Microscopical and microchemical analysis is frequently of help in establishing facts in civil litigation. Our experience in civil cases has shown that conclusions based a foundation of supportable facts have a powerful impact on juries and a positive influence in negotiations. Microtrace scientists have been called upon by both plaintiff and defense attorneys to examine and analyze a wide range of materials, both known and unknown. We are proud of the fact that the great majority of our cases arise from referrals.
Some examples of materials we have successfully analyzed and testified to (in depositions or trials) in civil cases include:
Automotive, Watercraft and Snowmobiles
The careful examination of vehicles involved in accidents in order to document, collect, and analyze microscopic trace evidence and stains can provide significant factual information to provide a foundation upon which engineers and accident reconstruction investigators can base their conclusions or can support or refute witness statements. Our analyses have involved the alleged failure of vehicle systems (such as airbags), driver determination, and establishing accident paths based upon the transfer of physical evidence. We have performed this work on behalf of many major U.S. and foreign car and truck makers as well as for personal watercraft, snowmobile, and aircraft accidents. While it is often best to collect such samples as soon as possible, we have been involved in incidents several years old where useful evidence has remained in a vehicle or at a scene.
Commonly, these cases involve the identification and sourcing of foreign materials on or in medical devices and may include surgical sponges, fibers, or other foreign matter. The identification and sourcing of these materials can help to establish liability. In the past we have worked with plaintiffs, defendants, and in some cases, both parties have agreed to use our services in order get to the bottom of the particular issue at hand.
In other projects, we have worked to identify foreign material recovered from within patients including failed surgical implants, foreign matter suspected of leading to death, and foreign matter suspected of being introduced through a fistula.
The identification of foreign substances on shoes and pants from slip-and-fall cases can help to establish facts and bring clarity to disputed events. We have examined purported material from bananas, soot from the “blowing of smokestacks” on a cruise ship, and “popcorn butter” at a movie theater among other residues.
Food and Drugs
We have identified and sourced thousands of foreign materials discovered in food products from sit-down restaurants, fast food stores, take-outs, grocery stores, and others at the request of consumers and their attorneys, as well as on behalf of major food companies around North America. Our work has included demonstrating when condoms and razor blades were introduced to pizza and other products, determining when a mouse entered a soft drink, identifying largely dissolved drug capsules in milk and other products, sourcing of glass in ice cream, among countless others. Our work on the identification of mislabeled drugs was profiled on ABC World News.
Fires and Explosions
Microanalysis of evidence from fires and explosions in our laboratory has provided factual evidence in a number of important civil and criminal cases. Civil cases include the large Grizzly Gulch fire that almost burned down the city of Deadwood, South Dakota in 2002 and the examination of debris from an oil pipeline explosion in Yemen.
We have special expertise in the analysis of papers, coatings, and inks and often provide analytical and technical support for examiners of questioned documents. We also work with printing and paper companies in investigations regarding failure analysis and counterfeiting, as well as with litigation involving documents and other printed materials.
We have developed scientifically provable facts in lawsuits as diverse as the fading of Joe DiMaggio signatures on baseball jerseys to identifying anachronistic inks in the player signatures on a world series baseball allegedly signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and his teammates. Read more.
Our knowledge and ability to analyze trace materials has helped us answer questions regarding the provenance of purported ancient artifacts including a bronze-age sculpture offered for sale in Europe. In this case, the patina on a was shown to contain trapped cotton fibers carrying an optical brightener, which could not exist before ~ 1950. In another example, our analysis of specimens from an allegedly ancient stone sculpture bought at one of the big auction houses proved it was a modern fake. Read more.
Related standardized methods: ASTM E860, E1020