March 23, 2015

Undue Influence Expert Witness On Making Bequests Part 1

In Undue Influence in Making Bequests: A Forensic Psychiatrist Examines the Evidence, undue influence expert witness Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., writes:

Undue influence when creating a will, codicil to amend a will, trust or other legal instrument, occurs when the conduct of another prevents a testator (or anyone for that matter) from exercising his or her free will. The occurrence of undue influence is established by demonstrating that the testator’s testamentary disposition was caused by undue pressure, argument, or other coercive acts which destroyed the testator’s freedom of choice in the disposition of the assets of his or her estate, and is replaced by the substituted judgment/wishes of another. Litigants may characterize the circumstances as perceived or misperceived exploitation of a vulnerable individual, especially as we see a generation of baby boomers reach ages at risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s, both medical conditions best assessed by a medical doctor. Undue influence may be proven with circumstantial evidence, i.e., without direct evidence. It is necessary to demonstrate by fact that undue influence has occurred. Often the term “undue influence” in a testamentary setting is lumped with the phrases “testamentary capacity” and “competency” to make a Will or Trust. A dispute about testamentary capacity may arise in the same case as undue influence, but from the forensic psychiatrist’s point of view, the issues are different. The making of Wills vs. Trusts have different thresholds of competency and the distinction is important to understand when evaluating if susceptibility to undue influence is considered.

There are various indicia of undue influence. Those indicia include, but are not limited to, the following:

• An unnatural cutting off of any substantial bequest from the natural objects of an individual’s bounty, such as children, e.g., if one child is left the entire body of an estate and another child is provided nothing.

• Disposition of an estate which is at variance with the decedent’s intentions as expressed before and after the execution of the document in question. In other words, the testator expresses that the will (or trust) provides for “X” before the will is signed and again at some later date. However, the bequest proves to contain a different provision entirely. This situation may indicate the testator suffers from dementia and is not the victim of undue influence. A forensic psychiatrist must take into account a wide variety of evidence to form an opinion.

Note: When a testator excludes a natural heir due to a delusion about the heir, the testator is deemed incompetent to execute a will or trust.

• Relations existing between the chief beneficiaries and the decedent were such that one of the beneficiaries was provided an opportunity to control the testamentary act. This commonly occurs when one child manages all of the assets of the testator and otherwise controls the wealth and care of the testator to the exclusion of other children (child).

• The testator was vulnerable to undue influence because he/she suffered from a mental or physical condition which permitted a subversion of his or her free will. This may include a chronic physical condition or mental decline, as mentioned above and below.

I have evaluated cases in which the considerations included the side effects of medication, mentally disabling brain conditions (e.g. a brain tumor), or dementia brought on by the toxic side effects of kidney or liver damage, to name only a few. Conversely, regardless of evidence of physical causes of mental decline, the primary impetus for the testator’s behavior may prove to be caused by the behavior of another person manipulating or exploiting the testator. When assessing undue influence on a deceased testator, the medical training of a forensic psychiatrist, who is a licensed medical doctor, becomes especially relevant as medical records are often the primary evidence available.

• When the chief beneficiary of the testator also is active in procuring the execution of the instrument which provides the bounty, the question must arise whether or not undue influence was exercised.

• If undue influence is alleged against a fiduciary of the testator, the burden of proof shifts to the fiduciary to establish no undue influence occurred.

It is not necessary to demonstrate the existence of mental dysfunction in order to prove undue influence. There may be mental “weakness” (see Estate of Yale), which is probative of undue influence. This “weakness” from whatever cause is nevertheless less debilitating than the mental defect required to establish a lack of testamentary capacity. In Estate of Yale, the court held that a persuasive indicia of undue influence is a physical and mental condition of the testator “such as to permit a subversion of his freewill.” Susceptibility to undue influence may include advanced age, medical deterioration due to a progressive medical mental deterioration, and/or reliance on the beneficiary as a caregiver.

Usually, undue influence is established by circumstantial evidence and, by necessity, inferences. Generally, the existence of undue influence is not investigated until the death of the testator, at which time, of course, the testator no longer is available to testify about acts that influenced him. Rarely is direct testimony available. In the case of David v. Hermann, for example, the court inferred the settlor’s sudden negative shift in attitude toward the older daughter to be caused by the younger daughter falsely “poisoning the settlor’s mind because it [the court] could find no other rational explanation.”

It is generally held that the evidence of cumulative events are taken together in order to support a finding of undue influence; a single event is rarely sufficient as proof. Many types of circumstantial evidence may be produced which when taken cumulatively become more than the sum of their parts.

Not all influence is “undue.” Another close individual such as a spouse may influence the testator to make certain decisions in order to best provide for heirs. The influence becomes “undue” for the reasons given above....

Further comments on this issue are addressed in my discussion of testamentary capacity (which may or may not be linked to undue influence).

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D., Board Certified Forensic Psychiatrist focusing on emotional distress, PTSD, chronic pain, undue influence, testamentary capacity and employment litigation (among others), with over 40 years' experience offering expert opinion in over 5000 cases, 700+ depositions, and testifying in 150+ trials in Federal, State, Administrative and Military jurisdictions

March 12, 2015

Emergency Medicine Expert Witness On Choosing an Orthopedic Surgery Expert

In Choosing an Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness, Burton Bentley II, M.D FAAEM, writes:

Orthopedic surgery (commonly spelled “Orthopaedic” in academia) is a field of surgery dealing with the surgical treatment of disease and injury of the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons are licensed physicians who complete a five year residency program in orthopedic surgery often followed by subspecialization in a specific branch of orthopedic surgery. Common subspecialty areas include Hand Surgery, Total Joint Reconstruction (i.e. arthroplasty), Pediatric Orthopedics, Foot and Ankle Surgery, Spine Surgery, Sports Medicine, and Trauma. Board certification in Orthopedic Surgery is conferred by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, a section of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Physicians who enter the field of orthopedics via an osteopathic pathway (D.O. rather than M.D.) are eligible for Board Certification under the American Osteopathic Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

Orthopedic surgeons diagnose, image, medically treat, and surgically correct a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions. Common procedures in orthopedic surgery include arthroscopic surgery upon the knee and shoulder, joint replacement surgery (predominantly upon the hip and knee), spine surgery, and carpal tunnel release. The foundation of orthopedics, however, is the stabilization and treatment of various fractures. Fractures may be treated non-operatively (closed reduction) or operatively (open reduction). Some fractures may require internal hardware (internal fixation) while others require external hardware (external fixation) or no hardware at all. The most common fracture sites include the hip (e.g. femoral neck), ankle, tibia, wrist (radius and/or ulna), humerus, and clavicle. Other acute conditions in orthopedic surgery include compartment syndrome and the management of complex bone and joint infections. Depending on the complexity of the procedure, orthopedic interventions may be performed in the office, in an outpatient surgical facility (ambulatory surgery center), or in a hospital-based operating room.

Orthopedic surgery expert witnesses are critical in several important aspects of orthopedic litigation including standard of care, causation, and harm. Orthopedic surgery expert witnesses may also determine the etiology, extent, and prognosis of various musculoskeletal conditions, including complications caused by trauma or alleged medical negligence. For example, an orthopedic surgery expert witness may look at the circumstances surrounding a work-related injury in order to determine whether, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, a person’s injury was acute rather than related to a preexisting condition. The same expert might also determine the prognosis of the person’s condition, such as the disability rating or need for future medical care. Orthopedic surgery experts are also commonly called upon to perform Independent Medical Examinations (IME). An IME is an indispensable tool for objectively assessing a person’s physical condition. A thorough and impartial IME allows one to make critical determinations regarding the existence, origin, extent, and prognosis of a specific orthopedic condition.

Litigation against orthopedic surgeons typically stems from poor surgical outcomes resulting in pain or functional loss. This may occur as a result of surgical technique, infection, or other complicating factors. Delayed treatment of “compartment syndrome” (a limb-threatening elevation in extremity pressure) is another area of risk for practicing orthopedists. Since orthopedic surgeons employ a range of highly specialized surgical devices, orthopedic expert witnesses are often called to testify for both plaintiff and defense in product liability cases. Such litigation is increasingly common with many cases gaining national notoriety as class action lawsuits.

Given the complexity and expense of orthopedic surgery litigation, it is imperative to carefully choose an orthopedic surgery expert witness. A top-tier orthopedic surgery expert witness will have Board Certification, full-time clinical practice, and a professorial appointment at a major university medical center. Beyond those requisite steps, be sure to interview your expert witness candidate to assure impartiality, freedom from conflict, and communication skills. The expert should also agree to remain involved with the case throughout all phases of litigation. When all criteria are met, you will have minimized your risk and set the best course for investigating your orthopedic surgery case.

Dr. Bentley is the President and CEO of ELITE MEDICAL EXPERTS. In his full-time clinical practice he is an attending Emergency Physician at Northwest Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. With over twenty years of clinical experience, he has provided emergency care to over 60,000 patients. He is also the principal physician of Emergency Medicine Litigation Analysts, Inc., where Dr. Bentley has consulted upon countless claims of potential medical negligence for both plaintiff and defense.

March 5, 2015

Explosions Expert Witnesses

Explosions expert witnesses may consult on flammable materials, fire & explosion analysis, and natural gas explosions, as well as related matters. Investigators have reported that the cause of an explosion last week in Stafford Township, NJ, was a crack in a gas line. Firefighters, paramedics, and New Jersey Gas employees were injured. The shock wave from the explosion flattened one home and damaged a score more.

Commonly used for heating, natural gas, methane, propane and butane make up the majority of residential gas explosions. After a 127 year old gas main exploded in East Harlem, NY, in 2014, Natural Gas Watch.org wrote that natural gas explosions seem to be occurring with disturbing regularity in the US.

There are more than 5,000 miles of natural gas pipeline beneath the streets, homes and buildings of New York City and according to public records, a significant portion of that underground pipeline is made of aging cast iron that’s prone to leak. Indeed, hundreds of miles of this pipeline are at least 100 years old and some of it even dates back to 1889.

Natural Gas Watch.org reported in 2014:

Legislation cleared the House Wednesday that outlines a process under which utilities would be held accountable for repairing thousands of underground natural gas leaks, with supporters saying the bill could save lives by preventing explosions. Proponents of the bill, long pushed by Marblehead Rep. Lori Ehrlich, said $40 million is wasted each year due to natural gas leaks. Prior to the bill’s passage, Ehrlich ticked of a series of home explosions caused by natural gas leaks, citing growing risks. “These leaks can only get worse,” she said.

March 4, 2015

Business Valuation Experts & BMC Software Ruling

In A Review of BMC Software, Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue: Should Intercompany Accounts Receivable Be Considered “Debt”? Samuel S. Nicholls of Willamette Management Associates writes:

In the matter of BMC Software, Inc. (“BMC”) v. Commissioner, the U.S. Tax Court (the “Tax Court”) ruled on the definition of “debt” as it relates to intercompany indebtedness between a U.S. tax¬payer and its foreign subsidiary.

At issue in this decision was the BMC accounts receivable owed from its foreign subsidiary, BMC Software European Holding (BSEH). This accounts receivable was created as a result of a transfer pricing settlement between BMC and the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) in 2007.

The specific question in the BMC decision was whether or not this accounts receivable increased the company’s related-party indebtedness between October 3, 2004, and March 31, 2006 (the testing period). If it did, then the amount of money that BMC repatriated under the Internal Revenue Code Section 965 tax holiday would be reduced, and BMC would owe additional tax.

That is, if the intercompany accounts receivable were deemed to be debt, then BMC would have over-stated its dividends received deduction (“special dividend”) and it would have to retroactively pay the regular tax on the amount of the overstatement.

Related-party indebtedness was relevant in this decision, because Section 965 does not permit any increase in related-party indebtedness to be included in the amount of funds eligible for the special dividend.

The testing period is relevant because Congress provided that the amount of the Section 965 special dividend deduction would be reduced by any increase in related-party indebtedness during the “testing period.”

The Service took the position that (1) the establishment of the account receivable, resulting from a transfer pricing adjustment in 2007, constituted increased related-party indebtedness, (2) the related-party debt should be applied retroactively to the testing period, and (3) this amount should not be included in the special dividend. BMC disagreed and petitioned the Tax Court for relief.

The Tax Court filed its opinion on September 18, 2013, ruling in favor of the Service. In its opinion, the Tax Court concluded that some of the funds repatriated by BMC under Section 965 wereineligible for the special dividend. This is because those funds included an intercompany accounts receivable that the Tax Court considered to be a form of intercompany debt.

BMC subsequently filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”), and the case is currently pending review. The Fifth Circuit’s decision could have broad implications for intercompany transfer pricing issues.

Mr. Nichols is a senior associate with Willamette Management Associates and has performed the following types of valuation and economic analyses: merger and acquisition valuations, business and stock valuations, and fairness opinions.

Mr. Curtis R. Kimball of Willamette Management Associates is an expert witness in business valuation and intellectual property.

Read the entire article here.

March 1, 2015

Pediatric Emergency Medicine Expert Witness

In Myocaritis in Children: A Diagnosis to Consider in the Pediatric Emergency Department, a board certified pediatric emergency medicine expert witness explains that myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, may result in significant heart malfunction or death. This is a condition that may result in misdiagnosis and is important for the pediatric emergency medicine physician to be familiar with and consider.

In children, the most common reason is due to a viral infection. Other causes include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, toxic shock syndrome, fungus infections and or parasites.

Since myocarditis in children may mimic other conditions, the diagnosis of myocarditis is challenging. It is a rare condition, with common symptoms that the pediatric emergency medicine provider may encounter with other common conditions.

Consider myocarditis on the differential when a child presents with trouble feeding or tachypnea (breathing fast). Young babies may be difficult to calm and described as fussy. On exam, infants and children may have hypo-perfusion presenting with cool and pale extremities.

Although some children may have more overt signs such as swelling in the face, feet or the legs, general flu-like symptoms may be the only sign of myocarditis.

Myocarditis is a clinical diagnosis and requires a careful history and thorough physical examination. The pediatric emergency medicine doctor may order a chest x-ray that reveals an enlarged heart size or fluid in the lungs. Similarly, an electrocardiogram may reveal abnormal heart electrical activity. Finally, an echocardiogram may reveal increased heart size.

Given that other organs may be affected by myocarditis, it is important to assess kidney and liver function. Also, given the infectious causes, a blood count and tests for infections may also be done.

Myocarditis in babies and children requires admission to an intensive care unit management.

Read more: Pediatric Emergency Medicine Consultants

February 17, 2015

Business Expert Witness On World Economies Part 1

In Are We Nearing a Global Turning Point?, business expert witness Douglas E. Johnston writes:

Several important economic factors appear to be moving unfavorably for the US at the moment, both domestically and abroad, and there are increasing indications that America
may not be able to orchestrate a hoped-for global resurgence on its own. Despite
encouraging signs of domestic recovery, fundamental structural problems persist in the
US economy. The National Debt now exceeds $18 Trillion, the Department of
Agriculture confirms that well over 46 million Americans continue on food stamps, and
key voices have stepped forward asking for a deeper look at several U.S. economic
statistics.

Last week long-time Gallup CEO Jim Clinton very boldly drew attention to the
government’s recent 5.6% unemployment numbers, questioning them as overly
optimistic interpretations of data, and noting on CNBC that the percentage of Americans
holding full-time jobs is now the lowest in 60 years. Former US Asst. Treasury Secretary
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts added more to the unemployment conversation recently when he
calculated that the true US jobless rate may reach nearly 23% after adding back several
categories of workers who have now given up looking for work. Several other media
sources including CBS Radio have reported that as many as a record 92 million
Americans may now be now functionally unemployed.

Adding to the domestic uncertainty, more pressing issues loom for the US internationally.
While the dollar is currently surging in value as a ‘safe haven’ investment, America faces
more than the usual normal number of unsettling issues abroad. From China to Russia to
India to Ukraine to Switzerland to Greece to Iran to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East,
the US may be facing potential developments with both allies and adversaries which
could displace the US from its lead role in international finance. The dollar has ruled
supreme internationally as the global-standard currency for settlement of most
international payments since the 1944 Bretton Woods global economic summit. But the
handwriting is on the wall for a change ahead, especially when considering the
emergence of Russia, India, China and the other BRICS bloc of countries. We should
make no mistake about it, the BRICS countries and many other long-time allies and
friends no longer view the US as unwaveringly as they once did. IMF Managing Director
Christine Lagarde has since 2012 noted several emerging ‘tectonic shifts’ in global
finance. Much groundwork has been laid in recent years by the BRICS toward a
‘tectonic’ realignment of the global currency markets and to de-emphasize the dollar as
the global currency of choice, especially including settlements for oil. The US has
steadily resisted this shift for decades, because allowing the world to bypass the dollar
could have profound implications for US influence in the world, as well as in the daily
lives of Americans as the cost of imported goods rises.

What are these emerging ‘tectonic’ developments and where are the current focal points
which might result in a global currency realignment and a shift in the dollar’s role? Here
are a few of the more notable global shifts as the US might see them:

· China quietly surpassed the US in 2014 as the world’s largest economy (per the
IMF) and it has steadily expanded its global trade plus the influence of the yuan
via scores of currency ‘swaps’ and bi-lateral trade arrangements with virtually
every major country & foreign central bank, plus all major US allies. The possible
displacement of the dollar as the sole global reserve currency could reduce or
even eliminate the huge advantage the US currently holds in funding its debt and
deficits through foreign markets. While the dollar still dominates global trade, the
Chinese have publicly stated their intention to have the yuan adopted as at least an
‘alternate’ reserve currency to replace and/or compete with the dollar. That time
appears now to be approaching even faster.

· Russia is now the world’s largest energy exporting nation. In 2014 Russia and
China signed over $400 Billion in long-term energy and trade pacts outside the
dollar, and China has recently signaled that it will backstop Russia if it needs help
in the face of US-led economic sanctions regarding Ukraine. For decades, this
kind of an economic alliance of China and Russia has been considered almost
unthinkable for the US, and numerous observers including Henry Kissinger have
characterized the emerging Russia-China alliance as one of the most significant
global geopolitical shifts in the past 150 years.

· The US-dominated IMF and World Bank have provided powerful support for US
foreign policy for decades, and yet the US has continued to withhold both new
funding and support for IMF reforms to accommodate the BRICS and others. In
July 2014 the BRICS bloc established its own $100 Billion Development Bank(s)
and other similar institutions to compete with the IMF and World Bank, and to
facilitate non-dollar finance and influence.

· Russia and the other BRICS nations have also been working steadily in recent
years to establish secure communications and wire-transfer networks outside of
the US-dominated and Belgian-based SWIFT system, in order to facilitate
banking and trade outside US influence. The new system is said to have begun its
first operational testing in late 2014, and full operations are expected in 2015.

· US-led economic sanctions against Russia over Ukraine have produced a military
and economic cold/hot war which threatens to deteriorate further, and with far reaching
trade implications. Europeans have so far generally chosen to follow the
US lead, but they have expressed reluctance to do so because: 1) Europe relies on
Russia for up to 25% of its own gas supplies, and 2) the US-led sanctions often
hurt European countries the most as Russia’s regional trade partners. Longtime
US ally Germany remains somewhat ‘in the middle’ as the economic powerhouse
of Europe, and yet some observers now believe German Chancellor Angela
Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian herself, many now be shifting her attention
toward the emerging Russia-China bloc. Highly-influential US-based Foreign
Affairs magazine has highlighted this issue in a key essay in its January-February
2015 issue: ‘Leaving the West Behind: Germany Looks East.’

· Following President Obama’s ‘Asia Re-Balancing’ visit to India in late January,
the Chinese followed with a February 2 summit in Beijing of the foreign ministers
of Russia, India and China to address India’s bid to join the Russia-China security
bloc. This follows India’s announcement in December 2014 of its plans to lease a
second Russian nuclear submarine. There is additional noteworthy data from the
World Gold Council and various central banks and sources indicating that Russia,
India and China (the ‘RICs’) have each steadily continued to amass gold reserves
in recent years. Reuters reports that two-thirds of global gold consumption now
comes from Asia, and newly-launched gold exchanges in Shanghai, Singapore,
Hong Kong and Dubai beginning in late 2014 may serve to shift dominance in
these markets which is currently held by London and New York.

· Iran announced in January 2015, after years of threats, that it has now dropped the
dollar for payments of its oil exports. In decades past, Iran’s many threats have
often been met by the deployment of yet another US aircraft carrier to the Persian
Gulf. Yet now, with the winds of broader global geopolitical change stirring, and
given the added complexity of ongoing negotiations with Iran on nuclear issues, a
real oil pricing currency shift may be at hand. The US has long been concerned
that Iran might be the ‘first domino’ of major Middle East oil-exporting countries
to drop the dollar, and related Arab state defections from the dollar remain a
possibility.

· Saudi Arabia and Yemen experienced important regime changes in early 2015
which could similarly impact US influence in the Middle East. The long-festering
wars and unrest in Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Lebanon also pose renewed
potential challenges for the dollar and US interests in the region.

· Greece and its very significant $300 Billion external debt, long the outliers in the
20-nation euro bloc, might present Russia and its BRICS allies with a stunning
non-NATO geopolitical opportunity in 2015 by offering the BRICS a stronger
strategic and financial foothold in southern Europe. This emerging scene bears
watching very closely. As Stratfor geopolitical strategist George Friedman and
many others have long noted, European leaders (and more recently the US) have
shared a common interest for centuries in keeping huge and mineral-rich Russia
bottled up geographically and with limited access to warm-water ports. Germanled
euro austerity measures against Greece thus may need to be re-thought as the
long-suffering Greeks consider their emerging opportunity to switch to a new
economic sponsor and/or currency. Greece is a small country but it occupies a
unique strategic position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
It could thus also play a major role in the emergence of new roles for the dollar,
euro, and yuan, and former US Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan recently furthered
the discussion by predicting that Greece would ultimately leave the euro bloc.

· Switzerland’s January 2015 decoupling of the Swiss franc from the euro has
underscored emerging problems in the euro currency, and spotlighting the
reluctance of euro powerhouse Germany to arrange additional bailouts for Greece,
as well as for the rapidly-weakening economies of Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Doug Johnston (through Five Management, LLC) is an expert witness in banking/lending
and an investigative business consultant specializing in Commercial Banking & Lending,
Private Equity, and International Banking. Early in his career he was named as the
youngest bank president in Texas, and thereafter he established multiple bank offices in
California and Texas. Expanding into Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions,
he became a ‘Founding Father’ of the largest private company in Los Angeles. As a C Level
executive, Doug has ‘hands-on’ debt and equity finance and documentation
experience with both lenders and investors involving hundreds of companies engaged in
technology, service, real estate, manufacturing, and entertainment across the US as well
as in Europe.

January 17, 2015

Handwriting Expert Witness On Forensic Document Examination

In When is a Handwriting Expert Not a Handwriting Expert? handwriting expert witness Dennis Ryan of Applied Forensics, LLC, writes:

A handwriting expert is not a handwriting expert when they are called on to examine aspects of a document that do not require a handwriting examination. Most handwriting experts are actually Forensic Document Examiners (FDE’s). The expertise of a Forensic Document Examiner goes well beyond the examination and comparison of signatures, hand-printed or handwritten items. The Forensic Document Examiner (Handwriting Expert) can examine documents to determine if they are forged. For example, our FDEs have examined documents associated with a vintage automobile sale. The documents that were produced in the sale of the automobile were the window sticker, the bill of sale and other related documents. The price of the automobile was increased by a hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) when these documents were used in the sale of the automobile. Our examiners determined that the documents were fraudulent because they were produced using a color laser printer/copier. The documents appeared artificially aged.

The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) can also examine documents to determine the method of production of the document. Was the document produced by a typewriter, dot matrix, ink jet or laser printer? Does the document have a signature on it which appears original but is in fact a color laser copy of the signature and not the original inked signature? Does the ink jet printer have a defect that can identify the specific printer used to create the document?

A Forensic Document Examiner may also examine alterations, additions and deletions. Our office has examined documents ranging from medical treatment records to standardized school testing records for evidence of alterations, additions or deletions. The alterations are not always evident without a close examination using infrared imaging technology. Our examiners have examined hundreds of state standardized tests and have found, on occasion, the answers have been changed from an incorrect answer to a correct one.

The Forensic Document Examiner (handwriting expert) also does indentation analysis. An examiner could, for example, determine why handwritten initials from page one of a multi-page document do not appear on page two of the document, but the initials appear on the remaining pages of the multi page document. The answer could be that an alternative version of page two has been substituted. In another case, our office compared indentations from a 2008 document and those of a document dated 2014 which provided a clue in dating the document in question.

The Forensic Document Examiners (handwriting experts) in our offices have been asked to examine photocopied documents to determine if the copies are mechanical fabrications. Another term for a mechanical fabrication is a “cut and paste”. With the accessibility of desktop publishing so prevalent in today’s society, a “cut and paste” can be done with relative ease with only a computer and a scanner. A “cut and paste” can be very rudimentary or very sophisticated, it all depends on the time and effort one wants to put into creating the document.

As one can see the handwriting expert does not always fulfill the role of handwriting expert. The Forensic Document Examiner commonly referred to as a handwriting expert, conducts a myriad of examinations on documents called into question.



Applied Forensics
is a state of art laboratory of certified Forensic Document Examiners with offices in New York, Maryland, Boston, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Document examinations are provided in the following areas: handwriting, typewriter, photocopies, alterations, obliterations, erasures, and paper exams.

January 7, 2015

School Security Expert Witness On School Shootings Part 2

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:

6. Assess physical security at each school due to unique designs and issues. The classrooms where children and staff died at Sandy Hook had connecting doors in the walls. Restrooms inside the classrooms helped as places for young children to lockdown. Each school district is unique and schools within each district are unique, requiring building-specific assessments and actions as appropriate to identify strengths and areas of concern.

7. Strengthen communications capabilities and create redundancy. The ability to activate the PA from multiple locations was helpful in alerting others of the shootings at Sandy Hook. As noted in Chuck Hibbert’s blog article this week, Connecticut State Police radios did not work inside the school. Have redundancy in communications in the event “Plan A” fails.

8. Recognize and address the elephants in the living room: Mental health, home dysfunction, weapons, violent videos, etc. These are largely home and community issues that must be recognized, acknowledged and addressed by parents and the community.

9. Think and act cognitively, not emotionally; and measured, not knee-jerk — and related to this lesson:

10. Stay focused on proven, tested and reliable best practices. Experienced school safety professionals, psychologists and many educators have expressed concerns since December of 2012 about far too many emotionally-driven ideas and actions based upon what people believed occurred at Sandy Hook. Bulletproof backpacks, bulletproof whiteboards, vendors and consultants pushing expensive classroom surveillance cameras activated by individual teacher panic alerts, software developers providing lockdown or shooter notification apps (that could result in not only first responders rushing to the school, but also undesired onlookers like the NY man who went to Sandy Hook to see what was going and got detained by police), and others have jumped into the fray with questionable proposals.

Many schools rushed to fortify their front entrance doors, failing to recognize that the Sandy Hook shooter shot out the glass next to the doorway, not in the actual doorway. Some mistakenly have downplayed and/or dismissed lockdowns as effective tools. Others have encouraged students and staff to evacuate and run anywhere and everywhere possible, which in the case of Sandy Hook appears to have adversely impacted police from getting inside the school once they arrived.

Teaching children and teachers to throw things at, and to attack, armed gunmen is another flawed theory put forth with greater emphasis after Sandy Hook. Yet the Sandy Hook principal and psychologist were instantly killed while moving toward the heavily armed gunman. The staff member who was near them and got shot went back into the conference room, locked down and lived. Students who locked down, even inside the inner classroom restrooms, survived. Classes on both sides where the shootings occurred quietly locked down and survived.

More lessons may follow, and some amendments to the above may be needed, with the release of additional documents. But for now, based upon what is known, the above lessons remind us to focus on proven, reliable best practices.


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.

January 2, 2015

Explosions Expert Witnesses

Explosions expert witnesses may consult regarding explosives, flammable materials, combustion, and related matters. In the news, fireworks manufacturer Entertainment Fireworks has been fined following a fatal explosion in June 2014. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries investigated the accident and concluded that safety violations and improper training contributed to the explosion which killed one worker and injured two more.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website contains detailed safety precautions in the use and storage of explosives.

Explosives Safety and Security
Federal explosives law and regulations provide requirements and standards for the secure storage of explosives materials. To maximize the effects of regulatory compliance, the following voluntary suggestions, developed in partnership with the International Makers of Explosives (IME) and the International Society of Explosives Engineers, may serve as a helpful guide for securing explosive materials.

Storage Requirements
The Federal explosives regulations at 27 CFR, Part 555, Subpart K, outline the storage requirements for explosive materials. Section 555.205 specifies that licensees and permittees must keep all explosive materials in locked magazines meeting the standards in Subpart K unless they are:
In the process of manufacture;
Being physically handled in the operating process of a licensee or user;
Being used; or
Being transported to a place of storage or use by a licensee or permittee or by a person who has lawfully acquired explosive materials under Sec. 555.106.

When none of the above conditions apply, this section mandates that you keep explosive materials in magazines that meet the construction and table of distance requirements of Subpart K. Any divergence from these requirements requires prior approval by the Director, ATF, in accordance with the provisions of 27 CFR, Part 555.22. Persons with questions on this issue should contact the Explosives Industry Programs Branch in ATF Headquarters at 202-648-7120 or through e-mail (EIPB@atf.gov).

December 30, 2014

Emergency Preparedness Expert Witness On First Aid Teams Part 2

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?”

Training is only part of the First Aid Team question. Now that your associates have received the training they need the right tools. The right tools include all the equipment discussed in the First Aid and CPR/AED programs. These could include face-masks with one-way valves to eliminate direct mouth-to-mouth contact, triangular bandages for bandaging and splinting, and portable first aid kit(s) to be carried to the emergency stocked with the unique supplies for your work place emergencies.

Once your First Aid Teams are trained, in place, and equipped with the proper tools, they need to be managed. This can be accomplished in several ways. A self governing Safety Committee can oversee the First Aid Teams activities as well as scheduling coverage, checking supplies, and future retraining needs. The human resources department may take an active role in the First Aid Team; after all, it involves the employers’ associates caring for other associates. Human resources may be better able to deal with wellness issues. Depending on the size of your facility, the facilities manager may be best suited to manage the First Aid Team(s).

First Aid Teams in general are a great way to boost moral and at the same time ensures that the organization is providing appropriate emergency first aid. Being prepared for work place emergencies helps keep the company OSHA compliant. The investment in training and tools is a fraction of the payoff if an emergency occurs. As an example, training 10 associates in First Aid with Adult CPR/AED and then outfitting each member with a pocket facemask and 1 first aid kit is less than $800.00 dollars. AED (Automated External Defibrillators) have also dropped in price, approximately $2,000.00 each.

First Aid Teams are an all around wise investment in your associates and a commitment to their wellness.

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.

December 23, 2014

Child Abuse Expert Witness On The Role Of Whistleblowers

Child abuse expert witness Jill G. Jones-Soderman, Ph.D., MSHS, has been in the private practice of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis for over 35 years. Her work involves the study of the violation of civil rights and confidentiality in various provinces of the court system with particular emphasis on family courts throughout the country. On her website, she explains how whistleblowers serve a purpose in the judicial system.

For over a century, whistleblowing has been a vital element in the checks and balances of American political and economic life, exposing corruption and illegality in the system, too frequently overlooked or suppressed by official authorities. Idealistic insiders who come across evidence of foul practices in business, politics, the military, in non-profits and religious organizations, and in the judicial system must have platforms where they can air their grievances and expose corruption to the public. Whistleblowers are often shunned by their colleagues, are retaliated against by their institutions, and even have their lives threatened.

Famous American whistleblowers include Karen Silkwood, Jeff Wigand, Ida Tarbell, Frank Serpico and Daniel Ellsberg, who each made significant contributions to American society through their dramatic whistleblowing actions. Currently www.uswhistleblower.org has articles posted about malfeasance in various family courts and child protection agencies, articles about the NFL cover-up about head injuries to players, and even about animal rights issues.

The US Whistleblower website pledges to publish new information and to strictly maintain the privacy and anonymity of those whose information is published. The Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts is a 501- C3 not-for-profit organization registered in New York. It is composed of an association of attorneys, clinical forensic legal advocates, family mediators, counselors, doctors and other professionals who are dedicated to directly assisting parties who have been harmed by the Family Court system, social service agencies and Child Protective Services across the country. The Foundation aggressively works with families, taking cases through the Family Court system, filing Civil and Federal Civil Rights cases, and fighting for justice and damages.


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.