When a person or company sues a manufacturer over their product, the courtroom isn’t the only place they’ll end up in order to settle their dispute. Often, the litigants will also find themselves in a lab, looking over the shoulders of scientists like us.
Product litigation can occur over manufacturing defects, design flaws, personal injury, patent infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. A joint inspection is an important phase of product litigation intended to answer critical questions such as how a product is made, what it’s made of and how it might perform in real life. The inspection brings plaintiffs and defendants together in a laboratory setting where they can watch researchers perform tests on the evidence.
In 2016, Polymer Solutions Incorporated (PSI) unveiled a custom-designed inspection room where we conduct joint inspections. PSI founder and CSO Jim Rancourt has participated in more than 100 joint inspections. Jim outlined the steps involved in a joint inspection:
- The physical evidence to be tested is first photographed for documentation purposes.
- The litigants agree on the final protocol.
- All non-destructive tests, such as photos and taking physical measurements, are done.
- If destructive testing will be done — and the sample destroyed as a result — the litigants and investigators will agree on a specific sampling plan.
- Destructive testing is done and analysis performed.
- The parties agree on how the specimens will be packaged and sent to other labs, if necessary.
- The parties discuss and agree on how the physical evidence will be stored and who will retain possession of it.
- Litigants and investigators define how all the data sets will be provided to all the experts, when and in what format, the level of interpretation of data sets permitted by the laboratory, and with whom the lab is allowed to directly communicate.
- And the final decision — who will pay the bill!
“Numerous parties, including many experts and many attorneys, are present at a typical joint inspection,” Jim said. “It’s important to have the proper tools and analytical instruments on site, and to have a high level of experience for each of the steps. You don’t want to be ‘inventing on the fly for the first time.’”
PSI’s joint inspection room is located within PSI’s headquarters in Falling Branch Corporate Park in Christiansburg, VA. The space was designed to address such key considerations, including appropriate lighting, seating for spectators, required equipment and investigators who have not only extensive experience in testing, but also in joint inspections.
“The joint inspection process often doesn’t go as quickly as clients expect,” Jim explained. “That’s why it’s important to have a facility that can handle everyone’s needs. We have state-of-the art equipment and proper lighting for the scientists, a wide space to accommodate everyone, video imaging and projection so everyone can see what’s going on, and comfortable seats equipped with privacy, power pods and USB outlets for the attorneys and their devices. We also have farm-to-table refreshments and a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Interested in learning more about our state-of-the-art inspection room? Contact us!