have talked to several people about their situation, then done the corrective work after they severed their relationship with the contractor. Conflict? I don't know.

However, has anyone ever been called as a witness because they talked to a non-customer about something construction-related? I haven't but I now wonder if I need some type of disclaimer when talking to project rescues type of situation. What about comments just made in the course of a sales presentation?
 

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I wouldn't worry about anything like that Mike. I would worry if I'd been working on procuring a project, working with the owner on pricing it out and THEN became an expert witness for him, in part, to secure the deal.

I would definitely be asking an my attorney about it, as I would expect the other side to bring it up once the cat's out of the bag, such as seeing the expert witness now building the project.

It may not be a conflict, but I would definitely find out before signing a building contract, if the op does get to that point.
 

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Three times I've been subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness (I've also been an expert witness by choice on other occasions). Those three times I had visited the jobsite, made a proposal for work, then received a subpoena to testify. If I did not show up at court to testify I would have been arrested. I got no money for this.

So, what to do. In my case, I bent my testimony as much as I could to scuttle the case of the person who asked for the proposal then subpoenaed me.

Unfortunately, they can do this. I suspect the OP here is just being used as cheap help. Without an expert there is no case. The Lawyer's getting paid, if he wins the client gets paid, the fact that they didn't bring it up is a good indication they don't intend to pay you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
For a little more info on the deal...This client came to me about building his home about 3 months ago or something. He had plans in place and stated at the time that the only reason we couldn't start right away (permit was ready with exception of the corrections where were fairly simple) was the boundry dispute. Two surveyors had come up with different surveys of the property as one of them used the section corners and the other simply used existing pins on adjacent lots already in place from prior surveys. I was told the clients budget as he had already seen work I've done for a friend of his and wanted a similar level of home. As part of this boundary dispute, getting it resolved quickly was the main issue at hand because of the weather we get here leading to significant additional costs in the project. (The county has to inspect for setbacks at foundation stage and how can they do this if the boundry is inaccurate or unknown?). I was called in to simply be a witness to the fact that the winter costs would add significant costs to the project and thus the argument needed to be settled quickly. The actual surveyors involved had to witness themselves as the the actual survey, so I didn't have to do that at all. It is known that I have a verbal contract with the client to build the home and both parties are aware of that. Anyway...basically, the only reason I wouldn't charge is in good faith that it secures the deal for me on moving forward with the project. It was discussed prior to the meetings that I would be paid for my time, but it was not discussed the amounts.
 
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