December 31, 2008

Fire Expert Witness On Philly Fire Engine Company Cuts

The Philadelphia firefighter's union lost a bid to prevent closing seven fire companies targeted as part of Mayor Nutter's response to the current budget crisis. Common Pleas Judge Gary DiVito yesterday ruled that Nutter could unilaterally make the cuts and said the union's fire expert witness had not shown that eliminating five engine companies and two ladder companies would endanger firefighters or the public. DiVito also said that Local 22 of the International Association of Firefighters had failed to show that the cuts posed a threat to public safety. also reports:

It was a much-needed victory for Nutter in his effort to close a five-year, $1 billion budget gap that he has warned is likely to grow. Nutter estimates that the fire closures would save $10.4 million annually... The firefighters requested an injunction earlier this month, arguing that Nutter was required to bargain with the union when it came to issues of firefighter safety.

December 30, 2008

Hospitality Expert Witness On ADR Part 1

In Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Hospitality Industry hospitality expert witness Maurice Robinson writes:

With the increasing popularity of ADR in all areas of business, it was inevitable that the hospitality industry would take note of its advantages. With the escalating costs
associated with litigation, organizations involved in the hospitality sector are increasingly
recognizing that disputes that arise between parties may be reasonably, fairly and
economically resolved through ADR. Hotel management and franchise agreements, for
example, have frequently included arbitration and mediation provisions, but they
generally have referred to standard rules and used third-party providers with little
background in the industry.

Arbitrators and mediators have thus been brought into hospitality dispute resolution with
little understanding of the history and dynamics of the sector. And while neutrality has
generally been assured, there has been frustration associated with the frequent lack of
understanding of the issues involved on the part of the key players in the process – the
arbitrators and mediators.

Mr. Robinson has 30 years experience in the hotel and real estate industry business and is President of Maurice Robinson & Associates LLC.

December 29, 2008

Security Expert Witness On Building Security Codes Part 2

In SECURITY: By Design And Decree security expert witness Robert A. Gardner, CPP, writes on security ordinances:

Establishing liability depends in large part on the foreseeability of a specific kind of criminal attack and the amount of control the negligent party exercised over the circumstances and conditions under which the crime occurred. By citing the standards prescribed in Building Security Codes, it may be possible to demonstrate that a minimum level of security is always necessary. This is true even when no specific crime threat has been identified. The pervasive nature of crime in America presents an undeniable threat to virtually everyone. While the exact time and circumstances of criminal attacks cannot usually be predicted, it may be reasonable to forecast that a particular type of crime will occur at a given location within a definable time period.

Security Codes and Environmental Design Standards impose a duty on property developers, owners and managers to provide at least a minimum level of protection for those who enter and occupy their properties. The protective measures required will vary with the type and use of the property. But, in every instance, there will be basic preventative measures identified to address the kinds of crime that can be reasonably expected to occur. If adequate consideration has not been given to security, and/or applicable security codes have not been followed, then the stage is set for a claim of negligence should a criminal attack take place.

December 28, 2008

Mechanical Engineering Expert On Robots Part 2

In Moving On Their Own Ahmed K. Noor, mechanical engineering expert and Director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Environments, writes on mobile robots:

Military and security organizations use robots to assist in dangerous situations. In space exploration, robots have been used as planetary probes, orbiters, and rovers. Robots have a significant role in medical and health care fields—helping surgeons achieve more precision in the operating room, and performing safer, less-invasive surgeries.

We are now entering a new age of robotics. Increasing computing power and AI advances are making robots considerably more useful, and rapidly expanding their fields of application. Above all, robots are becoming ever more reliable and autonomous. Indeed, networks of intelligent, autonomous robots promise to become the next disruptive technology...

The estimated number of industrial robots installed worldwide, according to World Robotics, a report published by the International Federation of Robotics, is more than one million—50 percent in Asia and Australia, 33 percent in Europe, and 17 percent in North America.

December 27, 2008

Security Expert Witness On Building Security Codes

In SECURITY: By Design And Decree security expert witness Robert A. Gardner, CPP, writes on security ordinances:
The Uniform Building Security Code, published by the International Conference of Building Officials, is another source of security standards for residential dwellings. This code, like the CCPOA Model Building Security Code, sets minimum standards for physical security and provides tests to ensure that the standards have been met.

Regardless of a security code's exact origin and form, if based on accepted security standards, it can be useful in supporting - or defending against - claims of negligence. Even where security codes are not in force, the basic theories of "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" and the existence of Building Security Codes in neighboring jurisdictions can often be used to demonstrate the need for, and reasonableness of, security measures.

December 26, 2008

The Forensic Psychiatry Expert Witness In Legal Proceedings Part 2

In The Role of a Forensic Psychiatrist in Legal Proceedings forensic psychiatry expert witness and Harvard Medical School Associate Clinical Professor Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D., writes on the kinds of determinations forensic psychiatrists make in criminal cases.

Although few defendants win a verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" (NGRI) in court, a larger number receive a stipulated NGRI on the basis of a forensic psychiatric evaluation. In an even wider range of cases, a defendant's mental state can make a major difference as to whether a jury finds the necessary premeditation, or malice aforethought, to warrant conviction for (say) first-degree murder, as opposed to a lesser charge. The same considerations may be brought to bear in sentencing recommendations as well.

The forensic psychiatric consultation can also be a vital aid to determining whether a client is perjuring himself, or is competent to confess. For example, a schizophrenic man spent nine years in prison in Florida for a double murder to which he had made a false, coerced confession which an expert forensic psychiatric consultation could have revealed to be invalid. Last year my testimony helped win acquittal for a psychotically depressed man who had confessed to embezzling city funds that he had never taken.

December 24, 2008

Security Expert Witness On Security Ordinances

In SECURITY: By Design And Decree security expert witness Robert A. Gardner, CPP, writes on security ordinances:

To ensure that security and crime prevention considerations are included in new construction and remodeling projects, a growing number of city and county governments have adopted minimum security standards as part of their local building codes. Generally where these standards exist, they are subjected to the same inspection and review process as any other building code requirement. Compliance must be shown before building permits can be obtained or certificates of occupancy issued. Although these codes are primarily applicable during the design and construction process, many also place requirements and restrictions on the continuing use of buildings and property after construction. Building Security Codes can apply to all building types and most land uses.

While specific wording may vary somewhat among jurisdictions, the requirements of these codes are generally similar. One reason for this similarity is the fact that many jurisdictions have adopted security ordinances based on Model Building Security Codes such as the one developed by the California Crime Prevention Officers Association (CCPOA). This organization was an early proponent of "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" and Building Security Codes. It is a pioneer in the crime prevention field and has, through its members, been instrumental in the development of many of the crime prevention programs in use today.

December 23, 2008

The Forensic Psychiatry Expert Witness In Legal Proceedings

In The Role of a Forensic Psychiatrist in Legal Proceedings forensic psychiatry expert witness and Harvard Medical School Associate Clinical Professor Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D., writes on the kinds of determinations forensic psychiatrists make in civil proceedings.

Forensic psychiatrists are involved in a range of particularized competency determinations, including the competence to make wills, dispose of property, or refuse medical treatment. In custody disputes they may be called upon to assess how autonomous and authentic the expressed wishes of a child of a certain age can be. They evaluate and testify in cases of alleged emotional harm and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Here it is necessary to reach a deep understanding of the person's life history, so as to identify prior experiences that may have created a special vulnerability to trauma (as opposed to prior impaired functioning), as well as to distinguish genuine trauma from faking, malingering, exaggerating, or misattributing.

Forensic psychiatrists are involved in worksite issues such as workers' compensation, supervisory negligence, disability discrimination, and sexual harassment. On the environmental front, they are helping to define the limits of product liability and stress caused by fear of illness. They also are trained in the use of the psychological autopsy to determine cause of death.

December 22, 2008

Explosions Expert Witness & Scientific Methodology

In Fire Experts: Times Have Changed, explosions expert witness Robert L. Rowe, CFI/PI, writes:

In today’s litigious society, much more is required to prove guilt or negligence when fires occur. A fire expert must be able to make a determination as to why a fire (or explosion) has occurred and report their findings and recommendations using the aforementioned “Scientific” methodology. This includes, recognizing the problem, defining the problem, collecting data, analyzing the data, developing a hypothesis and finally proving the hypothesis.

Gone are the days of gut feelings and “hand me down” theories as to how fires start and spread. The role of a fire expert nowadays most often involves much more. Therefore it is essential that fire experts are familiar with and follow the guidelines of NFPA 921 to insure that each investigation is conducted in a consistent manner and that all aspects of a given fire scene are properly evaluated.

Robert L. Rowe, President of Pyrocop, Inc., is a fire code consultant, certified fire investigator, and private investigator. He served as Deputy Fire Marshal/Fire Investigator/Hazmat Tech for the City of Downey, CA, from 12/89 – 3/07.

December 21, 2008

Wrongful Termination Expert Witness On "The Attitude Alarm Clock" Part 2

In The Attitude "Alarm Clock" wrongful termination expert witness Charles Conine writes on hiring and motivating employees.

Hoping that they will succeed we provide them the tools -- and we wait. We wait for the new hire's skills to sharpen, her mind to focus solely on the task at hand. Sometimes it does, and we reward the effort. When her mind wanders, we remind her that "this is work, you know; you can daydream later." Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't. That's when we bring out the big guns: "Keep up like this, and you will be out of a job," we say, knowing that only some employees will hear, let alone care about this admonition. Others will not hear or not care. Some are so impertinent they simply walk off the job which may seem an attractive alternative to hearing the words "you're fired..."

All great performers possess an attitude "alarm clock". They know when it's time to add effort and when to let others take the lead... Can we teach employees to possess an attitude "alarm clock?" The subject of much debate, this is. What is very clear, however, is that great attitudes are catchy, and where one resides, others will follow.

December 20, 2008

Construction Safety Expert Witness On Construction Quality Part 3

In Managing Construction Quality, construction safety expert witness Pete Fowler provides:

Scope of Work: Written documents, usually based on the plans and specs, which identify or clarify the project definition. These documents are attached to prime and trade contracts to establish who is doing what. In theory, the “Scope” for the prime contractor should include everything being sold to the owner, and all the trade contractor “scopes” in aggregate should include everything in the prime scope, less the GC’s self-performed work.

Hold-Point: Critical time in the construction process where construction should stop for verification of conformance with plans, specifications, standards (including performance) and contracts. Verification can include inspection, testing, recording, and reporting.

December 19, 2008

Wrongful Termination Expert Witness On "The Attitude Alarm Clock"

In The Attitude "Alarm Clock" wrongful termination expert witness Charles Conine writes on hiring and motivating employees.

It's all about mental attitude... When hiring, promoting, training and yes, even disciplining, watch the candidate or employee's attitude. Some, as we all know, are timid about showing they care; with encouragement, however, they blossom. Others are natural leaders and will pick up every job you throw their way, do it, then ask for the next assignment. Others seem wooden, disinterested, unfocused; this group, needless to say, may not be your best new hires. You're reaching them too late...

All great performers possess an attitude "alarm clock". They know when it's time to add effort and when to let others take the lead... Can we teach employees to possess an attitude "alarm clock?" The subject of much debate, this is. What is very clear, however, is that great attitudes are catchy, and where one resides, others will follow.

December 18, 2008

Mortgages Expert Witness On Residential Loans Part 3

In Basic Characteristics And “Life” of Residential Mortgage Loans mortgages expert witness J. F. "Chip" Morrow writes:

Secondary market investors are Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), private conduits, or investors who purchase mortgage-backed, long-term investment instruments made up of pooled individual residential mortgage loans.

Loan administrator/servicer is an institution servicing and acting for the benefit of ultimate investors regarding the mortgage loans. Functions include collection of payments for borrowers, customer service, advancing funds for delinquent loans, and taking defaulting properties through the foreclosure process. For example, a borrower would go to a mortgage broker who would take an application and process the loan request by collecting all the other necessary information from the borrower. Then the mortgage broker would send the application along with the information he collected from the borrower to the mortgage banker, which would then underwrite the loan utilizing the three “C”s ─ collateral, capacity, character. After a complete underwriting and approval including PMI insurance, if the LTV is greater than 80 percent, the funder (in most cases the same as the underwriter) would then fund and close the mortgage loan. At this point the mortgage banker would either retain the loan for its own portfolio or sell the loan to secondary market investors, such as Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

December 17, 2008

Medical Expert Witness On Patient Experts

In WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE, medical expert witness C. Paul Sinkhorn, MD, FACOG, writes that with the internet, patients have the opportunity to become experts on certain diseases, particularly their own. Tom Ferguson, editor of The Ferguson Report: The Newsletter of Online Health, observes, “A doctor may have a working knowledge of 50 conditions and be able to treat, with some consultation, another 200. A patient only needs to know about one.”

We will be challenged to keep up with our patients’ questions like never before. Sometimes I am relentlessly cross-examined by these Internet-empowered patients. While pleased that they take responsibility for their health care, and remembering the intoxication of newly acquired wisdom, I deplore pop knowledge masquerading as legitimate medical tenet. Internet armed patients’ cutting-edge knowledge creates loftier expectations. Every attorney with Internet access can research all relevant medical literature on a potential medical malpractice case in less than an hour, including multiple medical expert witnesses’ opinions and immediate analysis of strengths and weaknesses. There’s nothing wrong with that, and medical expert witnesses should welcome better prepared.

December 16, 2008

Mortgages Expert Witness On Residential Loans Part 2

In Basic Characteristics And “Life” of Residential Mortgage Loans mortgages expert witness J. F. "Chip" Morrow writes:

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) provider provides insurance protecting the mortgage investors against financial loss occasioned by a borrower defaulting on the mortgage loan. PMI insurance is required for any loan with a loan-to-value of higher than 80%. The PMI provider can either underwrite each loan itself or delegate this responsibility to the mortgage banker/underwriter. The PMI provider has no direct relationship with the borrower or the mortgage broker. The PMI provider relies on the mortgage banker who in turn relies on the mortgage broker for information for underwrite. In this instance, the underwriting of the PMI insurance underwriting was delegated to the mortgage banker, which further enhances the need for the PMI provider to be able to rely on the mortgage banker to ensure that the loan is properly underwritten.

December 15, 2008

Sports Medicine Expert Witness On Personal Trainers

Sports medicine expert witnesses warn that the person you entrust your body may have little or no training in exercise science and physiology. "It's scary," says Walter Thompson, professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University in Atlanta. "My gosh, they license my haircutter, why not the person making me push 200 pounds over my head?" Both Thompson and Marc Rabinoff, chairman of the department of human performance at Denver's Metropolitan State College, have seen cringe-worthy bodily damage in their roles as in personal-trainer injury cases.

"I've seen people permanently disabled by trainers," Thompson says. "One case I did was when a personal trainer had someone exercise with one muscle group too much, and that person wound up in intensive care with rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown that leads to kidney failure). I'm seeing that more and more when I testify in court. People are getting hurt."

Excerpted from TheSacramentoBee.

December 13, 2008

Personal Property Valuation Expert Witness On Art Collecting

In Art Is For All: A Brief Look At Art Collecting Through The Ages, personal property valuation expert witness and owner of Thomas Charles Editions of Phoenix, AZ, Lisa A. Barnes, writes on how art is valued:

Conventional wisdom has it that all areas of art collecting can occasionally suffer eclipses
but eventually return to favor. From the collector’s point of view, the theoretical solution has always been simply to buy “good art,” works that will transcend the whims of fashion and stand the tests of time. This lead us to the inevitable questions; what makes art good, and who gets to decide? It is probably safe to say that technical achievement in art will always be valued, and will always be rediscovered. Beyond that, there is only educated opinion – and it is constantly changing.

There are simply no eternal verities in art. A Rembrandt may be worth more than a Murillo, yet prices for works by Old Masters, however rare their appearance on the market, have lagged behind Contemporary American artists and the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. During the 1980’s, a Jackson Pollock sold for more than a Rembrandt or a Leonardo Da Vinci. In 1986, a single Jasper Johns, “Out the Window,” painted in 1959, sold for $3.63 million, the exact same amount as Da Vinci’s “Lamb,” one of two authenticated works still in private hands. It was private buyers that changed the rules...

In selecting art for your personal enjoyment, choose it because you love it. Love it simply
for the pleasure and enjoyment it brings to your heart. If it sings to you, buy it, take it
home and cherish it!

December 12, 2008

Hydrology Expert Witnesses & GIS

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become an important tool for hydrology and groundwater expert witnesses. An especially useful application of GIS concerns water quality in groundwater. In the case of groundwater contamination and the need for subsequent containment and cleanup of the contaminant, an existing framework of the groundwater system would be valuable in planning remediation measures.

An example concerning the use of GIS addresses a common problem associated with groundwater pumping and land subsidence or intrusion in coastal areas. Areas that have been overpumped of groundwater can subside, and when near the sea, this may invite flooding. Also, overpumping of groundwater in coastal regions may bring a different problem, such as the case in California where salt-water intrusion has compromised the aquifer. Generally, a salt water interface inland of the coast extends below the land surface dependent on the distance from the coast. Overpumping can bring the salt water interface to a higher position and contaminate an aquifer.

December 11, 2008

Finance Expert Witnesses Opine In Princeton U Case

In Robertson v. Princeton, descendants of donor Marie Robertson and her husband, Princeton class of 1926 alumnus Charles Robertson, sued Princeton University to redirect the funds she gave to create the Robertson Foundation for the benefit of Princeton University in 1961. Princeton estimates that it spent more than $40 million in pre-trial costs and that a trial and appeal will cost an additional $20 million for both sides.

Princeton produced nearly half a million pages of electronic and print documents in the discovery phase of the case. Finance expert witnesses gave reports and there were more than 5,000 trial exhibits identified. The University's defense costs not covered by insurance, will be reimbursed by the Robertson Foundation.

December 10, 2008

Hydrology Expert Witnesses

Hydrology and groundwater expert witnesses can tell you that about ¼ of the water used for personal, commercial/industrial, and irrigation uses in the U.S. comes from groundwater. With increasing demands placed on surface water resources, it is likely the demand for groundwater will increase.

In some places, this resource has already been severely tapped, and even mismanaged. An example is the surface water decline in the Republican River watershed of Nebraska and Kansas where over-pumping of groundwater for irrigation in Nebraska has depleted surface water available for downstream flow and use in Kansas resulting in a lawsuit. The State of Kansas filed a complaint to the U.S. Supreme Court that claimed the State of Nebraska had violated the Republican River Compact by allowing the unimpeded development of thousands of wells in hydraulic connection with the Republican River and its tributaries. Kansas further alleged that Nebraska was using more water than its allocation.

December 9, 2008

Construction Safety Expert Witness On Communication

In Speaking English is Key to Safety construction safety expert witness Paul Gogulski, BSCE, PE, writes:

As an expert witness specializing in construction accidents, my observations include a very sensitive subject: the increased risk of accidents when a substantial number of workers on a site cannot speak the English language. Every general contractor knows the truth but few dare to openly express it: the more non-English speaking workers employed on site, the greater the risk of errors and accidents. Even when a requirement for English-speaking foremen is included in the contract, this in itself is not enough to prevent accidents attributable to the hazards created by the barriers imposed by inadequate communication...

Effective communication is a key ingredient of every construction project and is particularly vital
in regard to safety issues. Practically speaking, the current policy of promoting bilingual languages as a social-engineering enterprise across a broad spectrum of the nation has a negative impact on the frequency of accidents in the construction industry. The many recent deaths in Las Vegas construction is a grim demonstration of this fact.

Courtesy of McGraw-Hill.

December 7, 2008

The Role Of The Forensic Psychiatry Expert Witness

In What is Forensic Psychiatry?, forensic psychiatry expert witness Dr. Jerald H. Ratner, M.D., L.F.A.P.A., F.A.B.F.E., describes the role of the forensic psychiatrist:

A psychiatrist with forensic expertise can assist attorneys, federal agencies, plaintiffs, defendants, and the courts to evaluate claims for psychiatric damages, disability and competency.

A psychiatrist with forensic experience is a physician who integrates clinical experience, knowledge of medicine, mental health, and the neurosciences to form an independent, objective opinion. Relevant data is gathered, analyzed and synthesized as part of a process of alternative hypothesis testing to formulate an expert medical/psychiatric opinion. The expert opinion is fortified and validated by a psychiatrist who maintains a predominantly clinical practice (i.e., evaluates and treats patients on a continuous and active basis).

December 6, 2008

Marketing Expert Witness On Marketing Strategy

In How to Create a Marketing Strategy, marketing expert witness Steven Londre gives sound advice:

In creating a marketing strategy, divide markets into meaningful customer groups (market segmentation), choose which customer groups to serve (target marketing), and create marketing offers that best serve targeted customers (positioning)...

Here's a recommendation: Make your marketing, advertising and promotion different than your competitors. Be unique with your product mix. Successfully position your product by looking at product attributes, benefits, quality/price, high tech and high touch. And remember your target customer. Customer service is far more important than most marketing consultants give it credit. Company and brand positioning should be summed up in a positioning statement. The statement should follow this form: To (target market and need) our (brand or store or service) is (concept) that (point of difference).

Larry Steven Londre is a marketing veteran having taught Marketing, Advertising, Media and Promotion for the past 33 years. He owns his own marketing and advertising consultancy, Londre Marketing Consultants, LLC.

December 5, 2008

Structural Engineering Experts On "Smart" Shock Absorbers Part 2

Structural engineering experts witnesses opine on the science and art of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, frameworks and other similar structures to safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected. Structural engineering researchers at Rice University are leading a new $1.6 million research program funded by the National Science Foundation to help design a new generation of "smart" shock absorbers for buildings and bridges in earthquake-prone areas.

To imagine what a building undergoes in an earthquake, Nagarajaiah suggests imaging yourself standing in a moving bus or train. "Riders make their bodies and muscles tense when the bus moves, and they relax as soon as the sudden motion stops," Nagarajaiah said. "The typical steel-framed building or bridge can't do that, but we want to find technologies like adaptive stiffness and damping systems that can give structures that ability."

Nagarajaiah said about 100 U.S. buildings and bridges -- including the famed Golden Gate Bridge -- have been built or are being retrofitted with large, passive dampers, which work just like the shock absorbers in a car, using pistons and hydraulic fluid to absorb the impact of sudden shocks. But passive dampers do not have the ability to adjust their properties—such as stiffness and damping—in real time. By design, they perform the same way in every earthquake, but Nagarajaiah said quake researchers have discovered in recent years that all quakes are not created equal.

For more, see 'Smart' shock absorbers for quake-prone structures.

December 5, 2008

Accident Reconstruction Expert On Helmets

Millions of young athletes participating in organized sports programs suffer serious concussions, many of which go unidentified by volunteer coaches and parents...The CDC estimates that approximately 135,000 youngsters between the ages of 5-18 visit hospital emergency rooms for brain injuries every year. Accident reconstruction expert witness C. J. Abraham interviewed former middle school and high school football players who were paraplegics and quadriplegics to determine the causes of their horrific injuries. He became emotionally invested in their heart-breaking stories, which led to him patenting the flexible face-mask that was licensed and manufactured by Riddell in the early '80s.

"The face-mask I invented for use with the football helmet was related to a need to reduce the risk of paralyzing injuries to young children," Abraham says. "The steel face-mask the children were using weighed over a pound, did not absorb and dissipate forces and was much too heavy for young children. As a result, their heads and necks sagged and were prone to flexing extensively during a tackle, resulting in fractures of their spines. By cutting the weight in half and allowing the facemask to absorb and dissipate some of the impact forces, we were able to eliminate the paralyzing injuries that were caused by impact to the facemask during a tackle. Since the players started to use the facemask there have been no reported spinal injuries."

December 4, 2008

Real Estate Expert Witnessess On Property Appraisals

Real Estate experts at write on lenders rejecting appraisals:

Appraisals: It’s about the Property, Not your Loan!

One of the newest issues with many loans today is lenders reviewing and rejecting appraisals. The appraisal is a ‘’defensible'’ and carefully documented opinion of value. Most commonly derived using recent sales of comparable properties by a licensed, professional appraiser. Since the real estate market has been extremely heated in my area, property values have soared at a rapid rate. Lender’s are beginning to question these values and whether or not they’re realistic.

I believe it’s important for buyers to know that even if you do get a good appraisal and believe the value to be reasonable, lenders have the last word. As they review and underwrite your loan, they also review the appraisal. These days if there is even the slightest question as to value or future re-sale potential, many lenders will reject the appraised value and sometimes they reject the appraisal completely.

Although it’s not a frequent occurrence for an appraisal to be outright rejected by a lender, it does happen often enough for buyers to need to know it’s a possibility. It may not even be a question about the value of the property, the lender could reject an appraisal because it includes other information that makes them wary of underwriting the loan.

When an appraisal is rejected by a lender after a buyer has been approved for the loan, it is not a reflection of the buyer’s credit worthiness, it is merely a reflection of the lender’s discomfort with the property itself. Should you find yourself at the end of the loan process and discover that the lender has rejected the appraisal, your best bet is to shop for another property. With industry underwriting guidelines reflective of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s standards, the likelihood that you’re going to find another conventional lender to do the loan is slim.

If the lender rejects the value given by the appraisal, you can still move forward with your loan but it may mean that you, as the buyer, have to pay the difference between the lower value and the sales price out-of-pocket to the seller, if the seller is unwilling to reduce the price.

December 3, 2008

Mechanical Engineering Expert On Robots Part 1

In Moving On Their Own Ahmed K. Noor, mechanical engineering expert and Director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Environments, writes on mobile robots:

The word "robot" dates back to the early 1920s. It was introduced in a play called R.U.R. by a Czech writer, Karel Čapek. The idea of an automaton existed in antiquity, the subject of myths and fiction, but the first humanoid robot, Elektro, was exhibited by Westinghouse Electric Corp. at the 1939 World’s Fair. Ten years later came the first biologically inspired autonomous robots, Elmer and Elsie. They looked like turtles and were constructed at Bristol University in England in 1948 and 1949. Artificial intelligence entered a fully mobile robot when Shakey was demonstrated by the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in 1969.

Since then, robotic technologies have enabled computer-driven machines to interact intimately with the physical world, and there has been an expectation that robots would some day deliver humans from the drudgery of hard work... That has partly come to pass. Contemporary robots are used for jobs that are boring, dirty, or dangerous; or for tasks that require more speed, precision, or endurance than a human can provide. Robots today are part of our lives. They sweep the floor at home, and perform almost all welding, painting, and assembly tasks in the automotive industry. They have become a basic element of production in industries ranging from electronics to wood products.

For more, see MEmagazine.

December 3, 2008

Structural Engineering Experts On "Smart" Shock Absorbers Part 1

Structural engineering experts witnesses opine on the science and art of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, frameworks and other similar structures to safely resist the forces to which they may be subjected. Structural engineering researchers at Rice University are leading a new $1.6 million research program funded by the National Science Foundation to help design a new generation of "smart" shock absorbers for buildings and bridges in earthquake-prone areas.

"What we are trying to do is to come up with new and intelligent ways to develop smart buildings and bridges that sense what's happening when a quake hits and react in real-time," said principal investigator Satish Nagarajaiah, professor in civil and environmental engineering and professor in mechanical engineering and materials science...In the newly funded project, his lab is partnering with researchers at the University at Buffalo; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the University of California, Los Angeles; and California State University, Fresno.
For more, see 'Smart' shock absorbers for quake-prone structures.

December 3, 2008

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness On Soccer Injuries

In Soccer – Head Injuries and Protection, C.J. Abraham Ph.D., P.E., FRSC, DEE, JD, accident reconstruction expert witness and Technical Director – ForceField, LLC, writes on soccer injuries:

How many times has a parent or coach of a child playing a contact sport either seen the child/adult get "bonged" or "dinged"? How many times does that experience go unreported?

For decades we have all enjoyed watching athletic teams of all ages, face off and score those points. As participants, they have taken pride in stretching their athletic performances. Whether we block the offense, make a winning pass, or simply run up and down the field, sports will always be a source of pleasure, challenge and fitness.

Unfortunately, contact sports and some recreational sports carry risks for serious head injury. While many people may think that this is obvious, most are not aware that small repetitive brain injuries that can cause long-term damage. There is documentation that continuous sub-concussion level impacts can also result in long term neurological deficits that manifest themselves during the playing time or after the individual is retired from the sport. Soccer is now only second to football in the incidence of concussion in children playing sports. Medical data is mounting on the long term effects on the brain. Literature has indicated that there is a significant risk of permanent brain injury for serious soccer players. Further, there is a high incidence of concussions among youth soccer players.

The American Academy of Pediatrics classifies soccer as a "contact/collision sport". J. Scott Delaney, MD, et al. of McGill University in Canada has published, "Concussions Among University Football and Soccer Players: A Pilot Study (on the Internet) and Head Injuries Presenting to Emergency Departments in the United States From 1990 to 1999 for Ice Hockey, Soccer, and Football" (1). He concluded that the, "rates of head injuries for these (3) sports are comparable not only in elite athletes but also in the athletic community as a whole."

December 3, 2008

Forensic Engineering Expert Witness On Materials Failure Part 2

In Understanding How Materials Fail: Stress v. Fatigue, forensic engineering expert witness Clyde C. Richard, Ph.D., P.E., writes on material failure:

This overload of the material can contribute to an immediate accident or accelerate the breakdown of the materials. This is why most tow hitches are supplied with warnings, ratings and consumer education material. The second failure mechanism is fatigue. Fatigue is a phenomenon leading to fracture under repeated or fluctuating stresses having a maximum value less than the ultimate strength of the material. Fatigue fractures are progressive, beginning as minute cracks that grow with the application of cyclic stress.

During the visual inspection, the expert views the material under increasing magnifications to look for stress or fatigued related evidence such as plastic deformation, tearing, brittleness and necking. Necking is found in ductile metals or flexible metals where an extreme stress has been applied. Engineering experts can also perform a series of tests using an Emission Spectroscope, a Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectrometer and/or Tensile Testing Machines to determine a material’s composition and strength.

December 2, 2008

Hiring the Mechanical Engineering Expert Witness

When hiring the mechanical engineering expert witness, explain your client's goals in the case. The expert also needs to hear your approach to the case. It may be that the expert's opinion is against your own so it is advisable to find this out before the expert sees your case documents.

It is also a good idea to research any advertising the expert may have. Get copies of ads from the expert to determine how he or she may present themselves in front of a jury. They will not respond well to an expert who appears to be a "hired gun." An expert’s own web site should be carefully reviewed prior to retaining them. Is there anything embarrassing or contradictory on the site? Does the expert pronounce that he or she “is the leader in the industry” or put forth similar bravado that could affect how the jury perceives the expert? Imagine how the jury would react if the pages of the expert’s web site were displayed as exhibits at trial – because they very well could be.

December 1, 2008

Forensic Engineering Expert Witness On Materials Failure Part 1

In Understanding How Materials Fail: Stress v. Fatigue, forensic engineering expert witness Clyde C. Richard, Ph.D., P.E., writes on material failure:

Today, in most product liability cases in the court system or with insurance companies, the alleged cause of the accident is either misuse or material failure. Accidents including people falling off ladders, chairs or bicycles and the failure of machinery and motorized vehicles can be caused by or contributed by material failure. Materials such as metals, plastics, ceramics and glass can fail immediately or breakdown over time through two different mechanisms: stress and fatigue.

Stress, or what some experts call a fracture, is when someone or something applies a load that exceeds the ultimate strength of a material. An example would be a tow hitch on a car that is rated for 3,000 lbs. and the user pulls a load of 9,000 lbs.

December 1, 2008

Equipment Expert Witness On Treadmills

In Treadmill Accidents: Allegations for Product Defects, equipment and machinery expert witness Clyde C. Richard, Ph.D., P.E., writes that treadmills continue to be one of the major causes of liability claims in the health club industry today and that accidents involving treadmills in homes are causing an increasing number of injuries as well. His company was retained to investigate a treadmill accident where the homeowner purchased a commercial treadmill and two years later set it up in a small confined space.

The plaintiff was exercising when they fainted, fell off the treadmill, was pushed to the rear and pinned against the wall, sustaining major injures as a result. The allegation in the complaint was that the manufacturer designed a defective product because it should have included a safety device other than the string pull or dead man switch that would protect a person who fell while exercising...

The engineer...obtained the installation guide and owner’s manual and determined that both had specific instructions to allow five to ten feet behind the treadmill for clearance in the event of a fall. A site inspection showed that the treadmill was installed with only 19 inches of clearance. A history of fainting revealed during the plaintiff’s deposition only heightened the importance of the manufacturer’s warnings. The insight and research of the engineer allowed the treadmill manufacturer to be dismissed from the case. Treadmills, like any other moving piece of equipment can be dangerous if the warning and safety precautions are not followed.

December 1, 2008

Construction Safety Expert Witness On Construction Quality Part 2

In Managing Construction Quality, construction safety expert witness Pete Fowler provides:

Plans and Details: Graphic representation of construction.

Specifications: Specs are the written representation of construction, which usually includes a greater level of detail regarding construction performance, process, products, and quality.

Construction Contract: Agreement between two or more parties for the delivery of construction; plans and specifications are used as the definition of what is being bought and sold.

Standards: Documents, with graphic and written information, referenced by plans, specifications and construction contracts, which specify performance criteria and/or methods in greater detail than typical plans or specifications. Standards are created by standards setting bodies like ASTM, product manufactures, and industry trade groups.