Vredenburgh & Associates, Inc.

Human Factors, Ergonomics, Safety,
Organizational & Biomechanics Consulting

Research

Forensics

 

Vredenburgh, A.G., Zackowitz, I.B. & Vredenburgh, A.N. (2019). Colorful Rounded-Tip Scissors: Too sharp for children. M.S. Wogalter (Ed.), In Forensic Human Factors & Ergonomics: Case Studies and Analyses, (pp. 123-134). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group.

Zackowitz, I.B., Vredenburgh, A.G., & Vredenburgh, A.N. (2019). Don’t Walk: Hazardous to cross mid-block. M.S. Wogalter (Ed.), In Forensic Human Factors & Ergonomics: Case Studies and Analyses, (pp. 243-256). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group.

Vredenburgh, A.G. & Zackowitz, I.B. (2018). Forensic Case Study: When labeling leads to wrongful incarceration. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2018 Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 398-402.

This case study involves a woman who travelled to Mexico and returned to the United States transporting bottles of cuajo, a substance derived from a calf’s stomach, which is used to make cheese. She informed the border officer that the liquid in the bottle was used to make cheese and she had receipts in her possession for purchasing cuajo. A Safariland NarcoPouch field drug kit was used to test the liquid, which produces an expected color change to any substance that contains secondary amines, including methamphetamine and MDMA. A positive test result to the cuajo when tested at the Port of Entry was a major factor in deciding to arrest the woman, who was held in jail for more than six months; the results of gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer testing indicated that there was no controlled substance in the bottles and she was released. The human factors issues for this matter include adequacy of training, instructions and warnings which misled officers to believe that the test was conclusive for methamphetamine, resulting in her lengthy incarceration.

Vredenburgh, M.J., Bench, M.L., Zackowitz, I.B., Runge, K., & Vredenburgh, A.G. (2018). Amusement Park Guest Injured on a Water Ride: A Human Factors and Biomechanics Evaluation. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2018 Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 440-444.

When human factors and biomechanics professionals are retained to evaluate injury accidents, environmental design, hazard management and other relevant issues must be considered to develop opinions. This case study evaluates a forensic human factors and biomechanics case where a woman alleged that a water ride at an amusement park shot pressurized water into her ear, resulting in injuries. When evaluating the case, water droplet data was collected and relevant communication and system design factors were considered, along with the plaintiff’s personal knowledge and habits. This case illustrates when interactive environmental features result in a failure to warn and injuries.

Vredenburgh, M.J., Bench, M.L. (2018). Why We Withdrew from Our First Forensics Case. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2018 Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 416-420.

Work in the field of forensic human factors and biomechanics can be extremely difficult, especially for new professionals working on their first case. As such, it is not uncommon for new experts to take any case that they are retained on, regardless of the feasibility of the requests made of them. It is important, however, to maintain scientific and intellectual integrity on such cases, not only to establish a positive professional reputation but to ensure that future work in the field remains feasible. This paper addresses three central factors for withdrawal considerations (case facts, attorney-expert communications, and inter- professional interactions) that are illustrated using an example case in which a bridge collapse resulted in personal injury. The experts chose to withdraw from the case when the client attorney was unable to provide crucial data and materials that were promised at time of retention.

Vredenburgh, A.G., Young, J., Liske, D. & Young, S. (2017). Cross-Border Testifying Tips: U.S. Experts in Canada and Canadian Experts in the U.S. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2017 Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 470-473.

Professionals who are allowed by a court to serve as expert witnesses are granted the special legal status of offering opinion and theoretical evidence based on human factors research and provided facts that the expert did not witness themselves. The role of the Human Factors forensic expert in U.S. and Canadian court cases has become more common over the past two decades as lawyers become increasingly aware of the specialized nature of this field of study. U.S. and Canadian Human Factors experts sometimes find themselves being retained by firms on the other side of the border due to their specialized experience and training in a particular area relevant to the case at hand. In such situations, the expert will need to deal with differences in legal systems and differences in client expectations between the U.S. and Canada. The goal of this panel discussion session is to share the combined experience and knowledge of the panelists with the audience regarding the most significant differences between U.S. and Canadian clients, courtrooms, and procedures in forensic testimony, so that the expert knows what to expect when accepting a cross-border retention.

Hornick, R.J., Vredenburgh, A.G., Laughery, K.R., Pauls, J.L., & Wogalter, M.S. (2014). Dealing with Dubious Testimony Provided by Opposing Experts. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 58th Annual Meeting, Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 58:559-561.

It is particularly frustrating for a human factors expert attempting to offer testimony that is solidly based on established human factors data and methodology to encounter opinions offered by an opposing expert that are clearly inconsistent with that purpose. Panelists offer examples in which opposing experts have introduced dubious or false testimony, and also offer suggestions for various methods or devices to counter such testimony.

Vredenburgh, A.G., & Spencer, D.R. (2013). Sophisticated User: When Does a Jury Find Users to Have Sophisticated Knowledge after Determining Liability/Failure to Warn? Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 57th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 57, 565-569.

This study evaluates the legal term “sophisticated user.” With increasing frequency, Defendants are relying on this defense to mitigate a failure-to-warn finding. It is the jury’s duty to determine which users are sophisticated, based on jury instructions given by the judge. This study evaluates the sophisticated user defense in terms of a recent Federal case finding, in which a jury found a failure to warn, along with finding that the user was sophisticated. The jury instructions in this case include several elements, any one of which may lead a jury to determine that a Plaintiff is sophisticated without any corroborating evidence; this study examines each element separately.

Zackowitz, I.B., & Vredenburgh, A.G. (2013). A Forensic Human Factors Analysis of a Playground Designated for Special Needs Children. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 57th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 57, 585-589.

Human factors research has long addressed the issue of hazard management and the adequacy and effectiveness of product design and labeling. One issue that most professionals in the field would likely agree on is that manufacturers typically have the most information about hazards associated with their products and that they are in the best position to pass that information along to consumers. This case study regards a manufacturer who chose to provide multiple and conflicting labels when supplying product information to customers. The manufacturer failed to apply the appropriate label to its product and left that task to the consumer. A human factors analysis evaluated the design, labeling and relevant standards of care for playgrounds.

Runge, K. & Vredenburgh, A.G. (2013). A False Sense of Security: Hazards Associated with Working on Flat Roofs with Parapet Walls. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 57th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 57, 590-594.

Roofing is a dangerous business in any capacity. The following is a case study presenting the dangers of working on a flat roof with parapet walls. A key issue is the workers’ situation awareness of their jobsite while being attentive to their task demands. This case addresses the role of perceptions, safety meetings, trip hazards, barriers and how different subcontractors affect each other’s safety as methods to address this hazard.

Vredenburgh, A.G., & Zackowitz, I.B. (2013). Falling from Airstairs while Disembarking from a Commuter Plane. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 57th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 57, 600-604.

When performing forensic human factors analyses it is imperative to carefully evaluate plaintiff and defense claims to determine if they are consistent with theoretical research and science. This case study concerns a fall from airstairs by a woman who was disembarking an airplane. At face value, the circumstances seemed valid enough that the airline chose to settle with the plaintiff before any kind of expert evaluation was performed. However, when the plane manufacturer was countersued, it chose to hire a human factors expert. A human factors expert analysis revealed that the plaintiff’s description of the incident was inconsistent with the evidence. Also considered were safety factors of airstair and airplane design. This case highlights the importance of evaluating witness descriptions of an incident as part of a forensic human factors analysis.

Vredenburgh, A.G., & Zackowitz, I.B. (2012). When a Dog is Just a Dog? A Case Study Evaluating the ADA service animal rules. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 56th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 56, 720-723.

This case study evaluates the American’s with Disabilities Act requirements regarding service animal use. The first author was retained as a defense expert in a case where a woman placed her small dog on a table at a restaurant and when she was asked to sit at an exterior table, she sued the restaurant on the basis of disability discrimination. This paper evaluates the relevant facts of the case and clarifies when an animal qualifies as a service animal, and when a dog is just a dog.

Vredenburgh, A.G., & Zackowitz, I.B. (2012). Case Study: Evaluating the Warnings on a Tanning Bed. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 56th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Vol. 56, 671-674.

When human factors professionals are retained to evaluate a product and its labeling after an injury, other relevant information must be considered to determine if additional warnings may have led to a different outcome. This case study evaluates an incident where a woman alleged that a tanning bed had inadequate warnings. When evaluating the case, the product design, user interface, and relevant communication system standards were considered along with the plaintiff’s personal knowledge and behavior. The warnings were also evaluated in the context of the tanning establishment and its trained employees. This case illustrates the circumstances when manufacturer’s product design and labeling was not a causation factor of an incident.

Vredenburgh, A.G. & Zackowitz, I.B. (2005). Human factors issues to be considered by product liability experts. In Y.I. Noy & W. Karwowski (Eds.), Handbook of Human Factors in Litigation. Chapter 26. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 26-1 – 26-11.

In this chapter, we will discuss some product liability issues that human factors experts should consider when investigating accidents that occur when someone is injured while using a consumer product. The objective is to demonstrate how a human factors consultant would evaluate a product liability case. This discussion will include an analysis of product design, effectiveness of warnings and instructions, and the human conduct contribution to these incidents. To demonstrate the evaluation of product liability cases, three case studies will be discussed. One case will describe design issues pertaining to the interaction between a motorcycle fuel valve and fuel gauge. A second case involves the use of barriers on a hot/cold compress. A final example will illustrate how warnings come into play by discussing a case involving latex glove hypersensitivity. Although only these cases are discussed, the analytical approach presented in this chapter can be applied by human factors experts to other products cases.

Zackowitz, I.B, & Vredenburgh, A.G. (2005). Preschoolers, adolescents and seniors: Age-related factors that pertain to forensic human factors analyses. In Y.I. Noy & W. Karwowski (Eds.), Handbook of Human Factors in Litigation. Chapter 35. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 35-1 – 35-11.

In this chapter we will discuss the age-related issues one may consider when investigating accidents that occur among preschoolers, adolescents and older individuals. The objective is to illustrate how factors beyond the basic facts of a case can be evaluated before a thorough analysis is complete. Research in psychology provides us with insight into developmental issues for many age groups. Combining forensic human factors and psychology will provide useful age-related guidelines for consultants to consider when investigating accidents. To demonstrate the evaluation of age-related human factors, six cases that we have investigated as forensic consultants will be discussed. Two cases for pre-school aged children will be presented: a pedestrian versus vehicle accident and a playground accident. Two cases illustrate adolescent issues: a child in traffic and a fall from height. Two cases concern older adults: a trip and fall accident and a driving accident. While specific cases are used as examples, this information will be useful to many practitioners in human factors forensic consulting as it can be applied to many different accident scenarios.

Vredenburgh, A.G. & Zackowitz, I.B. (2005). Sexual Harassment: A forensic human factors perspective. In Y.I. Noy & W. Karwowski (Eds.), Handbook of Human Factors in Litigation. Chapter 36. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 36-1 – 36-9.

This chapter will illustrate that harassment is a workplace safety issue that can result in physical injury, emotional and professional damage to the victim as well as negative consequences including legal liability to the organization. Because employees frequently spend many of their waking hours at work, their greatest opportunity to meet potential mates is on the job. If organizations prohibit all socializing of employees, they may feel stifled. Therefore, organizations must perform a balancing act: they must provide a safe organizational climate, yet not create an oppressive environment. In order to ensure a satisfactory outcome, both the victims of harassment and the organizations in which harassment occurs have certain responsibilities. We will discuss both the individual and organizational responsibilities and highlight these using actual examples of sexual harassment incidents. Furthermore, the principal forensic issues relevant to the discussion of harassment will be discussed.

Hornick, R.J. & Vredenburgh, A.G. (2004). A Two-way Street – With Hazards; Expert/Attorney Communications. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 48th Annual Meeting. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 1129-1130.

This panel will examine a wide range of communication issues pertinent to the attorney/expert relationship.  Effective communication between attorneys and experts is often overlooked as a critical element in the consultation relationship. How does communication impact the process from the initial phone consultation to the resolution of the case?  Panelists will discuss the initial stages of retention, the discovery process, information sharing, appropriate conduct with opposing counsel and experts, report preparation, and appropriate communication pre-deposition and trial.

Vredenburgh, A. (2000) Get Ready to be Challenged: How to prepare for the qualification process. Forvm, 16(2), 5. Reprinted in Council of Technical Groups Digest, 3(I) March 2001.

Noy, I., Vredenburgh, A., Hornick, R., Mortimer, R., Olsen, R., Thompson, D., Ryan, P., Savaglio, B., & Spangler, J. (2000). Mock Trial: Human factors contributions to litigation involving adaptive cruise control. In Proceedings of the XIVth Triennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Association and 44th Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 6-398 – 6-401.

A mock trial format will be used to explore some fundamental human factors issues associated with advanced cruise control systems such as have been introduced in Europe and Japan and are expected to be introduced into the North American market this year. The plaintiff in this case, the driver of a vehicle equipped with ACC, is seeking damages from the defendant, the manufacturer of the vehicle, for inappropriate design of the ACC that she alleges contributed to a motor vehicle collision in which she was involved. The underlying issue concerns the hand-over of control from the vehicle to the driver under conditions of partially automated driving. The mock trial will demonstrate the role of human factors expertise in the judicial process. Participants will include experienced human factors professionals and practicing attorneys. Commentators will highlight key issues during the proceedings. No judgment will be rendered at the conclusion. However, delegates will be surveyed to determine how human factors expert opinions may have influenced them and which arguments were most compelling.

Zackowitz, I., Cohen, H., & Vredenburgh, A. (1998). Operationally defining a legal term for forensic human factors. In Proceedings of the Silicon Valley Ergonomics Conference, Palo Alto, CA., 185-189.

Vredenburgh, A., Cohen, H.H., Hornick, R., Laughery, K., Leonard, D., Olsen, R., Smith, L., Thompson, D., Wogalter, M., & Zackowitz, I. (1997). Mock trial: How human factors experts contribute to civil litigation. Case 1: A pedestrian’s encounter with a tripping hazard. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, (1) 524-528.

Vredenburgh, A., Cohen, H.H., Hornick, R., Laughery, K., Leonard, D., Olsen, R., Smith, L., Thompson, D., Wogalter, M., & Zackowitz, I. (1997). Mock trial: How human factors experts contribute to civil litigation. Case 2: Adequacy of warning systems to address product hazards. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, (1) 524-528.

Vredenburgh, A.G., Zackowitz, I.B., & Cohen, H.H. (1996). Comparative risk perception of common activities: A forensic perspective. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Santa Monica, CA: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, (1), 520-524.