'Blundering' expert witness could cost the LSC a packet

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) faces forking out more than £300,000 to Ashurst Morris Crisp after the firm defended a case in which the expert witness was “biased and irrational”.
Ashursts partner Ian Starr is able to make the claim under regulations stating that, if a successful party in an action faces severe financial hardship if they have to pay their legal costs, then the LSC can be ordered to pay. The claim also has to be just and equitable.
Starr said his client, world-renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, is not sufficiently wealthy to pay his legal team's fees. Starr said the sum was “substantially more than £300,000”. Architect Gareth Pearce, who made the failed claim against Koolhaas for plagiarism of his designs for use in the Kunsthal Exhibition Centre in Rotterdam, was on legal aid and was thus unable to pay Koolhaas's costs.
Claims of this size against the LSC are very rare and Starr will have to prove that Koolhaas, who won the Pritzker 2000 (architecture's Nobel equivalent), would suffer hardship if the LSC does not pay his legal costs.
The case gained notoriety due to Pearce's expert witness Michael Wilkey. The judge concluded: “Mr Wilkey's 'expert' evidence fell far short of the standards of objectivity required. He claimed to have appreciated the seriousness of what he was saying, but made blunder after blunder.”
After the judge sought formal sanctions against Wilkey, Starr sent a copy of the judgment and pleadings to the Academy of Experts, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Architects Registration Board. RIBA said responsibility was down to the Registration Board and would not pursue the matter until that body had responded.
The court, when considering Ashursts' claim, will consider the seriousness of the allegations against Koolhaas and the quality of Pearce's case, including the soundness of Wilkey's evidence.
Assistant Rajinder Mann of Anthony Gold acted for Pearce and the LSC in-house team is handling the claim.