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Expert Witness Fails to Complete Work, Overcharges and then Sues Plaintiffs’ Counsel

October 20, 2014

Ronald Harstad, a professor at the University of Missouri, was retained as an expert witness to calculate damages in a class action lawsuit. The case revolved around “alleged misrepresentations in the sale and marketing of prepaid calling cards.” The plaintiffs’ counsel (who retained Mr. Harstad) had come to an agreement (via a formal letter) that Mr. Harstad would produce monthly work logs, use students to help at a lower hourly rate, and that he would accept payment for each invoice over time. In April 2008, the plaintiffs’ counsel had supplied him with all the necessary information and Mr. Harstad calculated that the total costs for completing his reports would be $17,000 to $21,000.

Irrespective of his estimations, Mr. Harstad was paid $164,604.79 by September. In addition, he failed to complete invoices for October and November 2008 until December when he billed a total of $160,800 for all unpaid services through the end of that year. In January 2009, the plaintiffs’ counsel rejected that number and Harstad told them that if they did not pay, they were not allowed to use the reports that he completed. The plaintiffs’ counsel decided to hire a new expert witness who was able to complete everything they needed for $22,500.

The plaintiffs’ counsel “filed a declaratory judgment action to establish that they owed no futher amounts to Harstad. Harstad counterclaimed for breach of contract and unjust enrichment and sought $410,000 in damages.” The court rejected Harstad’s claim and decided that no further compensation was necessary. The court explained their decision, noting that Harstad broke the terms of the agreement and he had already received an amount that was far greater than his estimated price. Lastly, the court pointed out that because Harstad chose to void the agreement by refusing to let counsel use his reports, he could not sue for damages based on a breach of contract.

 

Source: The National Law Review

Check out Mark Torchiana’s Interview with Expert Witness Forum

October 8, 2014

Our Co-founder and CEO, Mark Torchiana, recently spoke with Expert Witness Profiler about Courtroom Insight’s innovative knowledge management solution. The interview focused on the history and development of Courtroom Insight. When discussing key benefits and success stories, such as Littler Mendelson, Mark explained how Courtroom Insight differentiates itself from an in-house database.

“Courtroom Insight leverages its public directories of 100,000+ litigation professionals as a starting point. Our customizable templates offer firms an opportunity to begin capturing valuable firm-wide information immediately. We also add significant value by providing additional fully integrated content not available elsewhere. Publicly posted performance reviews, expert witness challenge data and inexpensive custom expert witness research are all available directly from Courtroom Insight. Our value proposition stems from this combination of a ready-made software platform with unique, integrated content.”

Click here to read the full interview.

Out of Nearly 6,000 Expert Witnesses to testify in the House, Only 23% were Women

September 29, 2014

A Sunlight analysis of the 113th Congress reveals that “when it comes to testifying before the House, men get a lot more to say than women”. As of September 1, there have been 5,575 witnesses identified to have appeared before House committees and only 23% of those experts have been women. Although women make up a little more than half the U.S. population they are underrepresented in Congress.

There are some committees where women are better represented than others. The House Committee on Agriculture heard from the fewest number of women at 13%, while the Committee on Education and the Workforce heard from the most women (“40 percent of the panel’s witnesses were female”).

Click on the graph for the breakdown of House witnesses by committee and gender.

Picture Source: Sunlight Foundation

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Living Abled and Healthy by Dr. Christopher Brigham and Henry Bennett is Now Available

September 9, 2014

Living abled and healthy

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am pleased to announce the publication of Living Abled and Health: Your Guide to Injury and Illness Recovery.  As one of the leading national experts on health and disability, Dr. Brigham relies upon his extensive training and experience to prepare a useful guide to change our perspectives about disability and to help patients learn to overcome health related obstacles.  This book, unlike others, touches on all aspects of disability and the hurdles (medical, legal, and financial) that come along with it. This book is full of useful tips, resources and tools to get anyone from disabled to abled.

Importantly, Living Abled and Healthy is not only for patients.  The book is also a tremendous resource for the many individuals impacted by disability issues, including attorneys, claims professionals, health care providers and employers.  The Honorable David B. Torrey calls it a “Must read for everyone involved in worker’s compensation, including patients and lawyers.”

 

For more information, visit the official publication website.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

States are Left Scrambling After Mr. Dershwitz Terminated his Role as an Expert Witness

August 27, 2014

Mark Dershwitz, an anesthesiologist and pharmacologist, has offered his opinions as an expert witness for 22 states and the federal government for more than 10 years. Mr. Dershwitz was called by Ohio to defend their new two-drug lethal injection that led to an execution that lasted 26 minutes (this same drug combination resulted in another execution in Arizona that lasted two hours). However, he recently announced that he is terminating his “role as an expert witness on behalf of Ohio and all other states and the federal government.” He believed Ohio had “jeopardized his standing with the American Board of Anesthesiology in a news release it issued about the January 16 execution of Dennis McGuire.” The news release stated that the death was humane and it had “discussed the events and observations of the McGuire execution with its expert witness, Dr. Mark Dershwitz”. Anesthesiologists are not allowed to take part in the creation of any lethal injections and Mark Dershwitz maintains that there was no discussion about Dennis McGuire’s execution, he was simply informed of what happened. Mr. Dershwitz decided to terminate his role as expert witness because he is afraid that the mistakes that happened in Ohio could happen again and that’s a risk he is not willing to take. Although Ohio has supported Dershwitz’s story, he says it’s too late. He did, however, stand behind his testimony last year in which he said that he didn’t believe that McGuire suffered.

Dershwitz withdrew himself as an expert witness in cases challenging two death-row inmates in Montana in June. The cases have been postponed until next year because the state does not have another expert witness to replace him. “The US states that have the death penalty have been scrambling since a 2011 European-led ban stopped the import of drugs most commonly used to carry out executions.”

 

Sources: The Guardian and TribTown

Expert Witness Consulting Industry Projected to Grow in the Next Five Years

July 29, 2014

According to IBISWorld, the Expert Witness Consulting industry has shown a strong recovery from the recession with a 6.8% annual growth from 2009 to 2014, amounting to an annual revenue of $390 million. Although the industry was growing prior to the recession, the decline in “per capita disposable income and corporate profit caused businesses and customers to have fewer funds available for expert witness consulting services; consequently, the industry’s growth slowed in 2009.” However, this growth shows signs of improvement; companies are recovering and therefore future growth in this industry is strong due to increasing demand from law firms and government organizations.

This industry does face growing competition, not only against each other (“on basis of price, quality of service, expertise, communications skills and reputation”) but also against external competition. Law firms have their own in-house legal teams with attorneys and expert witnesses, consulting firms and accounting firms that provide similar skills. Nevertheless, IBISWorld projects that the next five years will result in revenue increase. “Expert witness consultants will benefit largely from strengthened demand from law firms, higher corporate profit, a larger number of civil cases and great per capita disposable income”.

 

Source: IBISWorld

WhatsApp’s Admissibility in Court may not be Reliable

July 17, 2014

A growing number of cases around the world have used WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app, as evidence in court. In 2011, a Canary Islands court “ratified a sentence for libel based in part on a WhatsApp conversation”. In 2013, four girls in Spain had to pay hundreds of euros for threatening another girl who joined their chat on WhatsApp. That same year, a man was given a near-2 year jail sentence for sending thousands of WhatsApp messages to his ex-partner. In February of this year, “the Supreme Court accepted as evidence in a drugs-smuggling case WhatsApp conversations between the accused.” While that seems harmless, two programmers, Jaime Sanchez and Pablo San Emeterio, who specialize in cybersecurity have hacked WhatsApp. They are able to create a fake number and send messages to any mobile phone. They can also change the sender of the message before it reaches the intended recipient. Jaime and Pablo have also figured out how to eavesdrop on conversations. Sanchez says that they “earn a living by looking for weaknesses that might be used by criminals against the security of private individuals or businesses.” They have been working with WhatsApp for a few years and the company has patched up several of these issues with “varying degrees of success”. However, they have not found a way to fix the latest threat, “modifying the name of the sender of a message”. San Emertio says this could impact all sorts of situations, from daily messaging to issues related with divorce or blackmail.

“Lawyers, expert witnesses and cybersecurity specialists all agree that messaging services need to accept their responsibility in all this.” It can’t be long before others find a way to replicate this hack. Our legal system must not be too quick to accept newer technology because we don’t yet know all of its weaknesses.

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