Tag: expert witness

Crisis ManagementExpert WitnessSchool Security

School Violence, Safety and Security – Expert Witness Perspectives

There is no easy way to begin a discussion on school violence, safety and security. As such, I will just delve right in. I have no desire to get into the political fray with regards to gun control or mental health awareness. Further, I do not have a cadre of expert witness writings to choose from on related topics. The result is a blog post where I’ve gained a slightly better understanding of the safety and security issues facing administrators at educational institutions throughout the United States.

Let me start with a little background. When I was a child, my hometown of Stockton, California, was thrust into the national spotlight after a horrendous school shooting commonly referred to as the Cleveland School massacre. This was one of the first mass school shootings to occur in the nation. The perpetrator, Patrick Purdy, took aim at the Cleveland Elementary School playground where he fired over 100 rounds of ammunition, killed five children, and wounded 30 other students and a teacher. Purdy then turned the gun on himself.

Fast forward to the mid and late 90’s, I remember lockdown drills during my high school years. At that time, I seem to recall they were generally related to someone threatening to do harm to students or faculty. During high school, I can recall only one or two instances where we had to actually lockdown the school for any period of time. No incident stands out as particularly frightening or noteworthy. I cannot recall an incident where I ever felt in danger, other than occasional gang-related disputes. Those disputes were generally directed at rival gangs.

If we jump ahead another twenty or so years, we are now dealing with regular incidents of school violence. Not just gun violence, but physical altercations, bullying, stabbings, hostile parents, angry teachers, current students, former students, and more.

With all this in mind, I decided to start reading some articles, by experts and available on Experts.com, to see what might be done to improve the safety and security of school facilities. The following is what I found:

Safety & Security

In reading several articles by member Dr. Edward Dragan, I found that he often restates some similar comments about school liability. It is summed up as such, “Schools, after-school programs, summer camps, Sunday schools, daycares and other agencies that supervise children are responsible for student safety of children in their care.” With this in mind, schools need to have policies, procedures and protocols for protecting the children in their care.

After reading several articles, it does appear difficult for schools and school districts to avoid liability when children are injured due to violence. The schools are put in a difficult position of protecting children while simultaneously trying to avoid liability. In my research, it seems that schools are often found liable even when it appears they did everything in their power to prevent injury. So, what are some of the things they should respond to in order to protect children and also attempt to avoid liability?

Responding to Terroristic Threats

As Dr. Dragan points out in an article on terroristic threats, “The standard of professional care and legal standards for determining what constitutes a credible threat are contradictory and confusing. Until the U.S. Supreme Court defines a common standard, various contradictory lower court opinions will persist.” He goes on to use Pennsylvania law defining a terrorist threat as a “threat to commit violence with the intent to terrorize another person, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience…”

I’m immediately reminded of students discussing calling in a bomb-threat in order to get out of an exam. I don’t know of anyone who ever used the method, though I recall students liking to joke about it in high school and college. In our current environment, it is far less humorous.

Dr. Dragan uses the School District of Philadelphia as a good example of how students and administrators should respond to terrorist threats.

  • Staff members and students shall be made aware of their responsibility for informing the building principal about any knowledge relevant to a possible or actual terroristic threat.
  • The building principal shall immediately call 911 and follow the district’s crisis plan after receiving a report of such a threat.
  • The principal shall react promptly to this information and knowledge, in compliance with state laws, regulations, and procedures established with local law enforcement.

It should go without saying that depriving or disrupting a child’s education in order to protect the student is most definitely worthwhile.

Lockout & Lockdown Drills

Until reading this article by member James Francis, I did not realize there were distinct drills. In my own experience, we only ever practiced a lockdown drill. It turns out there is more than one drill and the terminology may be a little confusing.

According to Mr. Francis, “Lockout recovers all students from outside the building, secures the building perimeter and locks all outside doors. This would be implemented when there is a threat or hazard outside of the building.” The lockdown protocol is different. It requires “locking the classroom door, turning off the lights and placing students out of sight of any corridor windows. Student action during Lockdown is to remain quiet. It does not mandate locking outside doors.”

I had to summarize the difference as such:

  • Lockout = locking perimeter doors.
  • Lockdown = locking classroom doors and remaining out of sight.

You could see where one is used for an external threat or hazard and the other is when the threat has entered the school grounds. Mr. Francis explains lockout is not just necessary for a school shooting situation, but imagine a dangerous dog is loose. On a rare occasion we get mountain lions in our area and a lockout might be appropriate where the school is contained in a main building or a couple buildings. At my elementary and high schools, where the buildings were spread out, we would have been required to lockdown in the event of a mountain lion. To be fair, there is less of a “jumping the fence” hazard with most dogs.

Mr. Francis further explains there have been confusion of the lockout v. lockdown terms. Schools and first responders have reacted inappropriately by conducting lockdown drills when a lockout would have been the appropriate response to a neighborhood or community threat.

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but think maybe a change in terminology is more appropriate so administrators, police, and other first responders are on the same page. “Close-out” might be an appropriate replacement for “lockout.”

Emergency Planning

From what I’ve been reading, emergency planning and response are massively complex topics. Even for me to write about it briefly, I’ve had to undertake some pretty serious research.

Our member Bo Mitchell has written extensively on both topics. His experience with companies and campuses is that they need to have an emergency plan for “all-hazards.” It cannot be an active-shooter plan only. As he states in this blog post, “Your plan has to be all hazards. Not just fire, but severe weather, active shooter, roof collapse, assault in your parking lot—any and all foreseeable circumstances—as the lawyers say.” All-hazards planning requires employers (including schools) be prepared for all man-made and nature made crises.

This seems extreme, does it not? How can a school or school district be prepared for all crises? In my mind, it is impossible to be prepared for all crises. One-hundred percent safety and security is unattainable. That should not prevent schools from taking all necessary steps to implement an emergency plan when a crisis occurs. Preparation and anticipation of all contingencies may limit damage or injury sustained during a crisis.

According to this pundit, it is foreseeable that a troubled student would pull the fire alarm, evacuate a school, and shoot at students and teachers during the “fire evacuation” process. This appears to be what happened in Parkland, Florida two weeks ago. After reading post by Bo Mitchell, it appears educational facilities will need to be prepared for this contingency and be able to respond.

For some detailed information on emergency planning, I recommend viewing Bo Mitchell’s 10 Commandments of Workplace Emergency Training.

Emergency Response

Assuming you have done your job in preparation and planning for all potential emergencies, what is your response when a crisis presents itself? As active shooter situations are top of mind, we will continue using this example. On his website, Mr. Mitchell indicates, “No court or government agency will find you—as an employer—at fault for failing to stop crazy. What every court and government agency does expect is that every employer know how to respond to crazy.”

He further explains that the negligence issues employers and schools face after active shooter situation is failure to plan and failure to train. If you have not properly planned and trained for the crisis, you cannot respond appropriately. As Mr. Mitchel points out, “police, fire, and EMT’s are official responders. Your employees are the first responders.” In an educational setting, that makes students first responders as well.

Therefore, schools need to create their all-hazards plans and then train students, faculty, and other staff on implementing the plan in order to mitigate risk and loss of life. Bo Mitchell describes just some of the issues you will face when training to implement an Active Shooter Protocol. I’m certain after you read this list, you will understand why training is so vital:

  • Which of your employees is in command?
  • Where is your emergency team of employees deployed to help control your response?
  • What communications do you provide to talk to your people?
  • Can you account for all your employees and visitors?
  • Where are all your people?
  • Your Lockdown procedures
  • Your Lockout procedures
  • Control of power to your facility for shutoff
  • Site map: detailed
  • Floor maps for all floors for all buildings: detailed
  • Perimeter control
  • Identifying friend from foe among your people
  • Procedures for rapid exit of your people when ordered
  • Reuniting procedures/facility after incident
  • Access to MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets)
  • Crisis Communications Plan
  • Crisis Media Plan
  • Training
  • Drills
  • Exercises

If a school has not trained according to their plan, how will they be able to carry out their emergency response? My young staff member, Bobby Burns, has indicated to me that his high school only conducted one “lockdown” drill during his 4 year tenure. After writing this blog post, I have to assume that is insufficient training for students and faculty to put an emergency plan into action.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design

Have you ever heard of this before? I had not until I started working for Experts.com. I had no idea there was an entire area of architecture dedicated to developing safer buildings. In one article, our Member, Dr. Randall Atlas, explains, “The basic crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) premise is that through the effective use and design and management of the built environment, there can be a reduction in the opportunity and fear of crime, and result in the improvement in the quality of life. If we can build effective spaces using CPTED in the next generation of schools, we will substantially reduce the opportunity and fear of crime in them.”

Schools should be accessible to students, faculty, and other employees, while also being safe and secure environments in which students can learn. Dr. Atlas has written several articles on CPTED and there is a plethora of additional information on the Internet.

CPTED takes a wide variety of characteristics into account, including: site or campus design; building design (interior and exterior); visibility from classrooms; surveillance systems and other equipment; vehicular and pedestrian observation (line of sight); landscaping; walkways (interior and exterior circulation paths); signage; handicap accessibility; and much more.

A properly built CPTED school should make a school or university a safer learning environment. This does not mean creating a prison atmosphere. It simply requires a design that minimizes and impedes security threats while being accessible to students and faculty. CPTED combines safety, security, and design to make a hospitable educational facility.

Conclusion:

This post only includes a handful of issues related to school safety and security. I have not yet touched on emergency communication systems and training with police, fire, and EMTs. Nor did I cover issues of “Run, Hide and Fight” protocol for dealing with active shooter situations.

This is meant to be a summary of school safety and security matters based on publications from our expert witnesses. What I have discovered is that making schools safe is a major undertaking and nothing I have read demonstrates 100% safety is achievable.

Nevertheless, we should continue to learn and work to make our schools an inviting and safe environment for future generations.

Expert WitnessLitigationPublic Transportation

Potential litigation after Carnival cruise descends into chaos as travelers and security brawl

Imagine a lovely 10-day cruise through the South Pacific. You and your family have boarded the Carnival Legend, sat through the mandatory lifeboat drill, found your cabin, and prepared to enjoy a week-and-a-half on the open ocean. Eating, drinking, dancing, and having a grand old-time.

Let’s take it a little further. Imagine a family of twenty-three (23) individuals has joined you on your voyage. They are probably on the ship for the same reasons you are: rest and relaxation. Alas, that was not the case!

Over the last weekend, news broke that a violent brawl had occurred on the Carnival Legend on or around February 15, 2018. This brawl appears to have been the culmination of many days of unrest on the cruise ship. The Washington Post reports, “A Carnival cruise devolved into near-anarchy during its 10 days in the South Pacific, with some passengers locking themselves inside their cabins, others kicked off the ship and security guards brawling with vacationers in a bare-knuckles melee.”

After cell phone footage surfaced of the fight, Carnival has stated they would investigate the event in full. However, they are already blaming a large family for instigating unrest. Some passengers have claimed the violence and disobedience had escalated for days before security had intervened. When security did intervene, as evidenced by the cell phone footage, they appear to battle it out with the passengers. Punching and kicking passengers into submission and working to stop other passengers from filming the quarrel.

Will a lawsuit arise from the brawl?

In my experience, lawsuits arise from just about every kind of event. So, I expect to hear about some possible legal action related to a fight between vacationers and security, which resulted in worldwide news coverage. Call it an educated guess that legal action may take place after this incident.

For what reason might someone bring legal action? In this case, there are a wide variety of issues. Let’s concentrate on security participating in the brawl. My assumption is someone will sue on the issues of negligence and premises liability. There appear to be plenty of options for a negligence cause of action (negligent security, negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, and more).

Brawl at the Nightclub

On dozens of occasions we have located expert witnesses after a fight erupted at a bar or nightclub. These are very common lawsuits. A patron is harmed in a scuffle and later brings suit against the bar/restaurant/nightclub operator. Oftentimes, these establishments employ separate security guard contractors and a suit is brought against that company as well. Since there is cell phone footage of the brawl, I expect Carnival to face litigation surrounding the fight. Visual evidence is more compelling than witness statements as long as the video can be authenticated.

Furthermore, it appears the Carnival employees, including security, are unprepared to detain unruly passengers. Their attempts to control the fight leads to a violent struggle between passengers, staff and security. I am quite certain the use of punches and kicks to bring a passenger into submission will be considered an unnecessary use of force.

In the video, I do not see an effort by Carnival staff and security to detain and secure the disruptive passengers. Quite the contrary, they appear to engage them in fisticuffs. Such behavior by crew members is likely to fall below the standard of care for cruise ship personnel and security.

In fact, Carnival’s own Safety and Security statement on their website claims, in pertinent part:

  • All Carnival officers and crew undergo comprehensive regular safety and emergency training that meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements.
  • Our crew members undergo specific training to handle emergency situations and help our guests. Crew roles, responsibilities and duties are clearly defined and assigned to handle any emergency on board.

Looking at the above statement in conjunction with the available video, and this pundit believes the crew members are likely to require extensive training on handling ill-tempered passengers. Punching and kicking the passengers, even if well-deserved per other passenger statements, probably does not meet Carnival’s safety and security standards.

Family Evacuated in Australia

It seems the disorderly family of 23 was escorted off the ship Australia. Police boarded the ship to remove the large family. According to the Washington Post, nobody was immediately charged with a crime.

Am I alone in hoping the family is not identified as United States citizens?

LawyersLitigationSocial Media

LegalTech and Access to Justice: Panel at The ABA GPSolo/GLSA Spring Meeting

As 2017 comes to an end, I am looking at what we accomplished this year and what is on our “to do a list” for 2018. There is one item I’m very excited about. I’ll be moderating a panel at the ABA-GPSolo/GLSA 2018 Joint Spring Meeting (April 25-28, 2018) in New Orleans. This is the GLSA’s (Group Legal Services Association) annual educational conference.

Legal Technology:

The panel is covering the topics of legal technology (legaltech) and access to justice. Many may wonder why I’m excited about this. If you are not in the legal or legaltech business, I understand the topic may seem dry. I’ve been working in legaltech for nearly 8 years at Experts.com and one of my hobbies includes vlogging about legal technology. I am deeply passionate about the impact of technology on the practice of law and delivery of legal services. In essence, I get to host a panel on a topic that fascinates me.

There are a lot of exciting advancements taking place in legaltech. You may have heard about topics such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and chatbots. These subjects have been dominating legal news for the last couple of years. The innovations are very cool, at least to an admitted nerd like myself. However, our panel will not be taking a deep dive into these legaltech topics. A friend and colleague, Tom Martin of LawDroid will be at the conference and he’ll be discussing running his practice virtually while vacationing in Europe. I highly recommend chatting with Tom about chatbots and how they can help to run a lean, efficient practice as well as improve access to justice.

Access to Justice:

As much as I’d like to have a more involved discussion about the cutting edge technologies impacting the practice of law, there are less sophisticated, readily accessible technologies that can be employed by lawyers and law firms to improve access to justice. In fact, many of these technologies are already employed by legal practitioners. I’ll be hosting the panel with four actively practicing lawyers, with varying levels of technical aptitude, who are actively improving consumer access to justice.

To learn more about the magnitude of the access to justice problem, I encourage you to visit the US Department of Justice, Office for Access to Justice and this page from the United Nations and the Rule of Law.

Here is a brief breakdown of the items identified by our panel for discussion to improve access to justice within the United States:

  • Cost of legal services
  • Consumer awareness of pro-bono services
  • Time restraints for lawyers
  • Technologies used to improve access to justice

As mentioned above, you and your firm already have access to many of the technologies we’ll be discussing. It is just a matter of how the technology is used to improve consumer access to legal services.

Here are a few of the technologies we will cover:

  • Open source and cloud-based services
  • Mobile technology
  • Social media
  • Prepaid legal services

If you are a solo-practitioner looking to improve client access to justice, what would you want to learn about in this presentation?

To my friends and colleagues in the legaltech space, what other legacy technologies should be covered?

Expert WitnessLivestreamingMarketingSocial Media

Social Media Marketing World 2016 – Lessons Learned for Expert Witnesses

SMMW16Held at the San Diego, California Convention Center on April 17, 18 and 19, 2016, the Social Media Marketing World 2016 (SMMW16) was well-received with over 3,000 participants from around the world. Networking was the name of the game, with recognized brands from Airbus, Allergan, and Amazon to Verizon, Walmart, and World Vision. Platform representatives from Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many others were front and center imparting valuable social media marketing tactics.

There were a couple of major takeaways from this year’s event. Several things you need to know in order to better promote your expert witness services:

  • You Need To Be On Social Media:

If you are not yet active on social media you are losing precious brand awareness, engagement, and community building opportunities. At a time when consumers and clients are more informed than ever before, you need to have a social presence so your customers can “know, like, and trust you.” Attorneys cannot get to know the real, authentic version of you if you are absent from these platforms.

It is not necessary to be present on every available social media platform. Having a strategy is important. If you are looking to target attorneys, it is important to know how to find them and how to get their attention. We have services to assist you in building your presence on the correct social platforms.The priority is building relationships within your community. If you are regularly creating content and posting it to social media platforms without a community, you may find your content is not being read, watched, shared, or cared about. If you build those relationships and others care about you individually, they will share your content. It was great to see several of those in our live-streaming community in attendance at the #SMMW16, including:

  • Build An Online Community

A community on social media is not terribly different than an offline community. There are leaders, managers, and community members. Usually there is an interconnecting of these individuals for some shared purpose (or shared interest). For example, Experts.com is active in the live video / live-streaming community. There are many active Members in this community and the one thing we all have in common is we participate in creating live video. Although our businesses may be different, we still support others in the live streaming community by sharing their content.

Mitch-and-Jeff

Mitch Jackson, Esq. and Jeff Weinstein, Esq.

The priority is building relationships within your community. If you are regularly creating content and posting it to social media platforms without a community, you may find your content is not being read, watched, shared, or cared about. If you build those relationships and others care about you individually, they will share your content.

Nick and Jeff Weinstein

Ivan Raiklin, Esq. and Nick Rishwain

It was great to see several of those in our live-streaming community in attendance at the #SMMW16. Just a few with whom we were able to spend significant time include:

  • Live Video is the Future of Marketing

Here are just a few facts that were shared by Mike Stelzner, CEO of the Social Media Examiner (host of the conference).

  • 73% of marketers use video in 2016
  • Only 14% of marketers are using Live Video
  • In May of 2015, there were 2 billion videos viewed daily
  • In February of 2016, there were 8 billion videos viewed daily

The following platforms have bet big on live video (a.k.a. live streaming, social video): Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Blab. Each of these companies has a major live-stream component or is entirely live video as a product/tool. Facebook now gives priority to video content in its news feed. Other content will fall below live video in your news feed.

Live video allows you to increase the” know, like, and trust” factor better than anything else, according to social selling strategist, Kim Garst.

Our friend, Mitch Jackson, Esq., has said he wants to “see and hear the expert” before hiring him or her as an expert witness. Seeing and hearing an expert witness provides endless value to attorneys as they get an idea of how you sound and perform. Live video allows you to do this authentically.

As live video is the future of marketing, we highly recommend getting comfortable with live streaming sooner rather than later. Join Us to become a pioneer in the live video community. Improve your visibility, professionalism, and authenticity with live video marketing. If you do not know how to begin, reach out to us at info@experts.com.

Nick Rishwain, JD.
Vice President of Client Relations, Experts.com.

Expert WitnessExpert Witness TestimonyForensic DNA

Suzanna Ryan – Forensic DNA Expert Interview

In this one hour interview offered by Experts.com and moderated by Nick Rishwain, Forensic DNA Expert, Suzanna Ryan, expounds upon her experience and expertise.  Through targeted questions and answers, viewers get a better understanding of what services a Forensic DNA Expert Witness can offer to attorneys. Ms. Ryan also explains the circumstances under which she is retained as a consultant, unrelated to litigation.

Suzanna Ryan, MS, D-ABC, is a former forensic DNA analyst and forensic DNA Technical leader with 15 years of experience in the field of Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis. She has had the opportunity to work for both public and private DNA laboratories and has testified numerous time for both the prosecution and the defense.

Ms. Ryan has been accepted as an expert witness in forensic serology and DNA analysis over 60 times in her career in state superior courts, state supreme court, federal court, and military court, and has been deposed as an expert witness in both criminal and civil trials over 20 times.

View Suzanna Ryan’s Profiles on Experts.com

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Expert Witnesses Embrace Digital Media Platforms – Interview with Attorney Mitch Jackson

On October 14, 2015, Experts.com interviewed Expert Witness and 2013 California Lawyer of the Year, Mitch Jackson, on the benefits of Expert Witnesses embracing digital media to promote their services. To watch the interview, click the link below.

Mitch Jackson was admitted to the California Bar in 1986 and immediately opened up his own practice representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death. In 2009, Mr. Jackson was named Orange County “Trial Lawyer of the Year,” by the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association. In 2013, he received the California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year (CLAY) Award for litigation. According to California Lawyer Magazine, the CLAY Award recognizes attorneys who have changed the law, substantially influenced public policy or the profession, or achieved a remarkable victory for a client or for the public and have made a profound impact on the law. Mr. Jackson is also an expert witness in legal malpractice matters.

Mr. Jackson is an active social media influencer with a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Blab, Instagram, among others. In addition to his legal practice, Mitch Jackson maintains several websites promoting: livestreaming, communication, Rotary service, and, most importantly, “Being Human.” To learn more about Mitch Jackson, his practice, and his social influence, visit the following sites:

http://jacksonandwilson.com/
http://streaminglawyer.com
http://human.social/

Experts.com was established to allow professionals a platform to showcase their areas of Expertise. Since 1994, we have been providing millions of users worldwide with access to specialized knowledge. We believe our members should have control over monetizing their specialized knowledge and expertise. In this day in age of high technology, there is no need for a broker or middle man to mark up fees or market your expertise. Put your best foot forward with Experts.com.

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Expert Witness Credibility Can Make or Break a Case

In the forefront of legal news today is the Glossip v. Gross death penalty challenge / lethal injection case before the Supreme Court. Set for oral argument today, the Justices must determine if Oklahoma’s use of the common surgical sedative midazolam fails to make prisoners unconscious during lethal injections, violating the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

According to ProPublica, the case took a turn when Oklahoma’s pivotal witness, Dr. Roswell Lee Evans, testified in trial that inmates “would not sense the pain” of an execution after receiving a high dose of midazolam. That, in and of itself, is not enough to turn heads but legal and medical professionals took note when Dr. Evans, a board certified psychiatric pharmacist and the dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University in Alabama, testified that he has never used midazolam on a patient, nor has he ever personally induced anesthesia.

To make matters worse, 150 pages of his 300 page expert report were printouts from the consumer website Drugs.com, whose disclaimer reads, “not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.” Furthermore, pundits were grumbling at the fact that Dr. Evans had not published a paper related to his pharmacology research since 1996.

Last month, a brief was filed by 16 independent professors of pharmacology disputing Dr. Evans’ claim. The professors, according to Probublica, contended that, “It is widely recognized in the scientific and medical community that midazolam alone cannot be used to maintain adequate anesthesia…”

Caution SignCaution all Expert Witnesses! Credibility is Everything.

Once general competency is satisfied, an Expert Witness’ knowledge of the subject matter affects the weight and credibility of his testimony. Since a general rule of evidence is that a witness may only testify to what they have personally observed or encountered through their five senses, this “Sunday Pundit” is concerned for the good doctor. His lack of experience with the midazolam, his unreliable sources, and his lack of peer support do not bode well for him or the state of Oklahoma.

Ponder the The Daubert standard  for evaluating the reliability and relevance for “good science” and make your own judgment:
1) whether the scientific theory can be (and has been) tested;
2) whether the scientific theory has been subjected to peer review and publication;
3) the known or potential rate of error of the scientific technique; and
4) whether the theory has received “general acceptance” in the scientific community.

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