Appointment of neutral expert — Qualifications — Duties — Admissibility of report or testimony.
(1) If, after meeting and conferring as required by RCW 64.55.120(2), disputed issues remain, a party may file a motion with the court, or arbitrator if an arbitrator has been appointed, requesting the appointment of a neutral expert to address any or all of the disputed issues. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or upon a showing of exceptional circumstances, including a material adverse change in a party's litigation risks due to a change in allegations, claims, or defenses by an adverse party following the appointment of the neutral expert, any such motion shall be filed no later than sixty days after the first day of the meeting required by RCW 64.55.120(2). Upon such a request, the court or arbitrator shall decide whether or not to appoint a neutral expert or experts. A party may only request more than one neutral expert if the particular expertise of the additional neutral expert or experts is necessary to address disputed issues.
(2) The neutral expert shall be a licensed architect or engineer, or any other person, with substantial experience relevant to the issue or issues in dispute. The neutral expert shall not have been employed as an expert by a party to the present action within three years before the commencement of the present action, unless the parties agree otherwise.
(3) All parties shall be given an opportunity to recommend neutral experts to the court or arbitrator and shall have input regarding the appointment of a neutral expert.
(4) Unless the parties agree otherwise on the following matters, the court, or arbitrator if then appointed, shall determine:
(a) Who shall serve as the neutral expert;
(b) Subject to the requirements of this section, the scope of the neutral expert's duties;
(c) The number and timing of inspections of the property;
(d) Coordination of inspection activities with the parties' experts;
(e) The neutral expert's access to the work product of the parties' experts;
(f) The product to be prepared by the neutral expert;
(g) Whether the neutral expert may participate personally in the mediation required by RCW 64.55.120; and
(h) Other matters relevant to the neutral expert's assignment.
(5) Unless the parties agree otherwise, the neutral expert shall not make findings or render opinions regarding the amount of damages to be awarded, or the cost of repairs, or absent exceptional circumstances any matters that are not in dispute as determined in the meeting described in RCW 64.55.120(2) or otherwise.
(6) A party may, by motion to the court, or to the arbitrator if then appointed, object to the individual appointed to serve as the neutral expert and to determinations regarding the neutral expert's assignment.
(7) The neutral expert shall have no liability to the parties for the performance of his or her duties as the neutral expert.
(8) Except as otherwise agreed by the parties, the parties have a right to review and comment on the neutral expert's report before it is made final.
(9) A neutral expert's report or testimony is not entitled to any evidentiary presumption in any arbitration or court proceeding. Nothing in this chapter and RCW 64.34.073, 64.34.100(2), 64.34.410 (1)(nn) and (2), and 64.34.415(1)(b) restricts the admissibility of such a report or testimony, provided it is within the scope of the neutral expert's assigned duties, and questions of the admissibility of such a report or testimony shall be determined under the rules of evidence.
(10) The court, or arbitrator if then appointed, shall determine the significance of the neutral expert's report and testimony with respect to parties joined after the neutral expert's appointment and shall determine whether additional neutral experts should be appointed or other measures should be taken to protect such joined parties from undue prejudice.
[2005 c 456 § 14.]