Surveyors Roundtable: Forensics

Air Date
February 5, 2013

For a discussion about forensic surveying, our regular roundtable members are joined by Greg Davis, Senior Managing Consultant of ESI, and founder of Davis & Co. Davis has more than 38 years of experience investigating marine incidents, and is a Board Certified Forensic Examiner (Fellow) of the American Board of Forensic Examiners.

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Greg Davis is now Senior Management Consultant with ESI, but he also still owner of Davis and Co. His affiliation with ESI is as manager of their marine-practice group, and he’s had a long working relationship with that company, for more than 25 years.

What’s the definition of forensic surveying? Determining the origin and cause of a particular failure that is the concern of the surveyor’s client.

Jon Klopman adds that it’s also important to note that anything under the umbrella of forensics is something that needs to stand up to challenge in a court of law. Davis agrees, saying, “I’m a finder of fact. And my particular expertise has its limits. I know I need to be able to bring in other experts as necessary, and I need to follow ASTM standards as guides and make sure they aren’t obscured any acts of mine.”

Klopman says the concept of the challenge is that it may be attacked. “You have to be prepared to defend that. It’s part of the business. It’s confrontation. You have to be willing to deal with that. Are you willing and able to stick your foot in the bear trap and review someone else’s work.”

Davis goes on to discuss what happens in a deposition and how to prepare for those questions. “It’s important to answer questions factually and objectively.”

Klopman says one of the best pieces of advice he’s been given has been to understand that the best attorney will be really nice in deposition, because they want to get you to talk! “They want you to blab. Don’t do it! Just say as little as possible. What ever you say can and will be used against you.”

Davis expands on the topic by saying deposition is also discovery so the attorney will be looking for the manner in which data was evaluated, and some attorney will be attempting to trick or confuse the expect. “Again, do not volunteer any information.” The expert being deposed does not have council during a deposition. In the courtroom, the judge can establish decorum. “That’s not always true in a deposition. It can be quite different. In either case, you have to be prepared.”

Klopman says, “The attorney may tell you he is going to object to something but you still need to answer it,” and that may just be to rattle you. “Be like Gandhi or Buddha. It’s the thong that will throw people off.”

Davis says the expert cannot be an advocate for a client. The expert has to be the finder of fact, the seeker of truth.

Klopman describes a reconstruction in which the scenario showed that the client really didn’t have a case. “We had to realize that the attorney was the advocate, but I couldn’t help his case.”

“I agree” says Davis. “That’s the attorney’s job. Some clients prefer that the expert tells them what’s going on. Other clients want to find an expert to agree with them. I tell them I’m here to find out what happened.”

Talking about forensic photography, Davis says, “It’s important to go into these things with an open state of mind. Otherwise you miss something. You’ve got to cover all the bases.”

Klopman says photography is now more important than it ever was. “You can have a photograph of everything, but it also has to reflect how you worked through the case. You have to get into the frame of mind and you impartiality.”

Davis uses a training exercise with photos of parts of an elephant, starting with hairs on the tips of the tail to see how long it takes before they realize what that they are looking at.

“Early on I realized you can never take too many photographs,” says Davis. “We used to take 25 rolls of film. We’d come in from miles away, and those photos always showed stuff that just didn’t seem important at the time. The photo record has become increasingly important now in forensic work.”

A lot of surveyors now says they aren’t photographers. “Too bad,” says Klopman. “You’re a surveyor. You better be able to take good photographs.”

Davis says his latest camera also includes GPS coordinates. “There’s a lot that can be done with cameras and accident reconstruction. These are important tools for surveyors to have. They give us a way to revisit the scene as we work through our hypotheses. A lot of this stuff just wasn’t feasible 10 years ago.”

For more information, Davis recommends the following SNAME publication:

T&R Bulletin [8-1] – Guidelines for Marine Forensic Investigations Various Authors (2012)
  The Guidelines for Marine Forensics Investigations, developed by a variety of maritime experts including engineers, architects, historians, anthropologists, filmmakers, and hydrodynamicists, it is intended to be used by professional and amateur investigators in the field of marine forensics investigations. The detailed manual showcases information gleaned from diving and marine forensic analysis conducted on historic shipwrecks including specific examples from the Titanic, Britannic, Edmund Fitzgerald, Lusitania, Andrea Doria, and Bismarck and many others.
Written by leading experts in the burgeoning field of marine forensics investigations, authors include Guidelines for Marine Forensics Investigations editor Sean Kery, Senior Hydrodyamicist and Vice Chairman of the Marine Forensics Committee, and world-renowned naval architect William Garzke, Chairman of the Marine Forensics Committee of SNAME and Symposium Chairman. Expert in passenger ship design, Philip Sims, Naval Marine Engineer Principal Leader, CSC and Titanic” director and deep sea underwater explorer and inventor of autonomous underwater 3-D cameras, James Cameron also contributed to the development of the guidelines as well as Paul Henri Nargeolet, who has been the chief investigator of the Titanic wreck and developer of techniques in deep ocean exploration. 
ISBN: 978-0-939773-91-6 ♦ CD-ROM ♦ 1 lb

Purchase CD  List: $40.00 Members: $20.00 ♦ Students: $20.00



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