Product Defects: Analysis of product defects (and related product liability) often requires a forensic engineer to evaluate the performance of control system components. The forensic principles are the same if the technology involves a simple electromechanical relay, an electronic controller, or a complex PLC/DCS system. The details of the design, manufacture, installation, and maintenance can all affect the ultimate judgment of liability for a product defect. A forensic engineer with diverse real-world experience is therefore often more appropriate to assist the court than a specialist in only one area of product application.
Arthur Zatarain has performed testing, analysis, reporting, and testimony on a wide variety of commercial and industrial accident incidents. Click the links below to view sample forensic engagements:
Shock and electrocution
Subsea Blowout Preventer
Linear air pump
Ground fault detection
Variable speed drive
Safety PLC System
Personal alarm service
Pipeline leak detection
Two hand press control
Overhead bridge crane
Turbine speed control
Failsafe valve positioner
Product liability is a legal arena that often requires forensic engineering to resolve questions of negligence, strict liability, comparative fault, and safer alternative designs. The legal process requires a clear understanding of how relevant codes and standards apply to the product (or service) in question. Often, a reasonable standard of care must also be applied based on the usual experience and customs of a particular industry. This often occurs in matters of systems integration where a product can be used in a wide range of diverse applications spanning multiple industries and operating environments.
Although a product may in itself be subject to strict liability, forensic engineering can evaluate how subsequent alteration contributed to a safety or performance issue. The appropriate product defect must be identified and analyzed in regard to the cause of an accident or performance problem. The commercial aspects of how the product was manufactured, distributed, installed, and maintained can also contribute to questions of product liability. Further aspects include evaluation of sophisticated users, safety warnings, and supporting documentation that all contribute to questions of product liability.
One aspect of product liability is determnation of root causes that contributed to an accident or hazardous situation. The root cause analysis can identify the preventable causes of an accident. The root cause is analyzed within the context of the accident as well as that of the operating environment in which it occured.
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