Can an Attorney Really Force Me to Testify Q&A for real estate appraiser

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Can an Attorney Really Force Me to Testify?

Q: A few years ago, I did an appraisal for a purchase loan. The assignment came through an AMC, and the lender was one we frequently work with. The other day, I got an email from an attorney with a copy of my report and a lawsuit. He said he represents one of the borrowers and wanted to talk, so I called him.

He explained that the loan never closed due to "problems with the loan application," unrelated to my appraisal. Now, the borrowers are in a lawsuit, with his client suing the other borrower for damages because the sale didn't go through. His client wanted to hire me for a new appraisal for the lawsuit, and he needed it done quickly because of upcoming deadlines.

The attorney was talking fast and offered to pay a rush fee. He was friendly until I interrupted and said I couldn't help. I explained I was fine with doing an appraisal, but since this was for a lawsuit, I had to decline because I don't do expert witness work or testify in court. I don’t feel comfortable testifying, plus I don’t have the experience. He would need to find someone else.

His attitude changed, and he said he would "force" me to testify and his client would use the original report. I told him that the old value wouldn't be relevant now, and that report was done for the lender. He replied, "That's for the judge to decide," and hung up. So, I'm being long-winded here, but can he really "force" me to testify?

A: What the attorney can do is serve you with a subpoena that would require you to testify about the original appraisal you prepared. If that happens, let us know so that we can prepare. You would only be obliged to answer factual questions about the assignment and about your report. You would have no obligation to offer any other opinions about the value of the property.

It would be hard to imagine why the Judge would admit your testimony into evidence because it would seem to be irrelevant now that values have changed. Plus, the attorney initially said the dispute wasn't about the property's value.

There's no need to worry about what might happen. The attorney might have just been upset because you declined to work with him. If you do get served with a subpoena, let us know.

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