[§672B-7] Design claim conciliation panel hearing; fact-finding; evidence; voluntary settlement. (a) Every claim of a tort against a design professional shall be heard by the design claim conciliation panel within thirty days after the last date for filing a response. No persons other than the panel, witnesses, and consultants called by the panel, and the persons listed in section 672B-8 shall be present except with the permission of the chairperson. The panel, in its discretion, may conduct an inquiry of a party, witness, or consultant without the presence of any or all parties.
(b) The hearing shall be informal. Chapters 91 and 92 shall not apply. The panel may require a stenographic record of all or part of its proceedings for the use of the panel, but the record shall not be made available to the parties. The panel may receive any oral or documentary evidence. Questioning of parties, witnesses, and consultants may be conducted by the panel, and the panel, in its discretion, may permit any party, or any counsel for a party to question other parties, witnesses, or consultants. The panel may designate who, among the parties, shall have the burden of going forward with the evidence with respect to the issues as it may consider, and unless otherwise designated by the panel, the burden shall initially rest with the claimant at the commencement of the hearing.
(c) The panel may require by subpoena the appearance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence. When subpoena power is utilized, notice shall be given to all parties. The testimony of witnesses may be taken either orally before the panel or by deposition. In cases of refusal to obey a subpoena issued by the panel, the panel may invoke the aid of any circuit court in the State, which may issue an order requiring compliance with the subpoena. Failure to obey the order may be punished by the court as a contempt thereof. Any member of the panel, the director, or any person designated by the director may sign subpoenas. Any member of the panel may administer oaths and affirmations, examine witnesses, and receive evidence. Notwithstanding these powers, the panel shall attempt to secure the voluntary appearance, testimony, and cooperation of parties, witnesses, and consultants without coercion.
(d) At the hearing of the panel and in arriving at its opinion the panel shall consider, but not be limited to, statements or testimony of witnesses, project records, and other records kept in the usual course of the practice of the design professional without the necessity for other identification or authentication, statement of fact, or opinion on a subject contained in a published treatise, periodical, book, or pamphlet, or statements of experts without the necessity of the experts appearing at the hearing. The panel, upon the application of any party or upon its own decision, may appoint as a consultant, an impartial and qualified design professional, or other professional person or expert to testify before the panel or to conduct any necessary professional or expert examination of the claimant or relevant evidentiary matter and to report to or testify as a witness thereto. Such a consultant shall not be compensated or reimbursed except for travel and living expenses to be paid as provided in section 672B-3. Except for the production of records kept in the usual course of the practice of the design professional, discovery by the parties shall not be allowed.
During the hearing and at any time prior to the rendition of an advisory decision pursuant to section 672B-9, the panel may encourage the parties to settle or otherwise dispose of the case voluntarily. [L 2007, c 207, pt of §2]