July 29, 2014

Aviation Safety Expert Witnesses & Southwest Airlines $12M Fine

Aviation safety expert witnesses may consult on aviation accident analysis, aerospace engineering, aviation maintenance, and related matters. In the news, a July 28th Federal Aviation Administration press release stated that the FAA plans to fine Southwest Airlines $12M for repair violations on some of its Boeing 737 aircraft.
From the FAA website:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a $12 million civil penalty against Southwest Airlines for failing to comply with Federal Aviation Regulations in three separate enforcement cases related to repairs on Boeing 737 jetliners operated by the Dallas-based airline.

The FAA alleges that beginning in 2006, Southwest conducted so-called “extreme makeover” alterations to eliminate potential cracking of the aluminum skin on 44 jetliners. The FAA conducted an investigation that included both the airline and its contractor, Aviation Technical Services, Inc., (ATS) of Everett, Wash. Investigators determined that ATS failed to follow proper procedures for replacing the fuselage skins on these aircraft. FAA investigators also determined that ATS failed to follow required procedures for placing the airplanes on jacks and stabilizing them. All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines, which was responsible for ensuring that procedures were properly followed.

Southwest returned the jetliners to service and operated them when they were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations, the FAA alleges.

July 21, 2014

Child Sexual Abuse Expert Witnesses On The Forensic Interview Analysis

In Child Sexual Abuse – Forensic Interview Analysis, child sexual abuse expert witnesses at Forensic Pediatrics Consultants – Child Abuse & Child Safety write:

The objective of a forensic interview in the context of child sexual abuse is to provide an objective measure to understand what a child potentially experienced. A forensic interview may be the tool utilized by protective and/or prosecuting authorities in a case of potential sexual abuse. Therefore, assuring the quality of the interview is an integral component to evaluating a potential case of abuse. A poor interview does not discount the possibility of sexual abuse. However, standard protocols exist to minimize the possibility of leading questions, and to assure as truthful and accurate information as possible.

Core components to forensic interview analysis include:

Documentation – Was the interview transcribed, audio-taped or videotape?

Number of interviews – Was the child interviewed before and how may that impact the forensic interview?

Types of Questions – Were there repetitive questions, either/or questions, and/or multiple questions that may lead to suggestive techniques?

Experience – Was the interviewer objectively and properly trained to conduct the interview?

Protocol – Were standard protocols utilized in the interview? These include:
• Building Rapport
• Establish the Need to Tell the Truth
• 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: http://childabusepediatrics.com/.

July 11, 2014

Oncology Expert Witness On Malpractice Insurance Part 1

In Malpractice Premiums Drop for 6th Straight Year, oncology expert witness Dr. Judy L. Schmidt writes:
Judging by 3 representative specialties, physicians in 2013 are once again experiencing relief on malpractice insurance premiums.

Collective rates for obstetrician-gynecologists, internists, and general surgeons fell on average for the sixth straight year in 2013, according to an annual premium survey released this week by Medical Liability Monitor (MLM).

The decrease is only 1.9%, a tad more than the 1.7% decline in 2012. However, one group views the ongoing premium shrinkage as more evidence that organized medicine’s push for tough medical-liability tort reform, such as limits to noneconomic damages, is much ado about very little.

“It makes sense that premiums are going down because malpractice litigation is going down,” said Taylor Lincoln, a research director for the consumer watchdog Public Citizen, in an interview with Medscape Medical News. Lincoln’s organization announced in August that the number of malpractice payments on behalf of physicians as reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2012. Public Citizen maintains that malpractice litigation cannot be blamed for runaway healthcare costs.

Asked to comment on the numbers from MLM, the American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement from its president, Ardis Dee Hoven, MD, to Medscape Medical News:

Although the 2013 Medical Liability Monitor [survey] suggests decreases in premiums have become more common than premium increases, they pale in comparison to the magnitude of the increases experienced during the most recent liability crisis,” said Dr. Hoven. “We are committed to testing alternative reforms, such as safe harbors for the practice of evidence-based medicine, to determine if these innovations can improve patient care and reduce costs.

The AMA, she said, “continues to work for proven reforms to rein in the broken medical liability system, reduce the growth of healthcare costs, and preserve patients’ access to medical care.”

Chad Karls, an actuary who summarized premium trends in an article for MLM, sees both sides of the argument. For proponents of tort reform, “the wind has been taken out of their sails a little bit,” said Karls, a principal and consulting actuary for Milliman. “Premium costs are lower than what they were a decade ago. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they shouldn’t be lower.”

Falling premiums, Karls told Medscape Medical News, reflect a roughly 50% drop in malpractice claims per physician since the liability crisis in the early 2000s that the AMA references. In both 2003 and 2004, premiums shot up roughly 20%, according to MLM. State-level tort reform accounts for some of the decrease in malpractice claims, Karls said. However, claims frequency also has declined in states that lack such laws.
The 1.7% drop in premium rates this year for the combined specialties of obstetrics-gynecology, general surgery, and internal medicine, Karls noted, applies more or less to each individual specialty as well. In other words, it isn’t as if decreases for 2 specialties erased an increase for the third.

Read more: Quality Cancer Care

July 8, 2014

Automotive Engineering Expert Witnesses

What areas of the auto industry may automotive engineering expert witnesses consult on? They may provide reports concerning automobile defects, automotive technology, automotive components, and automobile design. In the news, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced record fines and unprecedented oversight requirements in its GM investigation…

Over the past ten years, NHTSA defect investigations resulted in 1,299 recalls involving more than 95 million vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment, which has helped the agency to reduce vehicle fatalities to historic, all-time lows. Including today’s consent order, the agency has obtained record fines of $124.5 million in the last five years from automakers who have failed to promptly report defects to NHTSA. NHTSA.com briefing room:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that General Motors (GM) has agreed to pay a record $35 million civil penalty and to take part in unprecedented oversight requirements as a result of findings from NHTSA’s timeliness investigation regarding the Chevrolet Cobalt and the automaker’s failure to report a safety defect in the vehicle to the federal government in a timely manner. The defect resulted in the non-deployment of airbags in certain Chevrolet Cobalt and other GM models. This action represents the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid as a result of a NHTSA investigation of violations stemming from a recall.
As part of today’s agreement, set forth in a Consent Order signed with NHTSA, the agency also ordered GM to make significant and wide-ranging internal changes to its review of safety-related issues in the United States, and to improve its ability to take into account the possible consequences of potential safety-related defects. GM will also pay additional civil penalties for failing to respond on time to the agency’s document demands during NHTSA’s investigation.

Federal law requires all auto manufacturers to notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that a safety-related defect exists or that a vehicle is not in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards and to promptly conduct a recall. GM admits in the Consent Order that it did not do so.

Today’s action is historic in that the provisions of the Consent Order will be immediately enforceable in federal court if GM does not fully comply. The Consent Order will hold GM accountable, push the automaker to make needed institutional change, and ensure that replacement parts are produced quickly and recalled vehicles are repaired promptly.

July 6, 2014

The Scope Of The Child Sexual Abuse Expert Witness

This week police in Beaverton, Oregon, arrested 17 year old swim coach Mitchell Alan Douglas Kelly who is accused of sexually abusing two young girls at the Sunset Athletic Club. The girls were taken from the pool area to another part of the facility, according to Sgt. Bob Ray. Investigators for the Washington County Sheriff's Office are concerned there may be other victims.

In this type of case, child sexual abuse expert witnesses may testify regarding sexual misconduct, sexual molestation, and child sexual assault. These professionals may provide reports concerning sexual exploitation and statutory rape. On its website, The American Board of Pediatrics describes the child abuse pediatrics practice scope which includes:

Understand the commonly used definitions of child sexual abuse.
Know the overall incidence and prevalence of sexual abuse of children and adolescents.

Know the general risk factors for sexual abuse by the age of the victims.

Understand the characteristics of children and adolescents that may place them
at risk of being sexually abused.

Understand family dynamics that may place a child at risk for sexual abuse.

Understand the role of childhood sexual abuse of a mother as a risk factor for the
sexual abuse of her children.

Describe societal and cultural factors that may place a child at risk for sexual abuse.

Psychosexual development
Know the stages of psychosexual development of children.

Recognize when a child's sexual behavior is not appropriate to his/her developmental stage.

Differentiate between normative sexual behaviors and sexual behavior problems in children.

Recognize that sexual behaviors can be a sign or consequence of child sexual abuse.

Know the social and behavioral factors (e.g. abuse, IPV, mental illness, exposure to sexually explicit materials, conduct disorders) that can be associated with sexual behavior problems in children.

July 3, 2014

Aviation & Airports Expert Witness On Pilot Error

On his website, dviaviation.com, aviation and airports expert witness Steven J. Meyers, discusses pilot error. Mr. Meyers is an experienced aircraft accident investigator, and has work experience as an engineer, pilot, and mechanic.

Human beings are unpredictable as compared to physical evidence, and in the absence of cockpit or flight recorded data, investigators are left with evaluating human behavior from a percentage of likelihood. Most investigators typically lack adequate training to properly evaluate human behavior and performance, because there are such a large and diverse number of reasons that pilots can commit an error. Pilots make errors because they have not been adequately trained to perform tasks, or because they do not have the basic ability to perform the task even if they were trained. They commit errors because the task is beyond normal human abilities. They commit errors because they misinterpret information important to the performance of the task. They commit errors because some event occurring during the performance of the task changes the nature of the task in a way that they have never encountered. They also commit errors because of influences such as stress, distraction, fatigue, illness, visual illusions, spatial disorientation, old age, immaturity, and cultural beliefs. Pilot performance is also influenced or affected by such issues as cockpit design, temperature, altitude, physiology of the body, emotions, interactions, and communications.

Some common Human Factors issues related to piloting error can include:
• Spatial disorientation
• Not trusting instruments
• Loss of attitude references
• “Saving your baby”
• Extending emergency landing
• Failure to abort takeoff or landing
• Turning back to land on runway after engine failure
• Overconfidence or complacency
• Over-gross takeoff weight
• Lack of training
• Showing off
• Flying in severe weather
• Situational awareness
• Scud-running
• Obstructed vision
• Lack of scanning outside of cockpit
• Landing into wake/vortex turbulence
• Depth/distance perception
• Flaring too high during landing
• Botched landing approaches at night
• Training-related mistakes
• Stalls during takeoff or maneuvering
• Vmc rolls
• Cockpit management
• Fuel exhaustion or starvation
• Poor crew coordination
• Improper instrument settings
• Cabin inadequately secured during takeoff
• Improperly cross-referencing instruments
• Too much happening all at once
• Hypoxia
• Cabin depressurization
• Simply flying too high without using oxygen
• Sleep deprivation or lack of crew rest
An Example of Human Factors in Piloting Error: Empty Field Myopia
Empty field myopia (empty space myopia) is a condition in which the eyes, having nothing specific within the available visual field upon which to focus, focus automatically at a range of the order of a few metres ahead. Detection of objects outside this restricted field of view is delayed and if an object of interest does enter the restricted field of vision, the determination of its size or range would be problematic. The higher risk probability is distributed among general aviation flights conducted outside controlled airspace, or any flights in such airspace and conditions with predominant see and avoid rules and where the ATC assistance to avoid loss of separation (LOS) is limited.

There are several identified conditions when the eyes often tend to turn back to their natural resting state in flight on very dark night with no stimuli outside the cockpit to focus on, in hazy conditions when the optical properties of the atmosphere alter the appearance of aircraft and terrain, in bright light and glare when the flight is conducted in very sunny conditions over a cloud layer or due flight course set into the direction of the sun, and flying over snow covered and desert surfaces with predominantly featureless ground characteristics and over large bodies of water; the risk factor is especially high for low level inspection flights and military low flying assignments.

DVI’s Pilot Experts are experienced airline, corporate, and general aviation pilots and instructors. Many of our Pilot Experts are Designated Pilot Examiners and Check Airman for major airlines. All of our Pilot Experts, as well as our, Aviation Human Factors Experts understand the nature of errors and how to apply and correlate human performance to determining the cause of an aircraft or ground accident.

July 1, 2014

Business Expert Witness Describes The Role Of The Forensic Accountant

On his website FAQ, business expert witness Richard Teichner, CPA, CVA, CDFAJ, describes the role of the forensic accountant 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?
- See more at: Richard Teichner.

June 29, 2014

Automotive Engineering Expert Witnesses & Auto Defects

Automotive engineering expert witnesses may consult regarding automobile defect, automotive technology, automobile design, and the auto industry. General Motors announced more recalls last week with a 2014 total so far at 48. The most recent recall covers 474,000 pickups and SUVs. US automakers have recalled 32.4 million vehicles in less than six months. GM said a software glitch can cause “the transfer case to electronically switch to neutral without input from the driver” on 2014 and 2015 models.

GM.com reports:

General Motors (GM: NYSE) today announced four safety recalls covering 428,211 vehicles in the United States.

• Dealers will replace the driver’s side air bag inflator in 29,019 2013-2014 model year Chevrolet Cruze sedans in the U.S. and 4,066 in Canada. The inflator in the driver’s front air bag may rupture and/or the air bag may not inflate during air bag deployment. A rupture could propel metal pieces of the inflator into the vehicle cabin, possibly striking and seriously injuring the driver or other vehicle occupants. Additionally, if the inflator does not inflate the air bag, there is an increased risk of injury to the driver. GM is aware of one injury related to the issue.

• Dealers will recalibrate transfer case control module software in 392,459 full-size pickup trucks and SUVs in the U.S. and 53,607 in Canada. An additional 20,874 were sold outside the U.S. and Canada. Affected are four-wheel-drive versions of the 2014-2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra; the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban; and the 2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.

In these vehicles, the transfer case may electronically switch to neutral without input from the driver. If this occurs while a vehicle is in motion, no power will go to the wheels. If the vehicle is stopped or parked, it may roll away if the parking brake is not set. GM is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to this issue.

• Dealers will inspect, and replace if necessary, the windshield wiper module assembly in 4,794 2013-2014 model year Chevrolet Caprice police cars and 2014 Chevrolet SS sport sedans in the U.S. If the motor gear teeth become stripped, the wipers may not operate. GM is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to this issue.

• Dealers will replace the two rear shock absorbers in 1,939 2014 model year Chevrolet Corvettes in the U.S. with the FE1 or FE3 suspension to repair a possible insufficient weld in the rear shocks that could lead to a fracture and/or reduce the shocks’ service life. Thirty-three additional vehicles were sold in Canada and another 82 were exported. GM is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to this issue.

June 25, 2014

Credit Damage Expert Witness On Evaluating Credit Damage Part 2

In Evaluating and Understanding Credit Damage, credit damage expert witness Doug Minor writes:

One of the first steps is to examine the credit score itself. This seemingly straightforward action can become complex very quickly, as there are often numerous reports, with scores from multiple sources. So, a consumer will many times have a number of credit scores, each reflecting the data and scoring criteria of its source. Understanding the different features of each type of score and report is an important evaluation skill that an expert should have to accurately quantify credit damages.

For example, is the score a FICO score, or a Vantage score? Is the report a business-to-business (B2B), or a business-to-consumer (B2C) product? Was it a residential mortgage credit report (RMCR), or a three repository merged credit report (TRMCR)? When was the report produced? All of these are typical questions that an evaluator will ask, and in most cases they are necessary.

Before deciding whether to extend credit to an individual, lenders typically purchase credit reports and scores that provide information from one or all three of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Trans Union and Experian). These scores reflect the credit-related events in the life of an individual going back several years. Each of those events can ultimately be assigned a value, positive or negative, that contributes to the overall score. Some lenders may average these numbers to determine a person’s creditworthiness, or focus on just one score (or report) from a particular credit bureau. In the mortgage industry it is common practice to pick the middle of three scores, or the lower of two if only two are available.

The companies that compile this information can produce a variety of reports, depending on the needs of their clients. The reports they provide for credit issuers are typically more detailed than the ones that are accessible to the consumers themselves. So, an expert attempting to assess the credit impact of specific events should consult these more complete reports whenever possible. But an experienced credit damages expert can make valid judgments based on information found in many types of reports.

Among the next steps, it is important to establish the subject’s credit and economic status before the harmful event(s). Then it can be compared to the status afterward. This provides measurable data, which can be used to quantify harm. For example, a foreclosure or bankruptcy might cause an individual’s score to drop between 100 and 250 points. This can cause demonstrable financial harm in variety of ways—not to mention emotional stress. And the effects may last for many years. If another party—acting through malice or negligence—was the proximate cause of that harm, there is a good probability that the victim deserves to be compensated.

As the credit damages field gains exposure, attorneys will inevitably become more familiar with it, and more confident to factor it into their cases. Realizing that such damages can be accurately quantified is still a revelation to many practicing lawyers. But the most convincing proof is the growing record of successful credit damages cases. That suggests that this relatively new field will gain importance in years to come.

Doug Minor is a credit damages expert and credit counselor. He serves as an expert witness and litigation consultant, with specialized expertise in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). He is FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) certified by the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), which is the trade association of the credit reporting agencies. His company, Easy Credit Relief, Inc., provides a range of consumer services to help people understand and recover from credit problems. Please see Doug Minor.

June 18, 2014

Trade Secrets Expert Witness On Misappropriation

In Trade Secret Misappropriation of Software, trade secrets expert witness Gary Stringham writes on his blog:

A trade secret is something that provides an advantage to the company that owns it. It could be formulas, software, even lists of names. A trade secret is not disclosed publicly (unlike a patent).

If a company wishes to mark something a trade secret, it must proactively take action to protect those secrets. Employees of the company should have signed an agreement to keep secret company confidential information. If the trade secret needs to be disclosed to non-employees, those people need to first sign non-disclosure agreements.

Misappropriation of trade secrets consists of someone, who knew the trade secret, using it in a non-permissible fashion. It is not uncommon for employees of a company to leave and start up their own company to create a “better” and competing version of the product. They have to be very careful to not use any confidential steps, procedures, software, concepts, etc., in their new product. Even if they were to write their software code from scratch, if they use any algorithms, procedures, processes, or other confidential concepts from their former employer, it is in violation. If they use electronic or paper copies of software source code to guide them in writing new code from scratch, that is in violation. It is also theft.

Proof of trade secret misappropriation requires that the alleged violator must have somehow obtained those secrets from the owner. It could be through a former employee. It could be through an outsider that had signed a non-disclosure agreement. It could be theft by physically or electronically breaking in and stealing the secrets by copying documents, design guides, and/or software source code.

If Company B happens to independently create Company A’s secrets, but had done so without any knowledge that Company A even had those secrets and had marked them as such, then Company B is not misappropriating Company A’s secrets.

The concepts and examples I’ve written here are brief and incomplete. Closer examination is required on a case by case basis to determine if there was misappropriation of trade secrets.

Gary Stringham & Associates, LLC, is an engineering consulting and training firm in the software, firmware, and hardware domains. Gary helps clients with their design, debugging, integration, and litigation.

June 13, 2014

Credit Damage Expert Witness On Evaluating Credit Damage Part 1

In Evaluating and Understanding Credit Damages, credit damage expert witness Doug Minor writes:

Credit damage is a somewhat new field of expertise, and many attorneys and consumers have not yet been exposed to its potential and importance. But this is changing, as more and more cases demonstrate that such damage can indeed be quantified. Credit damages can pertain in a variety of cases: divorce, wrongful foreclosure, personal injury, breach of contract, identity theft, fraud, and medical malpractice, to name a few.

Now more than ever before, award amounts include compensation for credit damage. And as my own experience has confirmed, the amounts can easily reach well into the six-figure range. Thus, the competence of the experts retained in such cases is important.

When a person’s credit profile has been harmed through the malicious or negligent actions of others, the question naturally arises: How have they been financially impacted? The economic damage from such events depends on several variables; each situation is unique. But it is now demonstrably true that this damage can usually be quantified within a range.

Evaluating credit damage—and understanding the causes—is a challenging task. It is even more challenging to assign an accurate dollar amount to a change in credit scores or a credit report.

Before trying to calculate damages, an expert must establish the times frames involved and the duration that the damages will exist. Typically, the process is as follows: After collecting all relevant information on the consumer’s credit file, the expert will then review it to identify the cause(s) of damages. Several key questions should be addressed: How and why did the damage happen? Who caused the damage? Is the information continuing to be reported to credit bureaus, or has it stopped? How is the information being reported?

Tools and methodologies do exist to accurately measure the effects of harmful credit events, both present and future. The approaches, methods, and terminology may vary from one expert to the next. For instance, a credit expert may refer to out-of pocket costs, loss or reduction of credit capacity, loss or reduction of credit expectancy, time lost (valued at a reasonable rate), increased credit costs (for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, insurance premiums etc.), lost opportunity (e.g., job offers or ability to purchase/refinance a home), loss of enjoyment of life (hedonic damages), and loss of reputation.

Among the approaches experts use are the dollar-for-dollar method, dollar-for-dollar plus tax liability, the multiplier method and the public record method. Any of these may and can be used to describe the impact of credit damages.

One of the first steps is to examine the credit score itself. This seemingly straightforward action can become complex very quickly, as there are often numerous reports, with scores from multiple sources. So, a consumer will many times have a number of credit scores, each reflecting the data and scoring criteria of its source. Understanding the different features of each type of score and report is an important evaluation skill that an expert should have to accurately quantify credit damages.

Doug Minor is a credit damages expert and credit counselor. He serves as an expert witness and litigation consultant, with specialized expertise in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). He is FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) certified by the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA), which is the trade association of the credit reporting agencies. His company, Easy Credit Relief, Inc., provides a range of consumer services to help people understand and recover from credit problems. Please see Doug Minor.

June 2, 2014

Securities Expert Witness On Failure To Supervise Part 2

In Failure to Supervise: An Inside Perspective, securities expert witness Alan Besnoff, Securities Expert Witness & Litigation Support, LLC, writes:

What are the steps that a Supervising Principal can and should take to assure adherence to FINRA regulations, the highest of ethical standards, and Supervisory duties are being met?

It is my belief that it is most important for the Supervising Principal to develop and maintain a culture of absolute adherence to FINRA regulations, company compliance guidelines, and the highest of ethical standards. To accomplish this desired culture, the Supervising Principal must always be consistent in his or her dealings with brokers and in demonstrating such a mindset in all of the Principal’s behaviors, actions, and policies and procedures.

In many organizations the compliance requirements may be handled simply by following minimum guidelines such as the conducting of an annual compliance meeting. This “check the box” approach is in my view a mistake as it sends the message that compliance requirements are an inconvenient burden that must be met even though it distracts from sales productivity. An atmosphere and culture may develop in which compliance requirements are met by “going through the motions” for the sole purpose of being able to indicate that a compliance requirement has been satisfied.

The Supervising Principal who takes a long-term view recognizes that the preceding attitude and approach is a huge mistake that threatens the best interests of the company, the brokers and managers within the branch, and the investing public.

Steps that a Supervising Principal can take to foster an ethical and compliant culture include:

1) At every group or individual meeting in which specific investment products or recommendations are discussed, always include a discussion of the suitability and other compliance issues associated with the product. Supervising Principals who take this action will help his or her brokers learn and understand the importance of FINRA rule 2090 “Know your customer”, and FINRA rule 2111 “Suitability”. Regularly conducting discussions of this nature clearly help to foster a culture in which only suitable transactions are valued and accepted.
2) During group meetings, moderate discussions in which brokers will share why a specific product, transaction, or recommendation was in the best interest of the client as compared to other alternatives. Supervising Principals who take this action will be able to gauge the degree to which brokers under his or her supervision understand, practice, and comply with FINRA rule 2090 “know your customer”, and FINRA rule 2111 “Suitability”. Providing brokers an opportunity to exhibit their compliance with FINRA rules and their commitment to the highest of ethical standards will greatly enhance the compliance learning experience for all brokers within the branch, and help the Supervising Principal with his or her goal of fostering a culture in which compliance and high ethical standards are the norm.
3) Frequently review disciplinary actions and arbitration awards against brokers. Discuss the harm done to the broker and his or her family, the firm and the investor. Initiate discussion as to what should have been done differently.
4) When discussing various products to be marketed, always emphasize how and in what circumstances such products should be used for the benefit of the client. Care must be taken to not overemphasize the commissions or payout to the broker.
5) The Supervising Principal should monitor what is being discussed by brokers during individual sales appointments by joining brokers periodically on appointments with clients.
6) The Supervising Principal can select a sampling of trades and transactions received and call the client to discuss the transaction. Confirm suitability and financial information and make sure the client understands all aspects of the transaction including charges and expenses, illiquidity and risk. Supervising Principals that take this action will help to assure that several FINRA rules are being observed. FINRA rule 2090 “Know your customer” requires that “every member shall use reasonable diligence in regard to the opening and maintenance of every account, to know (and retain) the essential facts concerning every customer…” FINRA rule 2111 “Suitability” requires that “a member or associated person must have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy involving a security or securities is suitable for the customer….” The fact that the Supervising Principal is taking this action will be known by all brokers within the branch. Brokers are therefore likely to take extra care to assure that all “know your customer” detail on account applications are accurate and that all transactions are suitable for the customer.
7) The Supervising Principal should regularly attend public sales seminars and workshops conducted by brokers under his or her supervision. Supervising Principals that take this action will help to assure that brokers under his or her supervision are in compliance with applicable sections of FINRA rule 2210 “Communications with the public”.
8) The Supervising Principal can add the names of his or her brokers to “Google alerts” in order to be notified and stay informed of any new events or news stories in which the broker may be named.
9) The Supervising Principal must never “look the other way” when any compliance violation or breach of ethics may occur.
10) Care must be taken to make all hiring decisions not only upon anticipated productivity, but upon anticipated ethical conduct. Great care must be taken to safeguard the ethical and compliant culture once created. Since behaviors tend to be repeated, it is wise to prevent anyone with a poor ethical record to join the branch.

Supervising Principals can and should view their firm’s written compliance guidelines and FINRA rules and regulations as minimum standards. Above are just a sampling of steps that can be taken by the Supervising Principal to assure that supervisory responsibilities are being fulfilled.

When the Supervisor has been successful in fostering an ethical and compliant culture and is fully committed to his or her supervisory duties and responsibilities it is far less likely for incidents of broker misconduct to occur.

May 26, 2014

Allergy Expert Witness On Skin Tests

Allergy and immunology experts may consult on issues involving asthma, allergic reactions, indoor environment, and drug allergies, among other topics. On his website allergy expert witness Dr. Ronald H. Saff, Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee and principal at the Allergy & Asthma Diagnostic Treatment Center, answers questions on allergy skin tests:

How are skin tests done?

There are several different types of allergy tests. Most allergy skin tests are "scratch tests" - the skin is scratched with a small plastic "pick" which has a drop of the specific allergen on the end. It is irritating and can burn and or itch; it is not painful. Scratch tests do not involve needles or blood. The scratching may take only seconds or take a couple of minutes depending on what you are being tested for. Once the scratching is done we wait 15-20 minutes and then read the results. A positive reaction usually looks and feels like a mosquito bite. Sometimes scratch skin tests are followed by intradermal tests. These are not always necessary and depend on what is being tested. If necessary a tiny amount of allergen is injected into the skin with a very small needle. It is not like a typical "shot". This too may itch or burn. One benefit of skin tests such as these is that the results are known before you leave the office.

Why are tests necessary?

For most patients, allergy skin testing is the reason why you were referred to an allergist and why you are seeking an evaluation. It is essential to know what you are and are not allergic to in order to guide treatment decisions. You may think you are allergic to something and we may find through testing that you are not allergic. Instead, it may be a different problem. Or, we may find you are allergic to more than you thought. Once we know what you are allergic to, we can discuss how to avoid or reduce exposure to the allergens which is the foundation of treatment. Knowing the results also helps in making medication decisions and will determine if immunotherapy (allergy shots) will be a treatment option for you. Refusing to be tested makes this specialty evaluation pointless. It would be like going to the dentist complaining of tooth problems and not allowing them to look in your mouth.

May 22, 2014

Police Use Of Force Expert Witness On Excessive Force

In Unnecessary / Excessive Use of Force – A Working Definition, police use of force expert witness Richard Lichten (Lt. Retired) writes:

I am often asked to explain to people who are not police officers or lawyers the definition of unnecessary and excessive use of force. First, it is important to understand just what a use of force is. While many law enforcement agencies have their own definition, I have found that the simplest explanation is this: A use of force is an intentional act by a police officer who knows, or should know, may cause pain and/or injury to someone for the lawful purpose of controlling their actions.

A police officer may use force when it is lawfully necessary to control the actions of another person. That force must be reasonable, justified, and within policy. When you hear the term “reasonable” used in this context, reasonableness refers to what a reasonable officer would do. A reasonable officer is basically defined as a typical officer, who in a similar situation will react in a similar fashion.

An example of unnecessary force: A police officer tells a suspect he is under arrest for a crime. The officer tells the person to turn around to be handcuffed. The suspect raises both fists and threatens the officer with harm. The officer properly takes out his baton and tells the suspect to submit or force will be used. The suspect sees the baton, tells the officer not to hurt him, and submits by doing as the officer ordered, i.e., the suspect fully cooperates. The officer, however, rather than simply handcuffing the man, hits him with the baton without just cause. That is unnecessary use of force, as no force was needed.

In a different scenario, once the officer tells the person he is under arrest, the suspect rushes the officer with his fists raised. As the suspect rushes the officer, the officer properly strikes the suspect with the baton once across the arms and the suspect immediately gives up and fully cooperates. However, once the suspect stops his attack and gives up, the officer strikes the suspect many times, when only one strike was needed. Here force was needed, but too much force was used. This is excessive force.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, it is provided for educational purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice.

About the author:
Richard Lichten (Lt. Retired) brings 30 years of front-line law enforcement experience to a wide range of police and jail topics. Twenty of his 30 years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were in supervisory and command positions. Richard Lichten is deemed a qualified expert in the use of force, use of the Taser, police practices, and jail/prison inmate culture in the State of California Superior Courts, State of Nevada Courts, and in Federal Court.

May 16, 2014

Securities Expert Witness On Failure To Supervise Part 1

In Failure to Supervise: An Inside Perspective, securities expert witness Alan Besnoff, Securities Expert Witness & Litigation Support, LLC, writes:

This article will examine the variety of steps and actions that can and should be taken by a firms’ Supervising Principal to assure that the proper degree of supervision of brokers is being performed.
Let’s begin with a quick review of why it is that in so many circumstances, supervisory responsibilities are not fully being met.

A review of the typical field Supervisory Principal or Branch Manager compensation package reveals the true priorities of the firm and therefore how field supervisors are encouraged to spend their time and effort. There are two primary results for which Supervising Principals are rewarded; branch sales production and recruiting.

The firm culture may be so centered on these two primary activities as to include constant reinforcement through bulletins, e-mails, meetings, conference calls, quarterly campaigns, reward trips, added bonuses, and other incentives. The message to Supervising Principals in the field becomes quite clear. Spend as much time as possible to obtain these desired results and as little time as possible on other “distractions” (such as the proper supervision of brokers). In some company cultures’ the high level of sales production by top producers may be so valued that Supervising Principals are encouraged to not “rock the boat” when it comes to thorough supervision of such highly valued producers..

In my 25 years of personal experience with supervisory responsibilities, I have received significant compensation, including bonuses, stock awards, luxurious trips, and other incentives for branch sales production and recruiting. During the same time period however, no compensation was received for such accomplishments as having surprise branch inspections by regulators conclude with the outcome of “no findings”, or having a total lack of customer complaints within the branch, or for having developed and implemented systems to assure thorough supervision of brokers within the branch was occurring.

For a Supervising Principal to have a true dedication and commitment to fulfill his or her supervisory duties and responsibilities he or she must have the ability to resist all of the short-term incentives (as described above), challenge the company culture, and develop and implement local policies and procedures to assure that thorough supervision of brokers are in place and consistently executed. What assisted me in meeting this challenge was to view my role as having the ultimate responsibility to assure that any and all. transactions, trades, or recommendations by brokers within the branch were truly in the best interest of the client. It was also helpful for me to view my career as being long-term, and recognizing therefore that my most valuable of assets included reputation, integrity and an unblemished record. As one who truly valued the good and ethical work being performed by the majority of practitioners within the financial services industry, I have been honored to do my small part to protect the industry and community from the “bad apples” that would spoil the reputation of ethical practitioners.

May 14, 2014

Accident Reconstruction Expert Witness On Event Data Recorders Part 1

In Event Data Recorders: Proper Evidence Collection in Criminal, Insurance and Tort Liability Investigations, accident reconstruction expert witness Shawn Gyorke, Crash Data Services, LLC, writes:

Over the last several years, the landscape of traffic accident reconstruction and insurance claims investigations has changed dramatically at the hands of technological advances such as event data recorders (vehicle black box technology). This technology has been challenged on numerous occasions and generally been found to be reliable and admissible under both Frye and Daubert paradigms.

The requirement for law enforcement and private insurers to collect and consider this type of evidence in their investigations has not been clearly defined. Law enforcement, insurance investigators and litigators may need to heighten their efforts in the preservation of this critical evidence A failure to properly memorialize this evidence may ultimately result in evidence spoliation claims by criminal defendants, as well as claims of bad faith by parties involved in civil litigation.

When a law enforcement officer reconstructs a collision with the intent of utilizing the results of the investigation for the furtherance of a criminal prosecution (beyond the scope of a traffic citation or other petty offense) then that officer should preserve any event data recorder (EDR) information. However, this obligation does not normally come at the hands of legislative rule. Only in extreme cases, could law enforcement professionals be statutorily required to preserve EDR data. In Illinois, officials
investigating a reckless homicide (reckless use of a vehicle causing the death of another person) are required to “ preserve, subject to a continuos chain of custody, any physical evidence in their possession or control that is reasonably likely to contain forensic evidence” according to statute 725 ILCS Chapter 5/1164 (a)2.

The mandatory terms of this type of legislation, which demands the preservation and
production of all forensic evidence, can be reinforced by the explicit terms of a corresponding criminal code, wherein law enforcement can be found criminally culpable for failures in compliance. Under the Illinois statute, it is “unlawful for a law enforcement agency or an agent acting on behalf of the lawenforcement agency to intentionally fail to comply with the provisions of subsection (a) of Section 116.” A violation of this statute constitutes a Class 4 Felony for which an Illinois law enforcement official could be fined up to $25,000 and/or imprisoned for 1 to 3 years.

Many other states, including Alaska, Arkansas and South Carolina, have similarly worded procedural codes requiring the preservation of all forensic evidence on serious crimes. However, the list of states with legislative requirements for the preservation of evidence expands to an overwhelming majority wherein specific biological or DNA evidence could be collected. While the scope of this additional legislation is not discussed within the confines of this article, it could be argued that only on the rarest of occasions, is blood or other biological material not deposited at the scene of a fatal traffic crash.

Read more: Shawn Gyorke.

May 5, 2014

Trucking Expert Witnesses & Federal Highways

Trucking expert witnesses may consult on the trucking industry, trucking and transportation rules and regulations, as well as highways and transportation projects. In the news, Transport Topics writes that “Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sent Congress a four-year transportation bill that relies on business tax reforms as a way to boost funds for a federal highway account that is quickly running out of money.”

USAToday writes that “States and local governments stand to lose $46.8 billion in federal funding for transportation and transit projects next year if Congress doesn't put more money into the Highway Trust Fund and it slides into insolvency, according to a new report.” The Transporation for America report states:

Unless Congress adds new revenue to the nation’s transportation trust fund, the federal government will be unable to commit to funding any new transportation projects, depriving states and localities of resources critical to maintaining and improving the infrastructure that makes our economy possible.

America is at a crucial decision point for transportation. The nation’s transportation trust fund is facing a crisis. The gasoline tax that has sustained the federal transportation program since the middle of the last century is no longer keeping up with investment needs…

While every state raises their own transportation funds through some taxing mechanism and local governments contribute their own funds, federal funds account for the lion’s share of many major projects in the country, from a key bridge replacement or highway rehab to new rail cars and buses. Federal dollars account for half or more of the transportation capital budget in all but 15 states, and for many the share is two-thirds or more. (It’s more than 90 percent in Alaska and Rhode Island, for example.) Metro regions like Miami, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul – to name just a few – could be out $100 million or more.

The American Trucking Associations supports a federal highway program that is financed primarily by user fees, and which focuses on improving highway networks that are most critical to the movement of freight and interstate travel. ATA is a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils. A long-time supporter of the fuel tax as the primary source of revenue for highway improvements, ATA is opposed to the tolling of existing highways, weight-distance taxes/vehicle miles traveled fees, and other inefficient funding and financing mechanisms. We support a reformed federal truck size and weight regime that gives states more flexibility to authorize safer, cleaner, more productive vehicles, and that retains federal regulations designed to promote interstate commerce.

May 3, 2014

Forensic Sleep Medicine Expert Witness

In Abnormal Sleep Behavior and the Legal Profession, forensic sleep medicine expert witness John Penek, MD, FCCP, FAASM, writes on Forensic Sleep Medicine - REM Sleep Behavior Disorder.

Things that go bump in the night......and the parasomnias.

The American Sleep Disorder Association has now identified more than 80 distinct sleep disorders occurring in children and adults in all age groups. These are a diverse group of disorders that may cause excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty with sleep maintenance such as insomnias and abnormal sleep behavior, termed parasomnias. The parasomnias are a group of sleep disorders that result in abnormal and often socially unacceptable behavior during sleep or associated with partial or incomplete arousals from sleep. These include nightmares and night terrors, somnambulism (sleep walking), confusion arousals, sleep paralysis, REM sleep behavior disorder and the now well-documented incidence of sexsomnia (abnormal sexual behavior during sleep) that has resulted in charges of rape and child molestation. Other disorders such as narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia may result in sleep at inappropriate times, which may cause accidents and even death.

Forensic Sleep Medicine
The development of knowledge in the area of parasomnias has increased rapidly in the last decade. Knowledge of the legal implications of these disorders has now emerged into the field of Forensic Sleep Medicine. Many of these disorders are associated with injury of bed partners or others and are perceived as potentially criminal behavior, it is not uncommon for patients suffering with these disorders to result in being charged with civil and criminal charges. Resulting from the frequent striking nature of these behaviors, the sleep specialist physician is frequently needed to provide testimony for both plaintiff and defense attorneys in these cases. Because these disorders are diverse, I have decided to prepare a series of articles focusing in on specific parasomnias to elucidate the special of these disorders.

Normal Sleep
Sleep is part of our lives and, indeed, we sleep between 20-30 years of our life. Sleep disorders are classified in disorders of excessive daytime sleepiness, disorders of sleep maintenance such as insomnia, and a distinct group of disorders known as the parasomnias. Normal sleep is characterized by an individual falling asleep within five to ten minutes peacefully and waking seven to eight hours later feeling refreshed and renewed. An occasional awakening during the night to pass urine or for other bodily functions is not unusual. There are a total of five stages of sleep. Stage I is extremely shallow, and the individual may actually perceive the surroundings somewhat. Stage II is deeper sleep but still not restful sleep. What was previously called Stage III and Stage IV has now been lumped into “Slow Wave Sleep or Delta Sleep” and occurs primarily in the early sleep period and is of restorative value. The fifth stage of sleep is called Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM sleep). During this stage the metabolism of the brain increases and the individual is paralyzed, with the exception of his eyes (therefore rapid eye movement) and diaphragm, which keeps air moving in and out of his or her lungs. REM sleep is also the period when we do most of our dreaming and, perhaps as a protective evolutionary development, we are paralyzed and unable to act out our dreams.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
In this first article in this series, I will concentrate on this disorder, which was initially described in the medical literature in the early 1980’s. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) is a condition more commonly occurring in older men but also occurring in both sexes of all age groups. The sufferer loses the paralysis associated with REM sleep and the individual acts out their dreams and, unfortunately, many of these dreams tend to be violent. There have been many recorded cases of minor and even severe trauma to bed partners, as well as several fatalities. During these episodes, the sufferer literally “acts out their dreams” and that unfortunate individual plays no volitional role in his or her actions. Videotapes of this disorder frequently demonstrate bizarre and extremely aggressive dream enacting behavior.

Like all sleep disorders, RBD has occurred in humans for many thousands of years and was often dismissed as oddities or psychiatric illnesses. Before it was documented as a true disease, families often applied “home remedies” In one case, a patient tied a sheet around his waist and tied another to the bed post to stop his nightly wanderings. Before coming to medical attention and treatment, most spouses/ bed partners left for another bedroom to avoid being struck, or worse, during sleep. Because of the bizarre nature of this disorder, it was often an embarrassment to the sufferer and their family and only emerged as a true disease when an astute researcher put together a series of patients with similar abnormal sleep behavior and sleep test results. Then it was a matter of trial and error to determine the best medication for this disorder.

The disorder is diagnosed with an overnight Polysomnogram (Sleep Study) and treatment with several agents is most gratifying and effective. Almost all cases occur in individuals with pleasant and normal demeanors and their abnormal sleep behavior resolves with treatment. Before the diagnosis can be confirmed, other conditions need to be excluded.

Sleep seizure disorders can result in similar abnormal sleep behavior and somnambulism (sleep walking) can look similar to RBD. It has now been determined that a relatively high percentage of patients diagnosed with RBD will go on to develop Parkinson’s disease. The exact nature of this association is subject to ongoing investigation. It is now well recognized that RBD and other parasomnias are the medical explanation for injuries and even fatalities resulting in civil and criminal charges that was previously thought to result from purposeful and criminal behavior.

The parasomnias cause abnormal sleep-related behavior and are commonly associated with traumatic and unfortunate events. Within the last decade, the impact of parasomnias and other sleep disorders on individual behavior has become well documented. Indeed, a new field in Sleep Medicine has emerged and has been termed Forensic Sleep Medicine. This label refers to a variety of sleep disorders that result in a high risk for development of civil and criminal charges, and it is valuable for the legal profession to be aware that these disorders may play a role in diverse civil and criminal charges and, once identified, constitute significant mitigation for these unfortunate individuals.

Parasomnias are a group of disorders that result in abnormal sleep behavior resulting in self-injury, injury of bed partners, and, unfortunately, far more dangerous consequences. In this brief article, I have reviewed the background of sleep physiology, as well as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and its impact on the unfortunate individual who suffers from this. In future articles, I will review other parasomnias that have potential litigious implications.

Dr. John Penek has 30 years experience in the practice of pulmonary diseases, sleep disorders and critical care medicine.

May 1, 2014

Security Management Expert Witness & Role of Buildings Part 2

Security management expert witness Randy Atlas, Phd, AIA, CPP, contributed to the article The Role of Buildings in Mass Shootings, Strategies to decrease workplace homicides which appeared in Buildings Magazine. The expert is president of Atlas Safety & Security Design Inc. and notes that "It’s a big deal for an architectural magazine to focus on the problems of building security." The article is written by Jennie Morton, senior editor of BUILDINGS.

Beyond physical deterrents, it's often the human side of security that can make the most difference in an active shooter situation, notes Grollnek.

"Most buildings aren't designed to prevent violence on this scale. The probability of an all-hazards event like terrorism or a shooter is very low and it may not be cost- effective to change the existing layout," Atlas says. "Policies and procedures, training, and communication are the most important things that will improve security and minimize the risk of an active shooter situation."

Lax security practices can turn any building into a soft target, particularly if you aren't keeping tabs on who is allowed onto the property.

While controlled access offers some of the best protection, the system must be kept current with permissions. Otherwise, the badges of former employees, visitors, or temporary contractors could still be active.

"If you have 600 employees and there are more than 900 access cards, you know you have a problem," says Sean Ahrens, a security expert with Aon Global Risk Consulting.

This discrepancy can be reduced if there is a mechanism in place that identifies when an employee is no longer with the company, he adds. Far too many workplace homicides involve former workers, so it's imperative that their access privileges have been revoked. This is especially true if they return for an unannounced reason.

"Access control protocols should be to deny entry to former employees who were discharged for cause or resigned under contentious conditions. The admittance of these fired or disgruntled individuals at the workplace needs to be denied tactfully or authorized after an evaluation of all the related factors for the visit," stipulates the 2012 ASIS report Mass Homicides by Employees in the American Workplace.

You may need to review your visitor policies as well. Some organizations use a lobby or waiting area as a sort of holding tank while a guest is authorized prior to allowing access, says Ahrens. Not only does this give a guard or receptionist time to confirm the visit, but it isolates the individual from building occupants.

You should also have a policy in place to verify a person's identity, says Pizzitola. He has visited many buildings that required him to sign in but never asked for any identification. A few scribbles in a log book are an empty gesture that should be eliminated.

If you have guards, confirm they have the proper training and tools to respond to an active shooter threat. Some personnel are only on a premise to observe and report whereas others have permission to engage with a suspect.

"Profile training for behaviors is number one for dealing with active shooters," states Atlas. Suspicious activity can be a red flag, such as someone wearing a long jacket on a warm day or carrying a duffel bag when there's not a gym nearby.

Even the best security measures can be breached if an intruder has enough time and determination. Once controls have been defeated, every second counts. An active shooter incident is typically over in 12 minutes, says Grollnek, and police may not arrive before the situation has played out. Does your emergency response plan have guidelines for what to do as those minutes tick by?

If your plan is silent on the topic, take the time to make revisions. You don't need to reinvent the wheel, says Mitchell. Network with comparable organizations or neighboring buildings to learn how others have anticipated these threats.

"An organizational analysis may be necessary to identify all of the key stakeholders," Mitchell notes. "Consider not only availability but capability of an individual to perform emergency duties."

Each player should know what their specific responsibilities are under an active shooter threat. Training may be necessary to fill in any gaps. Once stakeholders have been identified, you can draft a sequence of events.

Now it's time to put that plan into action. Employees may receive emergency information as part of their orientation training, but will they remember it under extreme stress? Precious time is wasted if occupants have to stop and think about what to do. Frequent drills can make recalling instructions an automatic response.

"A natural disaster and an active shooter incident are very similar – you need to get a large number of people to a safe location in a very short amount of time," Grollnek explains. "Common sense tells you the best way to do this is to practice it beforehand."
Schedule periodic drills or fold them into other emergency awareness exercises. "Drills need to be embraced by upper management and incorporated as part of the safety culture," Pizzitola stresses. "If leadership sets a good example, employees will be more likely to take emergency exercises seriously."

Practicing the plan will also give you the opportunity to see how it works in a controlled environment.

"An exercise should reveal areas that don't properly or adequately address the level of emergency response," Mitchell explains. "You need to have earnest, honest feedback. How did it go? What could you have done better? What needs to change moving forward?"

There's no reason to feel helpless against an active shooter. Rely on your building's inherent defenses and plan ahead for a worst case scenario. Your occupants are counting on it.

April 28, 2014

Child Abuse Expert Witnesses & US Statistics

Childhelp.org reports that every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the US involving more than 6 million children (a report may include multiple children). The US has one of the worst records in child maltreatment among industrialized nations. Child abuse expert witnesses are effective advocates for children and may advise regarding child abuse and neglect, psychological mistreatment of a child, child maltreatment, and child sexual abuse.

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children explains:

The child forensic interview is the neutral fact-finding investigative interview conducted in child abuse and other cases in which violence is witnessed. There are several national and state training models that provide information and training on how to conduct these interviews. Professional certification is akin to licensing. Both are based primarily on rigorous psychometric testing and other empirically supported eligibility requirements.

Principal differences are that professional certification is non-governmental and voluntary, whereas licensing is governmental and non-voluntary. Certification, as a method of promoting worker competence and public safety, has strong theoretical and historical legitimacy when properly implemented, for appropriate populations, at the right time in a profession’s developmental history.

The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit national organization focused on meeting the needs of professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. Especially important to APSAC is the dissemination of state-of-the-art practice in all professional disciplines related to child abuse and neglect.

APSAC achieves its mission of supporting professionals who serve children and families affected by child maltreatment and violence through expert training and educational activities, policy leadership and collaboration, and consultation that emphasizes theoretically sound, evidence-based principles.