December 16, 2014

School Security Expert Witness On School Shootings Part 1

In Ten Lessons Learned From the Sandy Hook School Shootings, school security expert witness Ken Trump, MPA, President of National School Safety and Security Services writes:

Our team’s analysis of the Sandy Hook Final Report released by the Connecticut State’s Attorney continues with 10 key lessons learned for school security and emergency preparedness. While additional details may be revealed in forthcoming documents from the Connecticut State Police, 10 important lessons from Sandy Hook have emerged based upon the final report, information shared with us by individuals involved with the incident, and other published reports:

1. Invest in the people side of school safety. The principal and school psychologist lost their lives moving toward the shooter. Teachers and teacher aides in two classrooms died with their children. The office staff minimized their visibility and as shots were being fired in the hall still managed to call 911. The school custodian ran through the building alerting teachers to lock down as he helped lock classrooms. People are the first line of defense for student safety. We need to invest more in training and preparing our students and staff for safety, security and preparedness versus skewing our focus on security equipment.

2. Lockdowns work and are still one of the most effective tools available to get students and staff out of harms way. While 26 students and staff sadly lost their lives at Sandy Hook, many lives were saved due to students and staff locking down. The final report indicates that classrooms on both sides of the rooms where the killings occurred locked down and remained quiet with no one harmed. The shooter bypassed the first classroom that was locked down and had a piece of paper covering the window that remained from a lockdown drill the week prior to the shootings.

The principal told everyone to stay put, not to run or attack the gunmen, and one shot staff member made it back into the conference room, locked down, called 911, and activated the PA. Office staff and the school nurse locked down. We have been told that a secretary and nurse locked down so successfully that they went undetected during multiple police sweeps of the building and were detected only after police set up a command center in the office nearby where they were locked down.

The final report indicates the two rooms where the children and educators were killed had unlocked doors, showed no signs of forced entry, and keys were found on the floor nearby one killed teacher. This suggests not that these rooms were locked down and breached, but that they may not have had time to lockdown.

3. Diversify drills and make them reasonable but progressively challenging. Conduct lockdown drills between class changes, during lunch periods, upon student arrival, at dismissal, during staff-only in-service days. Remove the building’s leadership team and office staff to see how drills unfold without them, as was the case at Sandy Hook once the principal and psychologist were killed and the office staff’s ability to act was marginalized by an immediate threat.

4. Engage support staff. While schools are much better at doing so today, many still do not fully engage support staff such as food services, custodial and maintenance, office support staff, bus drivers, and others in training sessions, drills and crisis teams. At Sandy Hook, the custodian heroically ran through the building alerting staff and helping them by locking doors. The office staff members were the first to see the shooter.

5. Train and empower all staff. Prior lockdown drills were reportedly held at Sandy Hook which surely helped many staff quickly do so during the shooting. Evacuation planning, parent-student reunification and other best practices for training and planning are critical to school preparedness. Reasonable student training is also important.



KENNETH S. TRUMP
, M.P.A., is President of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in K-12 school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments, school emergency planning consultations, school security officers and school police issues, and related school safety, violence, crime and crisis consulting services.

December 8, 2014

Emergency Preparedness Expert Witness On First Aid Teams Part 1

In First Aid Teams, emergency preparedness expert witness Michael J. Ryan, principal at First Aid Depot, asks the question, “Does your organization need a First Aid Team?”

When you look at the issue of a First Aid Team some thoughts come to mind. One thought is the first aid kit hanging on the wall somewhere, usually only opened for an occasional cold tablet, aspirin or band-aid or maybe you can recall a time when the local fire department or ambulance corps responded to your 911 call. Aren’t these things good enough for most work place emergencies?

Several issues should be considered when you establish a First Aid Team. Is the first aid kit properly stocked for your unique work place emergencies? What would happen if the responding 911 responders were delayed; is it appropriate to transport the patient by private vehicle, etc.? Even in ideal conditions the period of time in which you wait for police and/or an ambulance may be life threatening if the victim doesn’t receive oxygen or other life sustaining interventions such as CPR/AED. The issue of first aid training gained more exposure on December 6, 1991 when OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) mandated certain types of training to comply with Blood Bourne Pathogen issues in the work place. Additionally, OSHA requires that associates working in certain environments have the ability to be resuscitated in the event of life threatening work place emergencies.

To properly answer the question “does my organization need a first aid team” a review of your organization is necessary. First, assess the actual number of associates in the building and how many are on each shift. If your organization operates in multi-locations or multi-buildings that must also be considered; ideally, all facilities should be trained. Second, human resources should be consulted; they may be able to provide information on the potential sudden illnesses that may be encountered based either on past history or the associates’ medical history, assuming it was shared by the employee. Third, closely review the work place process. If your organization is a manufacturing facility, what types of injuries have occurred in the past and what may occur? Maybe your organization is a packager or distributor; are there dangerous moving equipment hazards? And lastly, most service industries are probably free of hazards, but not the potential for sudden illnesses.

If you determine that your organization can benefit by having several associates trained in emergency first aid procedures to provide prompt treatment the employer must decide what kind of training is necessary. You’ll want to ensure that there is at least one first aider to every 10 associates. This ratio allows for vacation schedules, sick time, etc. while still maintaining proper coverage. Usually, the first aid team is comprised of people interested in assisting in an emergency. These first aiders need to recognize that they will be expected to assist another associate in the event of a work place emergency and the consequences if they do not assist. Certain work place environments will dictate what type of training is necessary. For example, where there may be bleeding, fractures, or sudden illness a First Aid course is needed. If your environment includes the possibility for heart attacks, choking, or breathing problems a CPR/AED course is needed. Any full-service training agency should have a compliment of programs to fit most needs. Typically your organization will dictate the type of training required and the training agency will develop an appropriate training program to comply.

Mr. Ryan's areas of expertise include citizen responders who provide First Aid, CPR and Automated External Defribrillation (AED) treatment; employer responsibility in the work place as it relates to emergency care/preparedness and EMS issues with respect to pre-hospital emergency medicine.

November 25, 2014

Child Abuse Expert Witnesses & Midwife Neglect Case

Child abuse expert witnesses may advise regarding child abuse and neglect and the physical and emotional mistreatment of children. In the news, South Dakota midwife Judy K. Jones is charged with the death of a Nebraska infant she delivered. Court records state the baby developed medical problems and Jones allegedly failed to provide proper medical treatment. The baby was in grave condition when admitted to the hospital and died after being transported to a hospital in Omaha. Charges include manslaughter, practicing without a license, criminal impersonation, child abuse negligently resulting in death and child abuse intentionally resulting in death. Jones is living in South Dakota and awaiting a 2015 trial in Custer County District Court.

The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.” Most Federal and State child protection laws primarily refer to cases of harm to a child caused by parents or other caregivers..

BirthInjuryJustice.org defines midwife negligence:
… Negligent credentials: some midwives do not meet minimum state standards or licensing requirements.

Failure to assess the baby’s condition: midwives may ignore warning signs in an effort to provide a natural birth, at significant risk to the baby or delivering mother.

Failure to have in place and/or follow adequate policies and/or procedures regarding emergency delivery of babies.

November 17, 2014

Medical Malpractice Expert Witness On Legal Medical Causation Part 2

In CHIROPRACTIC / MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CAUSATION AND THE DEGENERATIVE SPINE, medical malpractice expert witness Richard K. Skala, DC, writes that the "chiropractic expert will be challenged by the opposing party during deposition and/or trial in terms of the foundation used to come to their conclusions within a reasonable medical probability." (See here for Part 1.)

EXPERTS WEIGH IN The defense chiropractic expert testified, on review of the medical record, noting the lack of full history disclosure on the part of the farmer in regards to prior medical treatment and imaging. Discussing also the DC examination findings and the absence of any red flags during the history and exam, the DC expert concluded that the standard of care had not been violated. The DC expert, relying on training in x-ray interpretation, testified that the initial MD was correct that the degenerative changes were age and occupation consistent. The DC expert also testified that the degeneration indicated a long standing and developing disc condition at L5/S1. Finally, the DC expert noted various treatment guidelines that indicate imaging is not mandatory in the absence of red flags.

The defense expert neurosurgeon testified that it was “unlikely” that the DC treatment significantly caused or worsened the farmer’s disc herniation. The neurosurgeon also testified that muscle weakness following Laminectomy, foraminotomy L5/S1 discectomy was not uncommon and cited multiple studies that listed leg muscle weakness as a risk of the surgery.
It was also revealed during trial by his own testimony that despite the work and activity modifications prescribed to the farmer by the DC that he had ignored these restrictions and continued to work and lift weights without limitations.

VERDICT
The jury unanimously found a verdict in favor of the DC, noting that he was not negligent in his care to the farmer.

COMMENT
The experts in this case for both plaintiff and defense could just as easily have been working on behalf of the opposite parties. Which party prevailed is not what is important. What is important is the variation in apparent understanding and application of simply relying on a conclusion of “reasonable medical probability” versus being able to support conclusions with a foundation, and thus convincing the jury.

SUGGESTIONS
This case demonstrates that proving chiropractic causation of injury is a multifaceted process. Experts on both sides made conclusions to reasonable medical certainty. The difference in who was able to better support the foundations in arriving at their conclusions was clear to the jury.
My observations have led me to suggest the following to counsel in chiropractic malpractice cases:
1. Have your expert review all of the medical records and give concise comments on findings, observations and questions.
2. Explore the foundations of all expert conclusions / opinions and look for each element of their foundations.
3. Come to a good understanding of the opposite side’s theories of causation on a medical, factual and, when possible, statistical basis.

A Doctor of Chiropractic since 1976, Dr. Skala provides consultation and expert witness services for attorneys regarding Personal Injury; Industrial Medical-Legal Cases; Standard of Care involving General Chiropractic, Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA), Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression, and Extracorporeal Shockwave (EWST); Chiropractic Licensure Compliance California, and Workers Compensation. Declared an expert witness by the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, he is a California Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME), a Certified Industrial Disability Evaluator, and a certified AMA Impairment rater.

November 15, 2014

Automotive Expert Witnesses & Hyundai, Kia Settlement

Automotive expert witnesses may opine on automotive design, automotive technology, fuel economy and related aspects of the automotive industry. In the news, automakers Hyundai and Kia have agreed to pay a $100 million civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations. An EPA investigation found that the companies touted lower gas mileage and greenhouse gas emissions on 1.2M vehicles than test results showed. In a large number of tests, both Hyundai and Kia chose favorable data rather than average results. In certain cases, Hyundai and Kia relied predominantly on data gathered when test vehicles were aided by a tailwind.

In a 11/03/2014 press release, the EPA states: United States Reaches Settlement with Hyundai and Kia in Historic Greenhouse Gas Enforcement Case

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced an historic settlement with the automakers Hyundai and Kia that will resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations based on their sale of close to 1.2 million vehicles that collectively will emit approximately 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) in excess of what the automakers certified to the EPA. The companies will forfeit GHG emission credits in order to put the companies in the place they would have been had they accurately reported the GHG emissions from these vehicles in the first place. The companies also will take measures to prevent future violations. On November 3, 2014, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this settlement, and lodged a consent decree embodying the settlement in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The California Air Resources Board joined the United States as a co-plaintiff in this settlement.

Additionally Hyundai and Kia gave consumers inaccurate information about the real-world fuel economy performance of many of these vehicles. Hyundai and Kia overstated the fuel economy by one to six miles per gallon, depending on the vehicle. Similarly, they understated the emissions of greenhouse gases by their fleets by approximately 4.75 million metric tons over the estimated lifetime of the vehicles.

The EPA subsequently investigated the coastdown test protocol Hyundai and Kia used to measure the road load force of their vehicles. That protocol appears to have included numerous elements that, once aggregated, generated inaccurately low road load forces. For example, Hyundai and Kia restricted their testing to a temperature range where its vehicles coasted farther and faster and prepared vehicle tires for optimized results. In processing test data, Hyundai and Kia chose favorable results rather than average results from a large number of tests. In certain cases, Hyundai and Kia relied predominantly on data gathered when test vehicles were aided by a tailwind.

November 5, 2014

Child Abuse Expert Witnesses

In What is Child Abuse? Childhelp.org states: “Child abuse consists of any act of commission or omission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development. Child abuse includes any damage done to a child which cannot be reasonably explained and which is often represented by an injury or series of injuries appearing to be non-accidental in nature.” Child abuse expert witnesses are effective advocates for children and may advise regarding child abuse and neglect, child maltreatment, and child sexual abuse. At Forensic Pediatrics Consultants.com, board certified doctors and experts in child abuse, pediatrics, and forensic interviews describe Forms of Child Abuse:

Physical abuse
Any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping, and paddling.

Sexual abuse
Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts.

Neglect
Failure to provide for a child’s physical needs. This includes lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food and water, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care and inadequate hygiene.

Emotional abuse
Any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This includes yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are “bad, no good, worthless” or “a mistake.” It also includes the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development of a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being. This includes ignoring, lack of appropriate physical affection (hugs), not saying “I love you,” withdrawal of attention, lack of praise and lack of positive reinforcement.

Expert witnesses at Forensic Pediatrics Consultants describe the content of a child sexual abuse forensic interview:

A forensic interview should not take the form of an interrogation. Note the child’s affect while discussing these topics and be tactful in helping the child manage anxiety. Young children may not be able to report all of the relevant information and disclosures commonly emerge over time. The examiner should explore the following:

whether the child was told to report or not report anything;
what relationship the child has to alleged perpetrator was;
what the alleged perpetrator did;
where it happened;
for multiple occurrences that are reported, when the abuse it started and when it ended;
number of times the abuse occurred;
if and how the child was initially engaged and how the abuse progressed over time;
if and how the alleged perpetrator induced the child to maintain secrecy;
whether the child is aware of specific injuries or physical symptoms associated with the abuse;
whether any photography or videotaping took place.

The Stepwise Interview Components and Protocol
Build Rapport
Ask the Child to Describe Two Specific Past Events
Establish the Need to Tell the Truth
Reach an agreement with the child that in this interview only the truth (not “pretend” or imagination) will be discussed.
Explain to the child that it is fine not to know the answer to a question. It is fine to correct the interviewer.
Start with general questions such as “Do you know why you are talking with me today?” Proceed, if necessary, to more specific questions such as “Has anything happened to you?” Drawings may help initiate disclosure.
Elicit a Free Narrative
Pose General Questions
Pose Specific Questions if Necessary
Conclude the Interview


Read more: Forensic Pediatric Consultants

November 2, 2014

School Safety Expert Witness On Playground Standards

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground related injuries (Tinsworth D, McDonald J., Special Study: Injuries and Deaths Associated with Children’s Playground Equipment. Washington, DC, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2001). Tinsworth also reported that approximately 45% of playground-related injuries are severe – fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations. In QUESTIONS, ANSWERS and FALLACIES ON PLAYGROUND SAFETY, school safety expert witness Scott A. Burton, Safety Play, Inc., writes on ASTM standards s for the American Society for Testing and Materials.

ASTM creates safety standards for many industries, including playgrounds for public use, home use, children under two, soft-contained playgrounds, playground fencing, playground & sports surfacing, trampolines, sports equipment and facilities, amusement rides, etc.
Some or all of the playground safety standards are law in some states, and for some entities who have adopted it into their bylaws.

The current version of the ASTM Public Use Playground Standard is #F1487-11, published in November 2011. The current version of the ASTM Public Use Playground Fencing Standard is #F2049-11.

Although ASTM is a voluntary, non-profit organization, the Standards themselves are considered by some to be "voluntary" yet by others to be the "standard of care" (and are adopted into law in some states!). ASTM is always looking for potential members from various sectors. Interested parties are always welcome to attend meetings. They can become a member and learn the extensive process that we go through to make a Standard. Member categories include Manufacturers ("Producers"), Owner/Operators ("Users"), Consultants and General Interest. It is a forum for all concerned parties to express their own interests and ideas so that we can all come to an agreement on each issue at hand. This is a time-consuming process where, like laws, changing them reduces injuries and saves lives.

CPSC stands for the (United States) Consumer Product Safety Commission.
CPSC created the U.S. - CPSC Safety Guidelines on Public & Home Playground Equipment. CPSC also issues a checklist on Soft Contained Play Equipment (SCPE), as well as recalls of specific products of all kinds.
The CPSC "Public Playground Safety Handbook" #325 ("Guidelines") are law in some states and for some entities who have adopted it into their bylaws.

The original version of the CPSC Guidelines #325 was first published in 1981. The next revision was published in September of 1991. The revision after that was published in September of 1994. The revision after that was published in September of 1997, but was re-released in November of 1997 with minor corrections. The next revision was released on April 21, 2008. The current revision was released in November, 2010.


Read more: Scott Burton.

October 30, 2014

Contract Manufacturing Expert Witness On Contract Planning Risks

In Frequent Contract Planning Risks, contract manufacturing expert witness Robert G. Freid writes on the importance of the contract prior to the start of work.

- Customers have their greatest negotiating leverage before start of work. Once work starts it is often difficult to reverse course because of time constraints and resources.
- About a third of my outsourcing consulting services involves work as a consultant in legal disputes between customers and suppliers, and millions of dollars in damage claims. In most cases, no contract existed between the parties – at best, only an MOU. I've recently been an expert witness in such a matter with 10,000 pages of depositions and 1,000 exhibits from both sides. Very expensive.
- Contracts can take only a short time to complete. Time is reduced if the customer has a draft contract proposal ready when the supplier is selected, and if the draft proposal T&C's are within the range of industry practices.

Do not underestimate the project requirements
- Attitudes such as "what we need is not rocket science" or "the service provider is the expert" too often results in weak contracts and eventual unsatisfactory performance.
- Even major corporations make this mistake. For example, Boeing Aircraft said in a news article in the Seattle Times a couple years ago that the 787 program delay was due largely to their over-estimating key off-shore supplier capabilities.
- Also, be sure that your project requirements of the supplier comprehend the sometimes extensive requirements of your key customers.

Avoid using the bidder / supplier's templates
- Best practice contracts for the customer will in many cases, be almost entirely different than the bidder "standard" contract template.
- Bidder templates are often highly favorable to the service provider. Terms important to the customer either weak or missing entirely - for example: influence in selecting supplier's project manager (often a key factor for project success), contract termination restrictions on the bidder, liability limitations for the customer, comprehensive and relevant performance measures.

Plan for RFP language to be incorporated into the contract
- Be sure to consider how supplier responses will be incorporated into the contract. For example format of costing detail, expected PO lead-times, warranty, prices for potential future services – important if a multi-year contract.


Read more: Robert G. Freid.

October 12, 2014

Medical Malpractice Expert Witness On Legal Medical Causation Part 1

In CHIROPRACTIC / MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CAUSATION AND THE DEGENERATIVE SPINE, medical malpractice expert witness Richard K. Skala, DC, writes:

Proving or disproving Legal Medical Causation is based on testimony by expert witnesses regarding the “proximate” cause of negligence to a standard of reasonable medical probability. The plaintiff bears the burden of its expert being able to conclude to this standard that indeed negligence occurred and thus damage ensued. The defense expert bears the opposite burden of concluding to the same standard that there was no cause of negligence and thus no damage.

Regardless of which side of the argument an expert speaks to, their conclusions must be persuasive in terms of causation. The standard of reasonable medical probability essentially means that “it is more probable than not” that a chiropractor did or did not do something negligent during the course of treating a patient that resulted or caused some degree of damage. Experts on both sides of the arguments must be able to demonstrate that the conclusions they pose as “within reasonable medical probability” have enough evidentiary weight to convince a reasonable person that their conclusions are in fact correct.

The chiropractic expert will be challenged by the opposing party during deposition and/or trial in terms of the foundation used to come to their conclusions within a reasonable medical probability.

THE FARMER AND HIS DEGENERATIVE LUMBAR SPINE
In a recent case involving a 50 year old male farmer with no prior history of back pain who injured his low back in a fall and had low back pain he initially treated with his family physician (MD) for one month. The MD took x-rays and noted age/occupation consistent signs of degeneration at L5/S1. The treatment plan of medications and exercise provided no relief. After 4 weeks of failed treatment the farmer presented to a chiropractor with his complaint of low back pain. The farmer did not inform the DC of his prior MD treatment. The DC exam revealed only loss of motion and some muscle guarding. There were no abnormal orthopedic or neurological findings. No x-rays were taken. A treatment plan of side posture manipulation of the lumbar spine was initiated with three visits per week for three weeks. The farmer was also told not to perform his usual weight lifting routine and not lift more than 10 pounds or perform any forward bending motions. During the course of this plan the farmer indicated improvement and after four weeks, the symptoms were rated as slight, there was restoration of lost ROM and the farmer was discharged from the DC’s care. Four weeks after discharge the farmer returned to his family physician and provided a history of ongoing low back pain that had become worse, indicating that the worsening was directly related to the DC’s treatment. The farmer’s condition worsened, involving leg pain with numbness and tingling, which led to a referral to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon had an MRI done with revealed L5/S1 disc herniation impinging the right S1 nerve root. Laminectomy, foraminotomy L5/S1 discectomy was performed. Post surgically the farmer suffered from permanent motor loss in the right leg. The farmer sued the DC for malpractice.

The plaintiff offered a chiropractic expert who testified that the DC had violated multiple standards of care. The basis of these conclusions was largely based on review of the medical records of prior MD treatment. The plaintiff also offered a neurosurgical expert, who testified that the DC treatment “significantly contributed to and likely caused the disc herniation,” basing these conclusions on professional experience and observations over the course of many years.


A Doctor of Chiropractic since 1976, Dr. Skala provides consultation and expert witness services for attorneys regarding Personal Injury; Industrial Medical-Legal Cases; Standard of Care involving General Chiropractic, Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA), Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression, and Extracorporeal Shockwave (EWST); Chiropractic Licensure Compliance California, and Workers Compensation. Declared an expert witness by the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, he is a California Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME), a Certified Industrial Disability Evaluator, and a certified AMA Impairment rater.

October 9, 2014

Economic Damages Expert Witness On Future Earnings Part 1

In Personal Injury Litigation - the Difference Between Future Earnings and Future Earning Capacity, economic damages expert witness Ronald T. Luke, JD, PhD and Mary L. Hoane, CPA/CFF, MBA write:

This paper discusses one of many issues that can arise in calculating economic damages in personal injury litigation. The issue is the important distinction between projecting a person’s future earnings and a person’s future earning capacity. Earnings are defined as remuneration of a worker for services performed during a specific period of time. When projecting future earnings the economist is projecting the amount the person would have earned but for an injury. When projecting future earning capacity the economist is projecting the amount the person could have earned if he had chosen to maximize his earnings.

In litigation where the injured party remains alive and able to receive a damages award, the correct measure of damages is loss of future earning capacity; the amount the injured party could have earned had the injury not occurred less the amount he could earn given the physical or mental limitations resulting from the injury. When the injured party is deceased, the measure of damages in a wrongful death case is the amount of support the survivors would have received from the injured party. The starting point in calculating the amount of support is the projected earnings of the deceased: the amount the deceased would have earned and from which support could have been paid to the survivors.

Whether the difference between projected earnings and projected earning capacity is large or small depends on the demographic characteristics of the individual (e.g., age, gender, education, race/ethnicity, aptitudes, interests, physical limitations) and their individual life choices (e.g., child care, retirement plans, choice of occupation). When the injury is to a young person who has not established a career and perhaps has not completed his formal education, the economist must rely more heavily on statistics for the average person with the demographic characteristics of the injured party. When the injury is to an older person who has a lengthy work history and who has expressed his retirement plans, the economist can base his projections more on the specific characteristics of the injured party and rely less on statistical averages.

Dr. Luke and his colleagues have been accepted as expert witnesses in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies in more than 25 states.

September 27, 2014

Business Valuation Expert Witness Answers FAQ For Attorneys

In Do I need a forensic accountant or valuations expert in my case? business & accounting expert witness Richard Teichner, CPA, CVA, CDFAJ answers frequently asked questions attorneys have regarding forensic accountants and about business valuations.

Certified public accountants who provide litigation support services are often referred to as “forensic accountants”. They normally are used as experts in accounting related matters that are necessary in support of business or family law litigation matters. What makes forensic accountants different is that they are experienced in using multiple methods of financial and economic analysis to provide appropriate and objective conclusions on complex financial issues, often when the facts or data are incomplete. If you are representing a client in a matter that requires financial evaluation, such as a determination of economic damages, tracing funds that have been diverted, personal injury and other matters involving financial issues, then a forensic accountant can be a valuable asset to your case. If a business valuation is needed as a means to measure damages or for other purposes in litigation, in divorce matters, or regarding the purchase or sale of a business (or business interest), then a business valuator can assist in the process.

Forensic accountants often have experience in serving as an expert witness. When explaining complex financial analyses to the trier of fact, it is imperative that your expert witness is skilled at clearly and accurately explaining the details in a manner that can be easily understood. Expert witnesses also must be objective and utilize generally acceptable practices in order for their testimony to be credible and admissible.

How can a forensic accountant help my case?
Forensic accountants can assist throughout the litigation process. During discovery and fact-finding, they can aid your investigation by advising you on what documentation you should obtain. They can also help you identify the accounting and valuation questions pertinent to your case, which includes their assistance with formulating requests for production, interrogatories, and questions to be asked of witnesses at deposition and trial. Thus, this process can help you streamline your trial strategies and the focus of your case. The earlier you hire your forensic accountant in the litigation process, the more assistance and support you will likely receive.
What qualities should I look for in selecting a forensic accountant?

There are a number of qualities you should look for when selecting a forensic accountant to work with on your case. The following summarizes some of the factors to consider in selecting a forensic accountant or valuation consultant on a legal matter:
• Experience: How many years of practical accounting experience and expert consulting experience do they have?
• Education: Are they licensed as a Certified Public Accountant? Do they have any professional designations? Do they stay current with continuing education courses, books and publications?
• Ability to communicate: Will they be able to clearly express complex accounting theories and explain financial issues in a manner a jury can understand? Have they given presentations to attorneys and other professionals?
• Impartiality: Will they be objective? Have they served as a consultant both to plaintiffs and the defense in litigation matters?
• Credibility: Do they appear to be honest and believable? How do you think they will be perceived by a judge or jury?
• Support: In the preparation of your case for trial, how much advice and support do you think they will offer? Do they appear to be committed to your case without being biased?
• Confidentiality: Do they understand the importance of the attorney-client relationship? Do they have experience with handling highly sensitive documents?


Read more:
Mr. Richard M. Teichner
Teichner Accounting Forensics & Valuations, PLLC

September 24, 2014

Neurosurgery Expert Witnesses

Neurosurgery expert witnesses may consult on trauma neurosurgery, neurosurgeons, spinal surgery, and related matters. In Rules for Neurosurgical Medical/Legal Expert Opinion Services The American Association of Neurological Surgeons writes that "the American legal system often calls for expert medical testimony."

Proper functioning of this system requires that when such testimony is needed, it be truly expert, impartial and available to all litigants. To that end, the following rules have been adopted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. These rules apply to all AANS members providing expert opinion services to attorneys, litigants, or the judiciary in the context of civil or criminal matters and include written expert opinions as well as sworn testimony.

A. Impartial Testimony
1. The neurosurgical expert witness shall be an impartial educator for attorneys, jurors and the court on the subject of neurosurgical practice.
2. The neurosurgical expert witness shall represent and testify as to the practice behavior of a prudent neurological surgeon giving different viewpoints if such there are.
3. The neurosurgical expert witness shall identify as such any personal opinions that vary significantly from generally accepted neurosurgical practice.
4. The neurosurgical expert witness shall recognize and correctly represent the full standard of neurosurgical care and shall with reasonable accuracy state whether a particular action was clearly within, clearly outside of, or close to the margins of the standard of neurosurgical care.
5. The neurosurgical expert witness shall not be evasive for the purpose of favoring one litigant over another. The neurosurgical expert shall answer all properly framed questions pertaining to his or her opinions on the subject matter thereof.

B. Subject Matter Knowledge
1. The neurosurgical expert witness shall have sufficient knowledge of and experience in the specific subject(s) of his or her written expert opinion or sworn oral testimony to warrant designation as an expert.
2. The neurosurgical expert witness shall review all pertinent available medical information about a particular patient prior to rendering an opinion about the appropriateness of medical or surgical management of that patient. Revised 03/22/06
3. The neurosurgical expert witness shall be very familiar with prior and current concepts of standard neurosurgical practices before giving testimony or providing written opinion about such practice standards.

C. Compensation
1. The neurosurgical expert witness shall not accept a contingency fee for providing expert medical opinion services.
2. Charges for medical expert opinion services shall be reasonable and commensurate with the time and effort given to preparing and providing those services.


More information: https://www.aans.org/

September 20, 2014

Automotive Expert Witnesses & Recalls

Automotive expert witnesses may consult on auto defects, auto engines, automotive components, and automotive recalls. In the news, General Motors Co. is recalling some 2011-2014 Chevrolet Express compressed natural gas vehicles. About 3,200 vans may leak natural gas from the CNG high pressure regulator and catch fire.

SUMMARY:
General Motors LLC (GM) is recalling certain model year 2011-2014 Chevrolet Express compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles manufactured September 10, 2010, to April 28, 2014, and GMC Savana CNG vehicles manufactured May 23, 2011, to April 21, 2014. The affected vehicles may leak natural gas from the CNG high pressure regulator.

CONSEQUENCE:
A natural gas leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire or explosion.

REMEDY:
GM will notify owners, and dealers will replace the high pressure regulator, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification date. Owners may contact Chevrolet customer service at 1-800-222-1020 or GMC customer service at 1-800-462-8782. GM's number for this recall is 14321.

The NHTSA also announced this week that Adrian Steel Company is recalling certain model year 2012 Ford E-150, E-250 and E-350 Commercial Cargo Vans modified by Adrian between September 21, 2012, to September 24, 2012. The affected vehicles are equipped with certain propane fuel system conversion kits with an aluminum fuel line fitting manufactured by Roush CleanTech. Due to a reaction between the different metals, the affected kits may develop a propane leak where the aluminum fuel line fitting contacts the brass supply valve housing.

CONSEQUENCE:
A propane leak in the presence of an ignition source increases the risk of a fire.

REMEDY:
Adrian will notify owners, and dealers will replace the aluminum fuel line fittings with stainless steel fittings, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in September 2014. Owners may contact Adrian customer service at 1-800-677-2726.

More information: Latest Recalls Announced by Manufacturers.

September 13, 2014

Pathology Expert Witness On Learning From Other Experts

In Expert Mistakes, pathology expert witness Dr. Judy Melinek discusses learning from other experts:

"An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field."
Niels Bohr

When I review others' reports and find mistakes I always try to learn from them because it is always easier to learn from others' mistakes than to make and learn from your own.

No one is immune to mistakes. It is what makes us human. The question is how do we, as scientists and experts, deal with our errors? Do we ignore them? Deny them? Or do we delve into the reasons why they occurred and make a change? And can we accept that by making a change in policy or procedure we will be opening ourselves up to future attacks by attorneys who will use the change as a basis to invalidate our previous opinions?

What are some of the worst mistakes? The worst I've seen are the result of arrogance. As an expert and legal consultant one needs to be confident and project that confidence when testifying. But knowing the facts of your case and showing proficiency in analyzing and conveying those facts is different from insulting or tearing down an opposing expert, criticizing the person instead of their opinion (ad-hominem attacks). I've been on the receiving end of those with opposing counsel making fun of me for having gone to Harvard or for my dress ("fancy"). Generally I know that if they are attacking me personally it is because they don't know how to attack me based on the facts of the case. I also know that the more obnoxious they get the more they will alienate the decision makers - the jury.

I have seen world-renowned experts, confronted with inconsistencies between their previous and current testimony, or between their testimony and a recently published article get defensive and even aggressive. They respond to legitimate questions with bluster and arrogance. Nothing turns off a jury more. The best way to deal with a direct attack is to address the specific issues at hand and simplify it for the jury. Explain to them why the case the attorney is asking about is different from the current case and how interpretations in science can vary based on these crucial differences. By the time the expert is done explaining, the jury will have either forgotten the attorney's challenge or gotten so wrapped up in the explanation of the facts of the current case that they will be right back along agreeing with the expert.

But how does an expert learn to keep her ego in check? The best way is to hang around people who know a lot more than you do. By teaching residents and medical students and working alongside staff in a university setting you are constantly barraged with questions that force you to challenge your assumptions and stay up on the scientific advances that drive the peer-reviewed medical literature. Take challenging consult cases: by sparring with attorneys on high-profile cases you are going to be confronted with sharp criticism and you'll find that you can't just rely on your experience and training - you need to stay current and sharp. And finally, go to professional meetings. Nothing humbles me more than attending an AAFS or NAME meeting, and sitting in lectures about the cutting-edge research others are conducting, or the challenging cases that others have successfully investigated. I can't sit for more than 10 minutes before having that "shoulda coulda woulda" feeling about some of my own cases. Yet at the same time, when I leave the conferences, I feel invigorated. Forensic science can be incredibly isolating, especially if you are the only doctor in a small rural Coroner's office. Lunching and dining with colleagues makes you realize that there is camaraderie and support; that we may not always agree on the best way to interpret an injury, or certify a death, but we can come together, break bread and do what scientists do best: collaborate.


Dr. Melinek is a American Board of Pathology board-certified forensic pathologist practicing forensic medicine in San Francisco, California as well as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pathology at the UCSF Medical Center.

September 11, 2014

Security Management Expert Witness On Hospital Security Programs

In Sustaining Hospital Security Programs in an Environment of Decreasing Reimbursables & Increasing Demand for Services, security management expert witness William H. Nesbitt, CPP, writes that “many hospitals are facing a decrease in reimbursables, and sometimes, in an environment of increasing demand. When budgets get tight, unfortunately, security budgets become a target for belt tightening, sometimes at the expense on increasing liability. There are practical solutions to these challenges, but these solutions must be situationally determined because security is a situational discipline.”

The most logical first step is an objective assessment of your security program. Every security program is unique and should be driven by need. Security is a situational discipline which means that no two security programs are alike, nor should they be. We frequently find relatively good security programs that are none-the less inefficient and lacking in cost-effectiveness. The goal should be to do more, with less. The security assessment becomes the foundational basis for all that follows.

We believe there are two primary opportunities for cost savings for most hospital security programs, along with secondary options to further reduce costs. First, the application of CPTED (Crime Prevention Thought Environmental Design) and the application of technology, such as smart video with outsource monitoring. Applying CPTED strategies helps to ensure that the security program is truly synergistic and supported by all employees. CPTED has been around for many years, but not taken advantage. However the attack of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995 and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center caused security professional to look a broader based security strategies. As a result, CPTED principals are more in play than ever before.

Additionally, networked based security systems, especially video have had a substantial favorable impact on security budgets. Second, is the application of emerging technology such as smart video. In recent years technology has gotten better, and at the same time, less costly.
Clearly the security needs of hospitals have evolved since 1755, and continue to evolve to this day. Several years ago we had the privilege of working with Pennsylvania Hospital, one of the most unique challenges and most gratifying experiences we have ever encountered.
In recent years the outsourcing of security management has become an emerging trend. However, hospitals have outsourced departmental management for years for departments such as dietary, housekeeping, pharmacy, and facilities, to name a few. We believe that when it comes to outsourcing security management, the providing contractor should not have any conflicts of interest such as being a contract guard service provider.

Bill Nesbitt, who is a Board Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and the President of Security Management Services International, Inc., has been providing Security Litigation Support Services as a Security Expert Witness to law firms across the United States for more than 35 years.

September 7, 2014

Forensic Pathology Expert Witness On Death Investigations

In Cutting Corners, forensic pathology expert witness Dr. Judy Melinek answers the question "Is it common for coroners or forensic pathologists to cut corners in a death investigation if a case does not look like foul play was involved?"

Several visitors to this blog have asked me this question recently, as part of their research into forensic science. Usually those inquiring have had direct contact with a Medical Examiner's or Coroner's Office - and did not find that institution particularly forthcoming. Office policies require death investigators to be careful about divulging information on open cases, and sometimes cases can be "pending" for several months while the pathologist awaits toxicology reports, microscopic slides, scene investigation or incident reports. This can be frustrating and even infuriating to the deceased's family members. They are the ones who have to plan the funeral, and answer inquires while dealing with their own feelings of grief and even guilt about the death while the case is still "pending additional examination." The law allows you to bury a body with a death certificate that says "pending" under "cause of death," but that is cold comfort to the family which has to tackle the inevitable question - "What happened?" - over and over again. A death certificate that says "Hanging" and "Suicide" may not be welcome, but it is an answer.

Coroners and forensic pathologists are two different groups of people. Coroner's deputies are death investigators (often part of a law enforcement agency, like a sheriff's office) while forensic pathologists are the doctors who do the autopsies. Both can "cut corners," yes - but in different ways. A Coroner's deputy might cut corners by not visiting the scene; by not examining the scene thoroughly, either in order to save time or because they are tired (many death investigations are at ungodly hours); by trusting the reports of the people at the scene about what happened without confirming whether those reports are accurate. The death investigation doesn't end when the deputy returns to the office and writes up the case. Frequently they have to complete their investigation, or ask others to, by getting medical records, police reports or questioning other witnesses who were not at the scene when they picked up the body.

A forensic pathologist might "cut corners" by doing an incomplete or partial autopsy; or by rushing through the case and by not following up with police or Coroner's investigators when the story being given does not match up with the injury on the body or the presumed cause of death. This takes time. Coroner's deputies get paid per shift and FP's in a coroner system get paid per case. There is no financial incentive for the doctor or the deputy to invest extra time in investigating a case. Many offices are understaffed due to budget shortfalls, so there is always plenty of work and not enough people to do it. A deputy has to be efficient with his/her time; so if a case looks like something routine, such as an overdose or a suicide, you might see them cut corners in the interest of working speed.

Yet speculation frequently follows an overdose. Generally, people who use drugs and alcohol are on the margins of society, hang out with unsavory or unreliable "friends," some of whom may have criminal pasts. This fuels funeral-parlor rumors that foul play was involved when the person dies of an overdose. Generally, the only way the police or coroner can confirm that foul play was not involved is with a thorough death investigation. But the investigative and autopsy findings also have to be articulated to the family. Coroner's staff are not necessarily medically trained and may not be effective communicators, so families might seek out other sources for answers. That other source is sometimes me - and I am always glad to serve as a consultant, but only after asking the person calling whether they aired their concerns with the Coroner's office or with the police. I also ask whether the family member had spoken to the original pathologist who did the autopsy. Frequently they have not. Sometimes if they go back and speak to those people who were directly involved with the death investigation, they will find out that the investigation was actually more thorough than they initially thought, or was not completely documented in the limited materials that were initially released to them.

Frequently I hear about families finding out about other peoples' suspicions at the time of the funeral. Unless the people fueling the speculation have direct knowledge of what happened, I would be cautious about putting too much faith in rumors. Family and friends often invent or exaggerate the importance of certain events in order to make themselves or others feel better about a death. I have investigated cases that were clear-cut suicides, where the deceased even left a suicide note, the family was understanding and seemed at peace, but then speculation at the funeral made them doubt the coroner's findings and suspect murder by an estranged lover or the roommate who found the body. Denial in the face of a death is a powerful (and expected) reaction - but entrenching that denial by piling doubt upon doubt is harmful to the grieving and healing process. I spend many hours counseling these families and I am grateful for my role in helping them find closure, and while I understand why well-meaning people can sometimes unintentionally cause more grief, it still pains me to watch.

What can be done about this? Well, if you are attending a funeral and have no idea why the person died, don't ask the family "what happened?" You'll find out soon enough. I love the Jewish tradition at a shiva (the equivalent of a wake) to bring food and not speak unless you are spoken to. When my father died the sustenance was appreciated and I was glad not to have to talk to anyone. If you feel really sad and want to share that with the bereaved you can always go with "I'm sorry for your loss," though I personally prefer sharing a happy story about something the deceased did that meant a lot to you or made you smile. That will have resonance and truly give comfort. If you are a family member and have been told things that disturb you about the circumstances surrounding the death of a loved one and are starting to have concerns, start by calling the officer who gave you their card at the death scene or informed you of the death. Tell them what others are saying, and ask them to help you have some closure. They may refer you to the forensic pathologist who did the autopsy, or maybe they will just reassure you that a thorough investigation was already done. If you don't get the answers you need, you can always ask to speak to their supervisor or to the pathologist yourself. In most cases, you will eventually be able to find someone to answer your questions, but please understand that death investigations take time. Just because you haven't heard back from the Coroner's office doesn't mean they have forgotten about you or about the case. The doctor may be waiting for the lab results before proceeding further. The Deputy Coroner may have received no replies when calling people to follow up on your concerns. Find out who the lead investigator is on the case, and what their hours are. If you call the office once every two to three weeks during their shift and always ask to speak to the same person, you will be able to get a progress report on what is going on with the case. I hope this helps you find closure.

Dr. Melinek is a American Board of Pathology board-certified forensic pathologist practicing forensic medicine in San Francisco, California as well as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pathology at the UCSF Medical Center.

September 2, 2014

Chiropractic Expert Witness On Standard Of Care Part 2

In Defining the Chiropractic Standard Of Care, chiropractic expert witness Richard K. Skala, D.C., writes:

IS THERE A LEGAL DEFINITION OF THE CHIROPRACTIC STANDARD OF CARE?

Based on the definitions above, as well as my medical legal experience, the chiropractic standard of care can be summed up as follows:

"What a prudent, competent state licensed chiropractic physician in the same general region (state) would do under the same or reasonably similar situations or circumstances."

HOW IS THE CHIROPRACTIC STANDARD OF CARE DETERMINED?

Like all health care professions, chiropractic physicians are trained in schools/colleges of chiropractic (43 worldwide)*. In the USA, each of the 17 chiropractic colleges are accredited based on a number of criteria, not the least of which is their respective basic science, and clinical science curriculum. Within these curriculum is contained the foundation for the Chiropractic Standard of Care. In addition to college curricula, the chiropractic profession is supported by established scientific, empirical, and clinical evidence. Over the course of time, a consensus of opinions and conclusions regarding things such as the scope of use of various forms of chiropractic treatment, where these methods are taught, and the clinical utility and proper application for any specific condition(s) for which the treatment is applied are all factors of consideration. In certain cases or jurisdictions Case Law may prove relevant in defining specific aspects of the standard of care on a legal basis.

REAL WORLD OCCURENCES

So what are the more common lapses in standard of care that end up in a law suit or board compliance action? (This list is by no means complete.)

1. Lack of informed consent given to the patient signed by the patient
2. Adverse consequence resulting from treatment
3. Negative side effects of the treatment employed
4. Misdiagnosis
5. Failure to diagnose
6. Failure to reexamine
7. Failure to refer
8. Failure to keep adequate records
9. Altering patient records

SO WAS JUSTICE POTTER CORRECT?

In any case involving breach of “Standard of Care” there are going to be advocates on either side of the question diligently working to advocate their side of the argument. Each case will largely depend on the condition of the chiropractic records, and the impressions, opinions and conclusions of the experts who review those records and eventually give testimony. This article is by no means a treatise on the subject of the “Chiropractic Standard of Care.” It does set forth my experience and the general concepts relating to questions that arise over the “Chiropractic Standard of Care.” Each and every case is unique with its own set of facts. At the end of the day, even with the availability of the outline above, and others like it, the best I can say is not too far afield from Justice Potter (and I in no way compare my intelligence to his intelligence and wisdom when I say this): “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within the medical records reviewed and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know what breach of the Chiropractic Standard of Care looks like when I see it.”

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chiropractic_schools

A Doctor of Chiropractic since 1976, Dr. Skala provides consultation and expert witness services for attorneys regarding Personal Injury; Industrial Medical-Legal Cases; Standard of Care involving General Chiropractic, Manipulation Under Anesthesia (MUA), Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression, and Extracorporeal Shockwave (EWST); Chiropractic Licensure Compliance California, and Workers Compensation. Declared an expert witness by the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, he is a California Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME), a Certified Industrial Disability Evaluator, and a certified AMA Impairment rater. www.drskalachiroexpert.com.


August 27, 2014

Arbitration & Mediation Expert Witnesses

Arbitration and mediation expert witnesses may consult on American Arbitration Association rules, binding arbitration, nonbinding arbitration, and alternative dispute resolution. On June 16, 2014, the American Arbitration Association released new rules on construction disputes.

NEW AMERICAN ARBITRATION ASSOCIATION SUPPLEMENTARY RULES ENABLE PREDICTABLE TIME-AND-COST CONSTRUCTION ARBITRATION June 16, 2014 Parties involved in construction disputes now have the option of selecting supplementary rules that will limit the cost and duration of their arbitration proceedings. The new supplementary rules developed by the American Arbitration Association (AAA®) took effect on June 15, 2014. Working with its National Construction Dispute Resolution Committee (NCDRC), the AAA created new Supplementary Rules for Fixed Time and Cost Construction Arbitration that will allow parties to calculate the maximum time to complete the arbitration, the number of hearing days, and the arbitrator costs. For example, for cases in the $250,000 to $500,000 range, the rules prescribe a maximum of 180 days from filing to award, with no more than three hearing days. Arbitrator compensation for hearing days and study time (limited to 12 hours) is capped at $275 an hour. Administrative fees to the AAA are fixed at $5,000.

“Parties involved in certain construction dispute cases now can be more certain about the time and cost associated with their arbitration,” says Rodney Toben, AAA Vice President, Construction Division. “We believe this solution responds to many concerns that arbitration costs in terms of dollars and time may have grown unpredictable. We see the new supplementary rules as innovative, reasonable, and clearly defined so that all parties benefit,” Mr. Toben said.

The supplementary rules also encourage client participation by requiring that each party representative provide contact information for a “designated employee,” such as in-house counsel or senior level executive, and require that the AAA and/or arbitrator include such designated employees on all communications related to the arbitration.
“We’ve put significant thought into these rules with input from some of the best construction dispute resolution experts from around the country and expect that they will be an attractive option to parties in many cases,” Mr. Toben concluded.

August 25, 2014

Forensic Accounting Expert Witness On Asset Misappropriation

In Preventing Damaging Effects of Asset Misappropriationforensic accounting expert witness Alan D. Lasko and accountant Bradley Kaye write:

Honest mistakes can occur that resemble fraud. One company may lose the receipt of the transaction, but the other company involved can provide the necessary information to prove that the expense was legitimate. This mistake would be uncovered by an external audit performed under Statements of Auditing Standards No. 99, Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit; however, in instances of actual fraud, standard financial audit procedures may not prove any wrongdoing without a confession or a report from another employee. Instances such as this may have a company utilizing the use of a forensic accountant, since a small company will not have an internal audit staff.

A forensic accountant may also be able to infer that fraud has occurred based on his experience with repeated transactions of this type. These types of suspicious transactions should be checked with scrutiny to ensure legitimacy. A forensic accountant can for example, analyze the cash flows and compare different sets of statistics to determine whether fraud may have been committed.

If the forensic accountant's investigation determines that there is significant asset misappropriation, legal action could be taken to return the losses. As the accusation of fraud could have significant conse-quences for both the individual and the company, it is imperative that the forensic accountant be able to provide expert witness testimony for the pending deposition and/or trial. Though asset misappropriation cannot be completely eliminated, there are certain steps which any company can take to mitigate the damaging effects that it could create. Some of these steps include:

• Strong internal controls
• A competent, relatively independent external or internal audit function
• An active and responsible audit committee
• A history of conservative accounting practices
• Stable management
• An overall corporate emphasis on ethical behavior
• Absence of new external pressures on management
• Notify all employees about the con-sequences of asset misappropriation
• Make available employee guidelines about fraud, including reporting any suspected fraud and the necessity to keep records of all transactions
• Encourage honest and high ethical standards throughout the company
• Have random investigations performed by a forensic accountant to ensure all levels of management are being honest

Asset misappropriation is a problem that will not go away on its own. Constant evaluations need to be performed from both internal and external perspectives through-out all levels of a company. This will help ensure that the effects caused by asset misappropriation do not become too damaging to a company and its investors. It will also send a message to the employees that management's philosophy is that this type of activity is not acceptable.

Alan D. Lasko & Associates, P.C.

August 23, 2014

Documents & Handwriting Expert Witness On Handwriting Analysis

In Forensic Handwriting Analysis – Expert Introduction to Handwriting Analysis, documents and handwriting expert witness Mark Songer writes that “the science of handwriting analysis is based on the premise that no two individuals can produce exactly the same writing and that an individual cannot exactly reproduce his own handwriting, otherwise known as variation. Variations are natural deviations that occur in a person’s handwriting.”

The first step is to analyze the known writing sample and the unknown writing sample for distinctive characteristics. The examiner looks for unique qualities such as letters and word spacing, letter and word slant, size and proportional-ity of letters, unusual formations of letters, flourishes, and other individual attributes.

2) Comparison
The next step is to differentiate elements from the known sample to those of the unknown sample. The examiner considers spelling, grammar, punctuation, and phraseology as well.

3) Evaluation
The final step is to evaluate the similarities in the known and unknown samples. While differences are a good indication of a non-match, no single similar characteristic, no matter how unique, can determine a match. Therefore, all likenesses must be considered. The examiner must make a judgment in each case by evaluating the totality of the documents.

Mark Songer is a Forensic Criminologist and Handwriting Expert. He provides investigations, reports, and testimony towards the resolution of matters involving disputed documents or signatures, including: wills, checks, contracts, deeds, account ledgers, medical records, and autograph authentication.