Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane SPA v Rotunno and Othersted

[2008] EWHC 185 (Ch)

Interpretation of documents is the judge’s job.

The Facts

The case concerned the pension scheme set up by the Claimant for the benefit of its employees.

The case revolved around construction of the scheme relating to its funding.

Each party produced expert actuarial evidence.

The Issues

When is expert evidence admissible and of assistance?

The Decision

The expert evidence before the Court was both admissible and helpful in so far as it described the various ways in which pension schemes may be funded and the role that is played by the scheme actuary in the funding process.

Expert evidence may also be relevant and helpful if the wording of the scheme were in a standard form within the industry.

However, the individual views of actuaries on the meaning of particular wording within the scheme are of peripheral relevance at best. That is a question for the Court.

It is possible that the Court will derive some indirect assistance from learning how a skilled actuary would interpret the words in question but, if another would interpret the words differently, the effect of this evidence is likely to be neutral.

Comment

An expert can only give evidence about issues which are within his expertise. The interpretation of a document (save if it is in an industry-standard form where the assistance of an expert may be helpful) is a matter for the Judge.