A forensic engineer is a professional who applies engineering principles and expertise to investigate and analyze a wide variety of incidents, accidents and failures. The goal of forensic engineering is to determine the root cause of an event, often for legal or insurance purposes. Forensic engineers may work on cases involving structural failures, industrial accidents, transportation accidents, product defects, fires, and many more.
The responsibilities of a forensic engineer include:
This case is interesting for three reasons: The plaintiff engaged the wrong kind of expert; despite that fact, the jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict, which was reversed on appeal; and the opinion provides a useful explanation, which I have not seen before, of what makes an expert’s opinion “speculative, conclusory, and without a proper evidentiary foundation.”
Human factors experts can play a valuable role in personal injury lawsuits by explaining how a wide variety of factors may have contributed to an injury-causing incident. Here are some ways a human factors expert can assist trial attorneys:
1. Incident Reconstruction: Human factors experts can analyze the circumstances surrounding the incident and reconstruct how the injury occurred. They may consider factors such as environmental conditions, user or driver behavior, and product or road design to determine if any design flaws or human errors played a role.
When we started in business in 2004, the primary sources for locating experts were listservs and personal recommendations from other attorneys. The Internet, already a notable source back then (Google went public in 2003), soon became the primary way to search for experts, while listservs essentially disappeared.
I trust no reader of our blog needs a summary of this well-known (not to say notorious) case. The indictment was handed down on August 14, 2023; trial is scheduled to begin on October 3, 2023. On August 16, the defendant disclosed seven proposed expert witnesses.
In North Shore Medical Center v. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. (11th Cir., No. 22-10514, 5/25/2023), the court held that the plaintiff’s expert’s report created a triable issue of material fact, and consequently the district court should not have granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. In a concurring opinion, a member of the panel pointed out that one section of the defendant’s expert’s report supported the plaintiff’s position on the triable issue and hence was an independent reason for denying summary judgment.
Toxicology is the study of the adverse effects of chemical substances on living organisms, including humans. Toxicologists investigate the mechanisms of toxic effects, evaluate the risks and benefits of chemical exposures, and develop strategies to minimize harmful effects. There are two categories of toxicologists: medical (MD) toxicologists and PhD toxicologists. They share some common areas of expertise, but there are significant differences in their training, responsibilities and career paths.
Frankel v. Deane (Md. 8/25/2022), https://www.mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2022/43a21.pdf, illustrates the legal issue that is the title of this post. It also illustrates what is technically a legal issue (a trial court’s abuse of discretion in excluding expert medical testimony), but is actually a practical issue that every trial lawyer has to deal with sooner or later, even multiple times in the course of a long career: the nightmare trial judge. I will discuss the legal issue first.
This is an obstetrical malpractice case. A caesarean section was delayed for several hours due to the negligence of both the treating physicians and the nurses, as result of which the baby sustained significant hypoxic brain damage during labor and was born with cerebral palsy. The plaintiff mother, suing on behalf of her child, settled with the physicians and proceeded to trial against the hospital that employed the nurses. Rodriguez-Valentin v. Doctors’ Center Hospital, No. 20-2093 (1st Cir.