A reader contacted me this week with a warning about quoting from Internet sources in expert reports. My main concern has always been with providing correct attribution but as experts, other issues should be addressed as well. Richard O. Neville, of Fort Myers, Florida gave me permission to share his experience with you, as I think this is a caution all experts should take into consideration when creating their expert reports.
Increasingly, I quote Internet sources in expert reports, and see other experts doing the same. However, there is a potential drawback that has led me to develop a hard and fast rule: “Always make a printed copy of the material before quoting it in a report or other document.”
I learned about this the hard way when testifying about information I had put into an expert report, and whose Internet URL I quoted for each separate item. On cross-examination, the lawyer produced printed copies of the sites I had quoted, but showing different information. Since he never offered these sheets as hearing exhibits, I don’t know where the discrepancies occurred, but it was still effective impeachment, and cast doubt on certain conclusions.
More recently, I looked at a site and forgot to print a copy. When assembling my expert report I returned to the site for confirmation, only to find that the information I wanted to quote was no longer there, because the company had been sold. I even used “The Wayback Machine”, a site that allows you to access outdated copies of a site, without success. Evidently the new owners had trashed the old information.
So, a hard copy (on which your computer will automatically print the site address and date accessed) is the safe way to quote source information from the Internet. And look at the other side - ask the opposing expert to produce a hard copy of any Internet sources relied upon or quoted.