John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis: One evening at closing time, an employee at a self-storage facility opened an electric gate to allow a car to drive out of the facility. As the driver was leaving, he stopped his car in the path of the gate to talk to an employee and a customer. The customer was standing next to the stopped car, adjacent to the gate. Suddenly, the gate began to close and pinned the customer between the gate and the car. The driver moved forward to prevent the gate from hitting his car, but this caused the pinned customer to be twisted between the car and gate, resulting in additional injury.
Expert Analysis: By the time an engineer was retained to investigate the cause of the incident, the storage facility had replaced the gate operator and disposed of the system in use at the time of the incident. Based on the materials provided, the following was determined:
R. Scott King, BSME, Principle Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
Vehicle repair industry standards exist primarily to promote the safety of the women and men that service passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, as well as that of the motoring public in general. Sometimes, however, these standards can protect the misfortunate few, who by improbable circumstances, are exposed to risks that often accompany a seemingly benign vehicle repair procedure.
Consider for example the case of a commercial truck owner who had taken his truck to a local repair shop to diagnose a complaint of loose steering. With his shop filled with other vehicles, the mechanic elected to perform the inspection outside his building in an area not subject to customer proximity restrictions. While the mechanic was replacing the worn steering component, the curious truck owner was standing behind the kneeling mechanic to observe the process.
Robert S. Kinder, Jr., MS, Mechanical Engineer ::::
In the current digital era, privacy is becoming more of a concern especially since the advent of smartphones. Cell phone capabilities are increasing and so is the availability of recoverable data. When a cell phone is used to make calls or send text messages, it must communicate with nearby cell towers. As the data transmits, a trail of breadcrumbs is left behind potentially providing a means of determining location during the time a call or text was initiated. On June 22, 2018 the Supreme Court said that the government generally needs a warrant to obtain cell phone location data. What if your car has the ability to record location and cell phone data?
R. Scott King, BSME, Senior Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer known to be caused by asbestos. A once common component in automotive brake pads and shoes, as well as clutch discs and gasket materials, asbestos has since become strongly correlated with cases of mesothelioma in auto mechanics.
In a recent case, a retired auto mechanic pursued a product liability case alleging his mesothelioma was caused by exposure to defendant’s brake components he had been servicing his entire career. Proceeding on a failure-to-warn theory, plaintiff retained a warnings expert who provided opinions that the defendant’s product lacked appropriate warnings. However, because this warnings expert had no automotive background, he was unable to render opinions as to whether the warnings he proposed could have been applied to the target components without affecting their form, fit, and function. In response, plaintiff retained an automotive engineer to evaluate the warnings and the products for which they were intended. Citing the fact that brake manufacturers typically mark their brake pads and shoes with part numbers, company logos, production “lot” numbers, and friction formulation information, the engineering review affirmed the fact that information of all kinds, including warnings, can be placed on the components without affecting their form, fit, and function. The expert “team” approach facilitated an early settlement.
John R. Yannaccone, PE, Senior Mechanical Engineer ::::
Case Synopsis: An adolescent residential care facility, and their employees, were named as defendants in a case where a teenage resident was being transported to a medical facility for a non-emergent condition. During the transport, the resident opened the vehicle door, jumped from the moving vehicle, and sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff stated that the residential facility should have transported the resident via ambulance rather than a facility van. They further stated that the second staff member should have been seated adjacent to the resident rather than in the passenger seat, implying this would have prevented the occupant from being able to jump from the vehicle.
Expert Analysis: Numerous failures on the part of the facility and staff were alleged by the plaintiff. Plaintiff’s expert claimed the facility should have identified the patient as a suicide risk and transported them in an ambulance. He further opined the van was an unsuitable means of transport due to the lack of ability to contain/restrain the occupant. The defendant was able to show, through testimony of staff members and psychiatric professionals who were acquainted with the resident, that there were no indications the resident intended to hurt themselves, they just did not want to be in the van.
Robert S. Kinder Jr., BSME, Mechanical Engineer ::::
During an investigation, electronic data is extracted from vehicles to help determine what occurred in the moments leading up to an incident. Crash data is typically obtained from event data recorders (EDRs) showing speed, braking, and driver input that transpired about five seconds before an impact. There are other electronic data sources capable of providing data over larger time spans than the typical five seconds from EDRs. Infotainment/telematic systems are considered one of those sources. The data extracted from these systems are more historical regarding both the actual date and the time span associated. For example, infotainment systems have proven to store GPS track logs, coordinates, and speeds that are over a year old and span for much longer than five seconds.