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County of Monmouth v. Longo

A-435-02T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

EMINENT DOMAIN; EXPERTS—A qualified expert on wetlands issues must possess applicable knowledge, skill, training or education, but may rely on an engineers report included within his or her own report.

A county appealed a judgment entered against it in a condemnation proceeding. It challenged the property owner’s use of an environmental consultant, who was not a licensed engineer, as an expert witness to describe the impact of the condemnation on the value of the property. The environmental consultant testified as to the impact of the wetlands designation and the construction of a retention basin on the property’s potential development for commercial purposes. The environmental consultant relied on the report of a licensed engineer who consulted with him, and whose report was included in the consultant’s report. The county challenged the consultant’s qualifications as an expert witness and sought to introduce a rebuttal witness. The lower court limited the rebuttal witness’s testimony to facts impeaching the consultant’s credibility. It did not permit the rebuttal witness to testify on any other aspects of the consultant’s testimony because the county did not provide the witness’s report during discovery. The Appellate Division affirmed, finding the consultant to be qualified to testify even though he was not a licensed engineer. In order to be qualified as an expert witness on wetlands issues, a consultant needs to possess applicable knowledge, skill, training or education. In this case, the Court held: (1) that the consultant had sufficient formal training and occupational experience to render a helpful opinion to the jury; and (2) that it was proper to permit the consultant to rely on the included report of the engineer. It also found that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the rebuttal witness’ testimony. The county received copies of the consultant’s and engineer’s reports during discovery and had ample time to submit a rebuttal report by its rebuttal witness as required by the Rules of Court.

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