Expertly Speaking

Water Floating Devices

The Water Floatie Fallacy

Floaties, such as water wings, floatation suits, noodles, and inflatable rafts or tubes are not advised for use with children if they cannot swim. Foam and inflatables are typically associated with floating; however, many can deflate, or fall off, leading a child on the surface to sink down. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved life jackets are the recommended approach for children that cannot swim. To read more about how the variations in vests can be life or death, follow the link to the Aquatic Safety Newsletter, written by Tom Griffiths, Ed.D., Aquatic Safety Expert with DJS Associates Inc., reachable by email at or via phone at 215-659-2010.

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U Turn Collision

A U-Turn Dispute: Can it be Resolved with Limited Data?

Justin P. Schorr, Ph.D., Principal Collision / Reconstruction Engineer, President of DJS Associates, Inc.

Heading northbound on a sunny day, a stone mason operating a super duty “work” type truck went to execute a U-turn at a signal-controlled intersection. There were no sight distance limitations and no signs indicating that U-turns were prohibited. He testified that while turning from the left northbound travel lane, he was “rear-ended” by a Toyota passenger vehicle, which was also in the left lane, behind him. Simple rear-end collision… right? [Stealing a line from my father which he stole from Paul Harvey and subsequently beat into the ground] “And now for the rest of the story.”

The dispute is as follows:

While the Toyota operator agreed that she was in the left lane and that the truck was making a U-turn – her claim was that the truck began its turn from the adjacent lane (immediately to her right) and then turned across the left lane, cutting her off. In addition to no measurements being recorded at the scene and the absence of any witnesses, by the time the case reached litigation neither vehicle was available for inspection. However, several photographs were taken which showed damage to the vehicles and the point of rest position of the truck. Through the use of the vehicle specifications along with the damage photographs, to-scale three-dimensional computer models of each vehicle was created which accurately reflected the damage profiles shown in the photographs.

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Even Duct Tape has its Limitations!

Bryan J. Smith, P.E., Construction Site Safety / Slip, Trip and Fall Consultant

Case Description/Summary: A retail patron attempted to exit the establishment’s front entryway when a piece of raised duct tape on the flooring caught his toe causing him to trip and fall down the exterior steps of the facility. The plaintiff received serious and permanent injuries during this event.

Expert Analysis: A site survey was conducted approximately two years after the incident to gather evidence on behalf of the plaintiff. The building’s entryway threshold was found to have duct tape, similar to that seen in photos taken by the plaintiff at the time of the incident. (see photo below). It was apparent that the establishment’s owner/operator used the duct tape to secure loose rolled vinyl flooring at the door’s threshold position. The owner/operator would remove and reapply duct tape at that location “as-needed” when it became loose and detached. His actions established notice of the condition and the temporary nature of the duct tape “repair.”

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Child Car Seat

Counterfeit Car Seat

John R. Yannaccone, P.E., Senior Mechanical Engineer

What do wallets, purses, jewelry, and child car seats have in common? All are on a list of counterfeit items available for purchase. That’s right – child car seats have recently been added to the list per reports of parents and caregivers. While buying a knock-off Coach bag or Rolex might mean you overpaid for the item, the purchase of a counterfeit car seat can place your child at risk.

As with other products, counterfeit car seats are not manufactured to the same quality and standards of the genuine product. This includes poor fitting and flimsy parts; missing components traditionally found on car seats; hazardous chemicals in the fabric covers, and plastic parts in places where metal components are typically used. While these counterfeit car seats may have a similar appearance to the genuine car seats, it is likely they weren’t tested to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, may perform poorly in a crash and place child occupants at increased risk of injury.

While some of the counterfeit car seats lack the labels used on genuine car seats, it is likely some include similar or identical labels to those used by manufacturers. They may include an actual model number from a car seat manufacturer. So how do you recognize a counterfeit car seat in order to assure the seat you are purchasing / using is safe?

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Operating Table

What Caused an Operating Room Table to Compress?

Robert B. Benowitz, EE, Hospital and Medical Equipment Safety Consultant

Case Summary: A female patient was undergoing gynecological surgery and was fully instrumented. After one portion of the surgery was completed, the surgeon adjusted the operating table downward. The operating room personnel placed items on the base of the operating table against specific instructions located on the table and in the table manual. As the table moved downward, the items on the base penetrated into the table controls area crushing critical wires and causing the table to double up with the patient in it. The patient was seriously injured when she was compressed within the table and the previously placed instruments were jammed within her vagina and uterus.

The expert, working on behalf of the operating table manufacturer, explained in his report, and in a lengthy deposition, how the objects were improperly placed on the base and caused the table to malfunction.

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carton boxes in warehouse

Seasoning Mix Too Explosive?

Kenneth H. Brown, Ph.D., Chemical Consultant

Case Synopsis: LF, a spice and seasonings distributor, receives raw materials from CAP in order to custom blend a seasoning mix according to manufacturing directions from CAP. CAP provides the formulation, and the processing directions, as well as has the raw materials shipped directly to LF. A batch of the seasoning mix produced by LF was left in their warehouse overnight and was found to be smoldering in the morning. The pallet of 100-pound poly-boxes of seasoning blend was moved to just outside the building, whereupon it ignited and engulfed in flames the nearby outside stored drums of other food products, ultimately causing the building itself to catch fire. The entire building and its contents burned to the ground, resulting in a loss exceeding $2 million dollars-worth of product and a total loss of the building.

Expert Analysis: Counsel for LF filed a lawsuit against CAP for selling them hazardous and defective products. An expert witness who specialized in chemical products was retained by the attorney to determine the cause of the fire. The expert examined all the raw materials that went into the seasoning blend, as well as the formulation and directions for processing the seasonings. The raw materials that make up the formulation of the seasoning blend are onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and lime (calcium oxide). The expert found that it is well-known that calcium oxide reacts with water exothermically; that is, the reaction gives off heat. This reaction can produce enough heat to ignite nearby materials. Each of the other raw materials that are in the formulation of the seasoning blend were found to contain between 5%-12% water, as per their Certificate of Analysis.

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