Expert Witness - Hartley Mellish, Ph.D., Economist

Forensic Economics - FAQ

What is Forensic Economics?

Forensic Economics is the application of economics to issues that arise in litigation. These include calculating damages in cases of personal injury, wrongful death, wrongful termination of employment, and loss of expected business profit as well as business valuation. Economists also calculate the equitable distribution of assets in marital dissolution cases, determine the present cost of life care plans in catastrophic injury cases, and evaluate economic losses in failure of fiduciary duty cases.

Forensic economists attempt to determine methods that are appropriate for evaluation in various contexts, giving appropriate consideration to the limitations of available data. Practicing forensic economists apply the various methods of evaluation, as appropriate to actual cases of dispute.

Economic reports often contribute to case settlement. When a case fails to settle, the practicing forensic economist has to be prepared to explain and defend his or her professional opinion in open court or at a mediation/arbitration hearing.

What types of cases do we evaluate?

G. Hartley Mellish, Ph.D. Economist primarily deals with damages in litigation on behalf of plaintiffs and defendants in a roughly equal balance. Litigated cases fall into one of two main categories:

  1. Personal injury and death damages (loss of income or support, loss of value of services, the amount required to cover future medical/attendant care expenses and loss of net estate accumulations)
  2. Business damages (loss of profits as well as business valuation). There is approximately a 50% split between the two types of cases.

Dr. Mellish also is involved in a small percentage of non-litigation matters.
Some of these activities have included:

  1. The fiscal impact of new housing / industrial / commercial developments,
  2. The probable absorption rate of new developments,
  3. The fiscal consequences of using state trust funds to finance Florida’s budget deficit.

See our Services page for a more complete list of types of cases Dr. Mellish has been involved with in the past.

How can we help you?

A forensic economist is required for trial. Only through expert testimony will damages calculations be seriously considered by a jury. However, the powerful skills of a forensic economist arise during settlement negotiations. The forensic economist determines a reasonable range of economic damages due a plaintiff. This provides useful information to the attorney and client from the first demand. A skilled forensic economist provides valuable advice and insight. He may even discover an issue or argument that the trial lawyer might not be aware. When this occurs, this "extra weapon" often offsets or exceeds the expert’s fees by providing additional recovery. Because of the expert’s importance to successful litigation, it is essential to select a forensic economist with an exceptional reputation. In general, forensic economists offer damages analysis consisting of several steps.

First, the forensic economist will develop a theory of damages. In a “but-for” analysis, the focus becomes what recovery is necessary to put the client back into the position he or she was in, and would still be in, had it not been for the unlawful incident. The forensic economist then makes any necessary adjustments, such as discounting future payments to present value. After the lawsuit is filed, the expert presents his opinion in the form of a final report with cited sources, spreadsheets, and references. If negotiations break down, the forensic economist can assist at all phases of the litigation.

For instance, before the complaint is even filed, the economist can estimate economic damages, and allow the use of his or her name for offensive purposes, e.g., allowing the use of his or her resume and the threat of raising the ante as a "bargaining chip" to induce settlement. Later, during the discovery phase, the economist can assist in the review of documents and the opposing expert’s report, helping the attorney develop deposition questions. In the post-discovery settlement and pre-trial phase, the expert can assist in evaluating final settlement offers.

Finally, should the case go to trial, the economist will prepare for trial, including preparing damages reports, question scripts, and exhibits. At trial, the economist will present testimony and develop questions to put to the opposition. When retaining a forensic economist, the attorney should check with the economist for conflicts of interest and prepare or review a written agreement concerning the scope of work, fees, expenses, and retainer.

What do we charge?

For a schedule of our charges as of 1/1/23, click on your type of case below:

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Getting started

In all matters, we urge you to have an initial consultation (usually over the telephone) to clarify areas of damages as well as data needed. In most cases there is no charge for the initial consultation. To further clarify our work tasks, we ask that you provide the complaint as well as the jury verdict form you propose to use. This helps us narrow our focus and control the amount of time spent on the case which in turn lowers the over all bill.

For efficiency purposes, we ask that all materials be provided in electronic format through email or disk storage. Technology helps us keep costs down.

Opening a case

Opening a case is easy. Just give us a call, email or simply fill out a quick form or complete a full Case Opening Form and submit it to us for review. We will contact you right away.