In a recent judgment, the Dubai Court of Appeal held that court appointed experts may be liable for gross negligence. The Court of Appeal clarified that errors relating to the expertise of experts and the biased position taken by experts towards the parties constitute gross negligence. This is an important development that stresses the importance for experts to be diligent and rigorous when producing their reports. 

The expert stage in proceedings before onshore UAE courts is a crucial stage of the proceedings since in most court cases the onshore UAE courts follow the conclusions of experts although those conclusions are not binding on the courts. Court appointed experts play an important role in court proceedings with regards to the assessment of factual and evidential matters in respect to civil and commercial cases, and even in some criminal cases. 

In a recent judgment issued on 14 September 2023, the Dubai Court of Appeal held that a panel of experts appointed by the Dubai Rental Disputes Centre (the RDC) is liable for gross negligence and ordered that the same panel pays the claimant, who the Court of Appeal considered was prejudiced by the report issued by the panel of experts, a compensation of AED 18,000,000. 

The Court of Appeal considered that professional and technical errors committed by the panel of experts in its report has misled the RDC and prevented it from reaching the true facts of the case. The Court of Appeal found that the experts ignored evidence submitted to it and were biased when issuing their report which breached their professional duty to assess and report the true facts of case to the court. Further, the Court of Appeal held that the experts did not consider the relevant technical and accounting issues at stake with a view to assist the court to achieve justice between the litigants. 

The Court of Appeal concluded that the errors committed by the experts as well as their failure to consider the relevant technical and accounting issues and to take into consideration evidence submitted to them constitute gross negligence which resulted in material damages to the claimant. As a result of the gross negligence of the expert the RDC issued its judgment in favour of the defendant based on the inaccurate panel of experts' report. 

Although the judgment of the Court of Appeal is still subject to an appeal before the Court of Cassation, the position adopted by the Court of Appeal indicates that the Court of Appeal is adopting a stricter position towards experts who are not diligent and commit gross negligence. Experts may now be liable and may be ordered to pay considerable compensation to the party they prejudiced by producing a grossly negligent report.