I get a lot of mail from home inspectors offering their services, should the need ever arise, as expert witnesses in negligence cases against home inspectors. Fortunately, I never have a need for their expertise because the home inspection claims that I get asked to squash almost all go away secondary to a compellingly written letter that explains a. why the claimant has no case, despite what his expert claims; b. why, even if he had a case, he has no damages; c. why, even if he had a case and had damages, his claim would be barred because of his own conduct; d. why, even if he had a case and had damages and his claim were not barred due to his own conduct, his recovery would be contractually limited; e. that the claim, if brought, will be vigorously defended; and f. the retaliatory action that will ensue following the certain defeat of the claim.
Nevertheless, I do get to see a lot of reports from would-be “experts” for claimants. Usually, these individuals are not experts at all – that is they were not hired to give an “expert opinion” on established facts. They are merely professionals re-inspecting the same property several weeks and often several months after the original inspection and not infrequently after the massive destructive probing that first allowed the defect to be, literally, “uncovered.”
By and large, they have done no spadework whatsoever, such as reading the original inspection report, ascertaining weather conditions in the weeks preceding the original inspection and subsequent thereto, ruling out other causative factors, ascertaining the condition of the property at the time of the original inspection or even mentioning the Standard of Practice that is implicated in the case. Talk about bad home inspector training.
And there is nothing these would-be experts like more than impugning the competence of the original inspector. Their reports are riddled with absurd credibility-destroying observations like this one made in a case I squashed in Washington state: “the magnitude of floor structure damage to this home would have been difficult to overlook during an inspection, even to the most untrained observer.”
Really? Well, if that’s the case, Mr. Expert, shouldn’t the presumably very “untrained observers” who had been living in the house lo, those many years have not “overlooked” the “magnitude of floor structure damage” and noted it in their sellers’ disclosures? Or – here’s an idea – shouldn’t they have repaired it while they, themselves, were living in the house?
What this would-be expert should have done after seeing the “magnitude of damage” that “would have been difficult to overlook” by even the “most untrained observer” is ask himself this question: how the hell did this inspector ever miss this defect? What could have prevented this inspector – duly licensed by the State of Washington – from seeing this defect? Was it concealed somehow? Were there any signs that would warrant invasive probing? Was the area accessible at the time of the original inspection?
As a follow-up inspector you have to recognize that you are inspecting an entirely different house than the original inspector. The vast majority of claims against home inspectors, in my experience, are for after-discovered defects that were concealed at the time of inspection but are not concealed when inspector #2 conducts his inspection.
And the real problem for inspector #2 – and the poor sap who hires him – is the nigh universal inability of such “experts” to resist such credibility-destroying dudgeon as “the magnitude of floor structure damage to this home would have been difficult to overlook during an inspection, even to the most untrained observer.”
If you’re the “expert” inspector and you’re uncovering “obvious” defects, someone is definitely leading you into a pick. And you should make sure that your “expert” report is laden with disclaimers so you don’t undermine your credibility with reckless statements about the original inspector’s ability because chances are that, had you been the original inspector, you very well might have been prevented from seeing them, too.Already a ClaimsAcademy Member? Log In Register for Joe’s FREE ClaimsAcademy Video Tips Protect Yourself with ClaimIntercept Joe’s Law and Disorder Seminar is Available Online! Receive a Perfected Pre-Inspection Agreement