Litigation Support: How Can We Help?

Evidence inspection is a critical branch of our work here at SGS PSI. Jim Rancourt, our Technical Director, has served as an expert witness for many cases, providing hard evidence for the courts in order for the jury to make an informed decision in condemning or absolving a party of the alleged offense.

Sometimes, lawyers choose to use university professors as expert witnesses. This is a sensible choice, given that they are experts in their respective fields with powerful academic resumes. If they only accept cases within their field, they will have the proper education, training, and experience: the three areas required to be considered an expert by the courts. While their university laboratories may be a good option for litigation support, properly credentialed independent testing labs can be better.

What makes an accredited independent testing lab like SGS PSI the better option for litigation support?

  • Robust Quality System

SGS PSI is an FDA-registered, DEA-licensed, cGMP-compliant, and ISO 17025-accredited laboratory. These quality system components provide irrefutable data sets to the testifying expert. Typical university laboratories are not required to have a documented quality system in place. Without a recognized quality system, data can be easily rebutted under the scrutiny of an opposing opinion expert. Having third-party assessment of the conformance of the laboratory to a recognized quality system, such as ISO 10725, is a critical advantage in a court of law because it assures that the data sets were properly acquired and processed.

  • Expert Scientists

SGS PSI is not a university, but that doesn’t mean our scientists are any less qualified. Our team members–degreed experts in their respective fields with decades of relevant experience–provide reliable data sets to testifying experts. While litigation support is not a university lab’s primary function, it is one of ours. Our team members are experienced with chain-of-custody, applicability of the relevant ASTM standards related to the storage and examination of physical evidence, photo-documentation, and proper documentation of data sets: all of which are critical for proper evidence inspections.

  • State-of-the-Art Facilities  

SGS PSI has an extensive array of chemical characterization and physical test equipment on-site, so the entire project can be done at one facility in a single trip. This reduces the cost of evidence inspections that may otherwise require experts to go to several different facilities. Further, we have the ability to implement both standardized test methods and to develop project-specific, relevant, custom test methods on-site. This makes us a critical resource for clients.

Well run industrial laboratories, such as SGS PSI, are accustomed to generating additional related datasets years later, following the original methodology. In a university setting, high turnover and a lack of quality control systems may make it difficult to exactly recreate a specific set of tests. For example, the person who performed some of the work may have left, the procedural details may not have been written down, or the equipment may have been reconfigured for a different research purpose.

  • Third-Party Status

There is tremendous value in datasets having been generated by an  independent accredited third-party laboratory. That type of laboratory will be trusted by the courts to provide truly objective and reliable results.

At universities and colleges, scientists are researching, testing, and improving valuable innovations every day. In a court of law, however, lab results must adhere to a different set of strict standards in order to remain credible in the eyes of the justice system. Although a university lab is expected to produce reliable and reproducible results, without a written quality system that is followed by the scientists generating the data sets, an opposing expert may allege that the data sets are unreliable. An opinion expert must be able to rely on the data sets that form the basis of their opinions. To also have to defend the data itself puts that expert at a significant disadvantage.  

Over the course of three decades, working on materials-related litigated matters, Dr. Rancourt has had to work with university laboratories, non-accredited industrial laboratories, and accredited industrial laboratories.  He said, “without question, the most comfortable position for me as an expert witness was when the data sets were generated by a laboratory with a fully implemented quality system.”

SGS PSI has the facilities, staff experience, and relevant accreditations to ensure you’re provided with reliable, reproducible, and objective chemical analysis and physical testing results for any evidence testing a case may require. If you are in need of litigation support, contact us today!

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