Introduction to forensic engineering
This unit has examined a series of case studies involving the failure of various devices through design faults, material degradation, or poor processing. In the case of the ladder, it failed because the user failed to realise the importance of using the ladder at a high angle of repose. Many of the problems were resolved when convincing explanations could be provided by expert evidence. A small number resulted in actions brought by the aggrieved or injured parties, but most of the cases considered in this unit were resolved without the need for trial. This is typical for most cases involving product liability. The majority are settled before trial commences. Indeed, the approach of trial sharpens the arguments, and they devolve onto a small number of issues, or even one issue that becomes the key to the dispute. Discovery is part of the process where new information comes to light, and may provide clues to an explanation of the failure that led to the dispute.
A few disputes do proceed to trial however, especially where serious injuries or deaths are involved following a material or design failure, such as the fuel line case in Ireland. The claims are usually large, and it is justifiable to pursue a deeper investigation into the causes of the failure. Alternatively, the claim may be relatively low, but there could be a principle of law at issue, so the case proceeds to trial for the determination of that issue.