Omnia Forensis Ingenariae 
"All Things Forensic Engineering"

News and Views for the Forensic Engineer
and Their Legal/Insurance Clients

Richard A. Rice, PE - Editor
Edition III - October 2016
Editor's Thoughts
autumn-orange-tree.jpg
Welcome to Fall!!! 
 
In addition to the Forensic Engineers who subscribe to OFI, I hope the attorneys and adjusters are finding great value in having in one place a "clearinghouse" of information regarding expert witnesses and other timely topics to help with your legal and insurance work.  Thank you for your time.  
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Prior to the "Great Southern Snow Storm of 1993," I would talk with my friends about their work with this forensic engineering firm they worked for.  They would tell me about how they would investigate the causes of machine explosions, building collapses, and vehicle wrecks...really cool stuff.  After the aforementioned snow storm, they needed a civil/structural engineer to investigate the hundreds of residential and commercial structures laid waste by the wind and snow.  A Forensic Engineer was born. 

As is my nature, I want to be the best Forensic Engineer that one can be.  A mentor recommended that I join him as a member of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE).  It is the best career decision I ever made. 

Any engineer can call themselves a Forensic Engineer.  Many do.  It is not hard for an engineer to look at something broken or damaged and figure out what went wrong.  The "rub" comes when that engineer now has to deal with insurance/legal language, legal procedures, and established forensic investigation practices.  And let us not forget that now we have to make sure our work will withstand the inevitable Daubert challenge.  

If hiring a vetted Forensic Engineer with proven litigation experience and knowledge is important for your claim or case, hire a NAFE member every time.  A NAFE member is a Board Certified Diplomate Forensic Engineer.  Board certification in Forensic Engineering can only be provided by NAFE.  We write peer reviewed and academic papers.  We review our colleagues work.  And most importantly, we keep up to date with forensic practices and Daubert activity.

The next time you need a Forensic Engineer, ask this ONE  question: "Are you a member of NAFE?"  With one response you will know for certain if this person has ample and proven litigation experience or not.  Easy vetting.  Please visit nafe.org

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Attorney Thornton J. Williams of Williams Wilson P.A. published a paper several years ago explaining to other attorneys the importance of Forensic Engineers and what specialized expertise they provide.  He mentions NAFE.  Click Here .

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The first article cited in the "In The News" section talks about new policy language from Lloyd's of London regarding public adjusters.  New policy holders must now sign AWAY their right to use a public adjuster if there is a claim.  WOW!!! 

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Speaking of public adjusters...I have dealt with a few.  Some of those few were good people to work with.  However, there were some real doozies.  One public adjuster tried to convince me after Super Storm Sandy that the 100,000 square foot warehouse was flooded in one day with five feet of water when a 1/2 inch water line broke.  Now that was comedy.  Recently, a public adjuster I worked with was also a licensed professional engineer (PE).  I will explain this potential problem in the "Did You Know" section. 

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Again, thank you.  If you have suggestions for OFI, please email me any time. 

Sincerely,

Richard A. Rice, PE
In the News...

Lloyd's of London Removing Rights of New Policy Holders to Use Public Adjusters
That there is an animosity towards public adjusters by some insurance company personnel is a well known fact.  But, to deny new policy holders of the right to use public adjusters is, to say the least, ground breaking.  Only time will tell if this tactic will work.

Oso, WA Mudslide - Expert Witnesses in Trouble for Allegedly Erasing Emails
Forty-three people were killed when a "geological feature" engulfed 49 homes near Oso, Washington .  Survivors and family members have sued the state.  Plaintiff attorneys are now claiming that the team of defense experts hired by the state have made a pact to read and erase all emails sent between them.  Interesting stuff.   Click Here

Umbria Earthquake Highlights Lack of Insurance in Italy
As a percentage of GDP, Italians have the lowest insurance coverage compared to other developed nations.  Click Here

Biomechanical Experts Under Greater Scrutiny
This is a great article for two reasons.  First, the increased use of Biomechanical experts makes them more susceptible to scrutiny. And second, this particular case highlights the need to hire a qualified expert for your case.  From the article we have:
"Experts should ensure that their resumes fully reflect their competency and expertise in their field and be able to bolster the proffered testimony by making their prior studies, reports, presentations, and/or other relevant materials available to the Court."  Click Here

American Judge Discovers Hot Tubbing
Recently, an American judge thought he come up with something new when he had two experts in his courtroom at the same time to answer questions, and respond to the statements made by the other expert.  It turns out this method (hot tubbing) has been around, especially in Europe, for many years.  Click Here.

Florida Rejects "Any Exposure Theory" Regarding Asbestos
Because of Daubert Testing Requirements
Plaintiff experts are being successfully challenged on their theory that any exposure to asbestos is dangerous.  This is Daubert at work.  Click Here.

Plaintiff's Expert Kicked Out Because of Failure to Test Alternatives
A young girl was severely burned while straightening her hair with a straightening product.  The plaintiff's expert opined only one cause of the fire...a defective product.  The defense experts offered several causes of the fire.  The plaintiff's expert did not test to rule out other causes.  He relied on "Ipse Dixit"..."because I said so."  Click Here.

Expert Witness' Resume Found Not Truthful
(You can't make this stuff up.)
The Harris County, Texas' expert witness on DWI cases claimed to have a toxicology degree when, in fact, she had a physiological sciences degree  involving animals.  One of her most notable  published papers involved the rectal temperatures of donkeys.  (The wittiest responses sent to my email will receive a free, signed copy of my book  "...to be made whole again."  Please play responsibly.  Example:  Remember, always "vet" your expert witnesses.)   Click Here.

Guest Writer - John Coyne
John Coyne is a  highly experienced trial attorney with litigation experience covering nine different states. He has tried nearly every category of civil case, including medical malpractice, trucking, product liability, intentional tort, employment, construction and professional liability.  He is a former equity partner at 120 attorney top trial firm. 

Cases he has tried to verdict include those in excess of one million, where there was either no, or a negligible, offer to settle. He currently specializes in wrongful death, catastrophic, & personal injury.  He is licensed in Illinois, New York, Arizona & Ohio.

Let me say that John is a pleasure to work for, and the kind of guy you enjoy having a conversation with.  He loves dogs.  What else is there to say?  
Coffee Talk:  The Potentially Perilous Route of Never and Always
or (if I may)
Another Bear Trap for the Expert to Avoid
Click Here for John's Article.  Thank you.
 
To contact John Coyne:
Law Offices of John C. Coyne
53 West Jackson Blvd.
Suite 1750
Chicago, IL  60604
(312) 583-9500
Did you know...?
Several years ago, the Illinois State Supreme Court ruled that a professional engineering (PE) license is not necessary to testify as a Forensic Engineer in Illinois.  This recent article by an Illinois attorney reaffirms this decision.  Click Here

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(Captain Obvious Alert!!!)   Public Adjusters are paid on contingency.  The larger the claim becomes, the more money they make.  What is not so obvious to most is that the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) is clear that PE's are acting unethically when the PE is being paid on contingency while the PE also  controls the scope of work.  From the NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers we have the following:

III.  Professional Obligations
     6(a).  Engineers shall not request, propose, or accept a commission on a
              contingent basis under circumstances in which their judgement may be
              compromised. 

For the entire NSPE Code of Ethics, Click Here .

So, can a licensed professional engineer also work for a client as a public adjuster?  From my experience, the answer is yes AS LONG AS there is no contingency fee.  It is not ethical for someone to work on contingency when they are  ALSO establishing (i.e. judging) the scope of work.  I recently worked a claim for an insurance company where there was a PE establishing the scope of work and was also acting as a public adjuster for the Insured.  I suspected that he was working on contingency, but I could not prove it so as to make a complaint to the state PE board.  While not common, an Internet search revealed several PE's offering public adjusting services throughout the United States.  Oddly, they were only advertising on Craigslist.  Interesting.

A warning for company insurance adjusters and attorneys:  If the public adjuster hired by the Insured is also a licensed professional engineer, make sure you know the payment agreement between the two parties.  If the public adjuster/PE is working on a contingency basis, there could be a problem with "compromised judgement." 

Expert Referrals
I have the privilege to work with many great forensic experts in the United States, Asia and Europe in the fields of Accident Reconstruction, Electrical Failures, Mechanical Failures just to name a few disciplines. Please allow me to refer to you a court tested expert for your next insurance claim or legal matter.  There is no charge to you.  I do not get a finders fee from anyone.  This is my way of helping you.  Plus, I can help my Forensic Engineering colleagues.  Please email me or call 404.395.7441. 

Note:   No warranties, expressed or implied, are made to the suitability of any expert referred to you.  Do your homework to make sure you have the right expert.  
...about the Editor

Richard A. Rice, PE is President and Forensic Engineer for Mutual Engineering, Inc. - MEI.  Because of 30 years of continuous civil/structural design services, and his early and continued exposure to his friends and families many construction businesses, Mr. Rice is uniquely qualified to provide Civil/Structural Forensic Engineering services to the insurance, legal, and construction industries. Services include building design and construction, roadway design and construction, building inspection and code compliance, building/foundation collapse, construction site incidents, and other property loss subjects.  Mr. Rice is a licensed professional engineer in several states, and a Fellow and Board Certified Diplomate of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE).

Mr. Rice has written a novel and numerous technical articles published in professional journals for NAFE, the National Association of Subrogation Professionals (NASP), and the Georgia Defense Lawyer Association (GDLA).  Please call/email Mr. Rice or visit his company's webpage:

Richard A. Rice, PE - Civil/Structural Engineer
Mutual Engineering, Inc. - MEI
(Office):  770.210.6644
(Mobile):  404.395.7441
Email:   mutual@bellsouth.net 
Website:   MutualEngineering.com
 
Dr. Christine Jesup was a respected and loved obstetrician in the Low Country of South Carolina. Everything was good until tragedy struck. The ambulance carrying Dr. Jesup and her pregnant patient crashed on a defectively constructed road. Attorney Cephas Hampton, along with his forensic engineering expert, fight a corrupt road builder and an incredulous insurance company in an effort to help Dr. Jesup...to be made whole again.

"...to be made whole again"  is available now.   


     Thank you!!!