Case Synopsis: A young boy was engaged in an afternoon of paint ball games. He had recently purchased a new face mask that promised to protect his eyes with its clear, non-fogging, plastic face shield. During the paint ball activities, the young boy’s face mask became foggy with condensed moisture on the inside of the face shield. The boy pulled the face shield off so he could see while the cloudy condensation cleared up; it was at that moment that he was hit in the eye with a paint ball, which resulted in serious injury to his eye. After several operations, the boy eventually regained about twenty percent vision in the injured eye.
Expert Analysis: The face mask was inspected and examined by the expert. The expert also reviewed documents from the manufacturer including its packaging, claims on the labels and the advertising as to the benefits of the mask. The manufacturer claimed that the inside of the mask was treated with a special clear coating that was “non-fogging”, and would allow moisture from breathing to show up as a clear, see-through plastic face shield rather than a foggy, cloudy condensation of moisture. The expert obtained the actual face mask used by the boy, as well as purchased an exemplar mask. The masks were each tested for the development of condensation when subjected to controlled conditions of warm moist air. It was shown that the mask involved in the paint ball accident formed a condensation that was quite cloudy and slow to dissipate, while the exemplar mask formed a clear condensation, which evaporated quickly. The masks were sent out to a forensic coatings analytical laboratory, which was instructed to test for the presence and identification of a clear coating on the interior of the facemask. Using FTIR infrared spectroscopy, it was determined that the mask from the paint ball incident had the correct coating applied, and was identical to the exemplar mask. When the face masks were tested for the film thickness of the interior coatings by use of cross sectional microscopy, it was shown that the coating for the face mask involved in the paint ball incident only had 0.5 ml of the clear coating applied, whereas the exemplar mask had 1.5 ml of the clear coating applied. The specification for the coating called for 1.3-1.6 ml to be applied. The below-specification film thickness of the clear coating was not enough to provide the moisture resistance to the surface of the face mask, and so the face mask became foggy with condensation.
Result: Scientific analysis and a report of findings, along with expert testimony via deposition, demonstrated that the manufacturer had sold a defective product to the plaintiff, and that the defect was the cause of the injury. The case settled prior to going to trial.
For additional information, please contact Dr. Kenneth H. Brown, Chemical Expert with DJS Associates, at: experts@forensicDJS.com.