Expert Witness

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EXPERT WITNESS CONSULTING ON HIGH-PROFILE ENGINEERING PROJECTS

Dr. Miholits ponders on the type of forensic literature research he needs to do for an engineering incident (failure or accident).
He prepares an unbiased evidence base for the attorney's Court arguments in accordance with the 1993 Daubert criteria in section 2.


WHY DOES DR. MIHOLITS SPECIALIZE ON THE EXPERT WITNESS AREA?

He is an excellent forensic researcher who has the ability to think in both directions. He can postulate an
accident scenario (before the fact) and re-create the sequence of failure events (after the fact). Therefore, he can provide
the legal profession unbiased scientific evidence they need to satisfy the criteria in the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court Daubert decision.


Photos and illustrations: (1) a statue of Rodin's Thinker; (2) U.S. Supreme Court; (3) photo of Dr. Ernest M. Miholits; (4) a caricature of Albert Einstein; (5-6) DOE-WIPP-defense nuclear waste repository; and (7-10) the Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant

EXPERT WITNESS ENGINEERING CONSULTANT

Dr. Miholits has designed his consulting service for a specific target audience. That is, an audience that can and/or may encounter accident incidents and/or design problems that will benefit from his expert witness consulting services. He has identified this audience to include the following groups:

These groups include: (1) legal firms and (2) engineering firms who provide expert witness services to these legal firms. This includes the forensic research and litigation support services generally needed when engineering-type failures, accidents or other undesirable events/incidents occur at sensitive/high-profile engineering facilities. A typical example is the aforementioned wide-range of nuclear fuel cycle facilities in existence. Also applies to non-sensitive and non-high-profile facilities.

  • The science and engineering problems that can result from these undesirable incidents include, but are not limited to: (1) effects on the environment; (2) hazardous and toxic waste releases; (3) structural failures; (4) radiation exposures to people; (5) various forms of nuclear fuel cycle consequences; and/or (6) some other undesirable consequence.
  • The above problems occur because of engineering-related failures, accidents or other incidents that can occur at research, manufacturing and/or other types of high-profile engineered facilities.
  •  Examples of these facilities are in Sections 2 and 3 which follow immediately below.
  • These failure or accident events can be followed by a host of undesirable consequences that could lead to litigation actions. They include, but are not limited to: injuries, death, health effects, significant financial losses, et cetera.

  • The aforementioned expert witness consulting services include: (1) forensic research; (2) literature search, analysis and evaluations; (3) report preparations; (4) depositions; (5) testimony; and (6) other litigation support services.

  • He also offers expert witness services on engineering projects that are not normally classified as sensitive and high-profile (e.g., sanitary waste, industrial waste and worker safety). He includes these areas for two reasons: (1) he has experience in these areas; and (2) these areas usually come into the picture when there is a nuclear or civil engineering incident.

Dr. Miholits can provide these services because of the following factors:

  • He had important roles on nuclear projects covering the entire gamut of the nuclear fuel cycle. In his role as an "Expert Witness," his forte is conducting failure analysis studies for specific types of failure or accident incidents as they apply to nuclear and civil engineering projects. In this respect, his most significant roles were on two large and complex nuclear projects and one non-nuclear project. The two nuclear projects are described below on this "Expert Witness" webpage in Sections 5 and 6. The projects are: the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) and the Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant. The non-nuclear project was the structural upgrade of a retaining wall at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) to prevent the wall from coming down during a high-magnitude earthquake. This is described under the "Engineering Consultant" tab, in Section 2, Case 3: he undertakes engineering projects which have been built and are in operation. 

  • The strength and diversity of his teaching, research and engineering experience. Please click on Curriculum Vitae


SECTION 2
HIGH-PROFILE EXPERT WITNESS ENGINEERING PROJECTS

  • Dr. Miholits target audience are those engineering and science consultants who have an active, strong and successful Client base in the consulting areas of: Forensic Research, Litigation Support and Expert Witness. In reality, they are engineering firms who specialize in the Expert witness business. With his skills, he is certain that he could bring to this company a great deal of talent, most especially in the high-profile areas cited herein.

    • Dr. Miholits offers his services as a subcontractor to these Engineering Firms to assist them in their research, analysis and evaluations of the applicable literature. These services include: (1) special assistance on subjects out of their skill areas (but within his experience base); (2) a sophisticated analysis and evaluations of the literature in accordance with their needs; (3) special search skills; (4) work overloads; and (5) et cetera.

    • The Expert Witness Engineering Firms in-turn, are assumed to be already under contract with those attorneys who are engaged in litigation because of undesirable engineering incidents. These events are assumed to have already occurred on an engineering and/or science project.

    • He would serve as a Subcontractor and as such perform a great deal of the literature research, analysis and evaluations. In addition, he would provide inputs to the Expert Witness Reports.

    • He offers these services in the subject areas specified on this web-page. Typical engineering facilities are: water and wastewater treatment plants; nuclear power plants; nuclear fuel cycle facilities; etc.  
    • However, he can deal effectively with most engineering and science areas.
    • He defines an undesirable incident as: (1) civil (structural failures); (2) a hazardous waste release both in terms of quantity and the hazard of the chemical; (3) environmental and regulatory issues; (4) health & safety incidents; (5) nuclear issues (radioisotope releases and/or radiation exposures); and (6) et cetera.
  • What will I provide as a Subcontractor?
    • The ability to separate credible from non-credible literature.
    • The ability to do research, analysis and evaluations of a wide cross-section of science and engineering areas with a high-level of proficiency.
    • The ability to work with probabilities in the analysis and evaluation of information.
    • The ability to understand the strengths, weakness and limitation of the legal system.
  • What kind of work does Dr. Miholits do?
    • He obtains evidence for his Client to support the needs of the attorneys in the development of their legal strategy and arguments re: existing litigation.
    • He specializes in the high-profile engineering areas listed on this web page. These projects can result in civil, environmental, health/safety, radiation and/or nuclear engineering consulting. He can deal with most all engineering and science areas because of his broad experience and education.
    • He conducts a search and research effort on the applicable engineering or scientific literature in accordance with the needs and requirements of the assignment.
    • He follows this with a detailed analysis and evaluation of the uncovered literature in order to support the litigation actions. Again the level of detail is in accordance with the needs and requirements of the legal profession.
    • He also can participate in the deposition and court testimony phases.
  • He then determines the needs of the Client. He has determined that the Clients needs for services is answered by the following questions. Are you engaged in these project types? Are there any regulatory controversies or disputable conundrums? Are any legal actions in process or on the horizon? Do you require assistance because of a work overload, the special talents I bring to the table or other reasons. If you answered Yes to any of these questions, Dr. Miholits has the expertise to assist you.
  • Dr. Miholits offers professional services after a problem has occurred on an engineering and/or scientific project and this problem has already led to the development of significant legal actions.
    • Dr. Miholits provide comprehensive technical evidence (arguments) to the attorneys for their defense. The format of the presentation is defined by the Attorneys.
    • His analysis and evaluations will be thorough, exemplary and without bias. His work product will be based on good science. His findings will be derived by the use of good scientific methods and his reports, depositions and testimony will reflect a complete and fair analysis and evaluation of both sides of the scientific knowledge base. This will permit the legal profession to see all sides of the evidence and develop their arguments without bias to satisfy the 1993 Daubert criteria. The Daubert criteria say that any evidence provided to the attorneys will include analysis and evaluations of the data on both sides of the subject in accordance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings. As an example of Court precedence, please see: The Application of the U.S. Supreme Court's Daubert Criteria in Radiation Litigation (1993).
  • High-Profile Projects: the high-profile engineering projects addressed herein all have some form of risky, perilous, hazardous, dangerous characteristics which can develop or lead to very severe legal ramifications, if there is a failure or accident. And then there is the associated health and safety areas risks (hazardous waste, ionizing radiation, etc.). Additionally, severe injury and death may also occur. Dr. Miholits provides the science and engineering evidence required by the legal community to build their legal arguments for their case. Evidence on both sides of the argument will be studied, analyzed and evaluated in detail for the legal community. The latter will be in accordance with the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court decision entitled, the "1993 Daubert Criteria."
  • Daubert Criteria: in summary these criteria say the following. The 1993 U.S. Supreme Court established a standard for determining the admissibility of expert scientific evidence in litigation. This Court precedence, is described in a decision entitled, The Application of the U.S. Supreme Court's Daubert Criteria in Radiation Litigation (1993). This Court precedence is now known as the 1993 Daubert Criteria, named after the pertinent case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. The Daubert Criteria require that the Courts determine whether or not: (1) the expert's work product is based on good science; (2) the expert's work is thorough, exemplary and without bias; (3) the expert's findings are derived by the use of an accepted scientific method; and (4) the expert's testimony reflects a complete and fair analysis and evaluation of both sides of the scientific knowledge base. The preceding will then permit the legal profession to see all sides of the evidence and develop their arguments accordingly and in conformance with the 1993 Daubert Criteria.

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SECTION 3
HOW DOES DR. MIHOLITS DEFINE A HIGH-PROFILE ENGINEERING PROJECT?

The High-Profile Engineering Projects cited herein, are generally in the Public Eye.  The reason being that in many cases they are judged on the basis of their public image and perception (e.g., nuclear projects are normally considered dangerous and have greater risks). But in reality, the facts may prove otherwise. In Dr. Miholits' opinion, the goal of both Phases is to uncover the factual information (the truth) and present the evidence to his Client in a fashion which ensures legal success.

Dr. Miholits' definition of a High-Profile Engineering Project follows.

  • High-profile engineering projects are most notable for being able to create an undesirable incident. All of the project types named by Dr. Miholits are projects which might be correctly called, Risky or Perilous Engineering Projects. Definitions used herein were created by Dr. Miholits.

    • Types of undesirable incidents which may occur from these projects include: (1) civil engineering issues (structural failures); (2) a hazardous waste release both (specific chemicals possess a hazard based on their identity, concentration and quantity of release); (3) environmental and regulatory issues; (4) health & safety incidents; (5) nuclear fuel cycle issues (radioisotope releases and/or radiation exposures); and (6) et cetera.

    • Undesirable incidents may have a significant litigation risk potential.

    • This being the case, in the Engineering Problem Solving & Design Analysis Phase we have assumed that the undesirable incident has not occurred. So as an example, we can do retrofits to prevent a failure and/or an accident from happening.

  • The incidents cited on the web pages herein, are primarily in high-profile areas and include specific types of facilities.

    • These facilities include, but are not limited to: water and wastewater treatment plants; nuclear power plants; nuclear fuel cycle facilities; facilities with health & safety issues; radiation exposure; et cetera.

    • Please note: Dr. Miholits is not limited to only working in high-profile areas. He specifies this area for two reasons: (1) he has the expertise to deal effectively with high-profile areas; and (2) he has the broad-based abilities to cover many other engineering and science areas which are out of his stated area of specialty.

    • His high-profile specialty areas are defined on this web page.

Dr. Miholits defines a High-Profile Engineering Project as one that is generally more risky or perilous than others. Such an example is a civil engineering structure such as the Raised Concrete Highway in Oakland, CA which collapsed during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. Therefore, risky engineering areas include: civil; environmental; nuclear fuel cycle; health & safety; radiation protection; et cetera. Consequently, these project areas may have a significant litigation risk potential. The kinds of risks include:

  • An incident may result in health, medical, safety, injury, death and other problems for Humans and other members of the Plant and Animal Kingdom. These health and medical problems may be short term or long-term.

  • An incident may result in a significant loss in manufacturing facilities or other real estate, as well as money,

  • An incident may result in social, political and/or esthetic situations to occur,

  • An incident may result in significant regulatory violations to develop, and/or

  • An incident may result in significant legal actions to be taken.

Based on Dr. Miholits' experience, he believes that these types of High-Profile Engineering Projects may have a significantly high probability of occurring on:

  • Civil engineering projects (e.g., construction of bridges, chemical refineries, etc.),

  • Hazardous waste activities (e.g., sanitary, industrial, hazardous, toxic and medical wastes; landfill sites, etc.),

  • Health and safety activities (e.g., OSHA), and

  • Nuclear fuel cycle engineering projects (e.g., uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing plants, decontamination of nuclear power plants, nuclear waste repositories, nuclear waste transport, spent fuel storage, radioactive waste, etc.); and related projects.

Dr. Miholits believes that the following items are applicable to the cited types of High-Profile Engineering Projects.

  • These projects may have a higher probability of proceeding to the Legal Phase than other project types.

  • These projects suggest that the qualifications of the consultant be appropriate for the special characteristics of these projects. As an example, nuclear projects require special education and unique experience.

  • In this regard, Dr. Miholits has three degrees in civil engineering from two top-ten universities (i.e., Northwestern University and the University of Texas at Austin). He has over 25 years of experience in the above cited engineering areas. In his situation, his experience in these high-profile areas began in 1965. This was supplemented by: (1) his teaching and research experience; and (2) his emphasis on engaging in Problem Solving University-Type Paper Studies. When all of these factors are combined, Dr. Miholits developed the necessary attributes to be effective in the area of engineering consulting and subsequent inputs to the Legal Process. Please see other sections of this web-site for supporting information.


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SECTION 4
 

On this page, Dr. Miholits demonstrates how he can apply his strong engineering skills and experience in the Reverse Direction. That is, analyze a failure and/or accident for the legal profession in the role of Expert Witness. To do this, Dr. Miholits has set up an engineering consulting activity to illustrate Dr. Miholits' experience in creating designs that should not fail or have an accident. He believes that this experience is necessary to make a person effective as an Expert Witness. The rationale for this opinion is based on his experience on the WIPP defense nuclear waste repository and the Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant. The rationale follows.

Dr. Miholits offers Expert Witness Services in many engineering areas such as, civil, environmental, nuclear, et cetera. To do this, a brief discussion is presented on Dr. Miholits' role, as it applies to potential failures and accidents that might occur at two large nuclear facilities (WIPP & Comanche Creek). The WIPP facility design was critically analyzed by Dr. Miholits and his staff prior to the start of the construction phase to ensure that no failures or accidents occurred during the construction and operational phases. The Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant was analyzed solely by him via a Design Audit. Both of these Design-Based Analyses are very relevant to Expert Witness Consulting for the reasons listed below:

  • An engineer who is exposed to good designs tends to recognize good, as well as potentially flawed designs and/or design weaknesses at other facilities. WIPP was a lesson in how to design well and prevent downstream failures. Please see his Curriculum Vitae via the hyperlink Curriculum Vitae
  • An engineer who is then exposed to marginal designs should now be able to quickly identify what may become a potential failure scenario.
  • The key to all of this is that a person can enhance their Expert Witness skills by first or simultaneously working on design projects that create good designs and have a minimal number of failures and/or accidents.
  • WIPP and the Comanche Nuclear Power Plant were chosen as examples because there was a significantly higher potential that failures and/or accidents could occur at these facilities. And the failures could have monumental consequences and lead to big litigation problems.
    • Therefore, a Failure Modes & Effects Analysis was appropriate for the design phase of the WIPP nuclear waste repository, and
    • A Design Audit was appropriate for the Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Both projects served as good projects for Dr. Miholits to enhance his Expert Witness skills because he went through similar steps that one goes through to prevent a failure, as one goes though to find the cause of a failure.
    • Dr. Miholits' responsibility on both projects was to provide the assurance that the designs would not result in failures and/or accidents that could result in injuries, death, financial and other losses that could lead to litigation.
    • This was done on WIPP by providing the assurance that there was a strict adherence to regulations, design codes, backup systems, etc.
    • On the other hand, Comanche Creek was more vulnerable on this issue because the overall design and construction period lasted about 20 years. During this period there were many changes in design criteria, codes and standards, social, political and environmental influence, regulatory changes, legal case history, et cetera.
  • Dr. Miholits' believes that his extensive exposure to good designs (WIPP) enhanced his ability to develop an effective Two-Way Analytical Thinking Process. That is, from the design side he can see how the pieces fit together correctly so there will be no failures. Then from the operational phase, he can quickly see what caused the failure. Because he is good at analytical two-way thinking processes, Dr. Miholits thought it appropriate to insert a picture of the Rodin statue The Thinker, below his photograph.
  • This Two-Way Analysis Thinking Process skill is extremely valuable and effective in developing failure/accident scenarios. To do this in the real world, two things must happen, (1) an engineer needs to work in the design world; and (2) he needs to possess an effective two-way analytical thinking process.
  • These two examples illustrate that the thinking process for: (1) a failure analysis study; and (2) a design audit on newly designed facilities (before construction) is similar to the thinking process that could be used in the reverse direction. That is, after a failure or accident has occurred, the engineer must use reverse engineering to find the cause of the failure and/or accident for the legal profession. Dr. Miholits can do this kind of analytical two-way thinking and analysis (i.e., reverse engineering).
  • For experience details please see Dr. Miholits' Curriculum Vitae. Please click on Curriculum Vitae

SECTION 5
WIPP - A DEFENSE NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY
Dr. Miholits Performed Expert Witness Tasks (i.e. a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis on the WIPP Design)

Discussion:

Task manager for the development of a Failure Modes & Effects Analysis (FMEA) methodology to be used to evaluate the design of a defense nuclear waste repository 2,150 feet below the surface of the earth in a bedded salt deposit in Carlsbad, New Mexico. See sketch below. This FMEA methodology is also known as an Fault Tree Analysis, Event Tree Analysis, Decision Tree Analysis, Probabilistic Risk Analysis, et cetera.

This analysis was done to ensure that the above-ground, shaft and below-ground systems were safe for the workers during the construction and operation phases.

The WIPP project had a FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) performed after the design was almost completed, but before the start of construction. A forward and backward analysis was done of the design to ensure that potential failures were identified and ultimately determine if re-engineering was necessary. As a result of this exercise, the process allowed Dr. Miholits to get Expert Witness experience and credentials because he analyzed the design for potential failures and/or accidents.

Each element of the design was evaluated to ensure that a failure will not occur. To do this, the engineering team had to identify each designed system that could fail and the effect of the failure. This information provided the team leader (Dr. Miholits) with information to deal with the reverse situation. That is, a situation where the failure already occurred and in this role he would provide assistance to the legal profession.

Dr. Miholits built his credibility by analyzing designs and solving design problems to ensure that failures do not occur. His skill in developing failure scenarios is drawn from being successful in the design direction. If one knows what went into the design, one knows the strengths and weaknesses of the design. This skill makes reverse engineering easy and makes him very suited to help the legal profession.

The argument presented herein is simply that an engineer who has the skills to analyze designs and solve design problems to ensure that failures do not occur will be equally as effective identifying and developing the accident and/or failure scenarios for the legal profession. Dr. Miholits has these skills.

For more information and photos, please click on: http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Photo_Gallery.htm


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SECTION 6
COMANCHE PEAK NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Dr. Miholits Performed Expert Witness Analysis (i.e., a Structural Design Audit on a Nuclear Power Reactor Building)

Discussion:

A structural design and regulatory audit was conducted on the reactor building because there was a 21 year span from the start of design in 1965 to the time the first unit went on line in 1986.

Consequently there were many design changes to go along with regulatory, design code and environmental changes. Each element of the design was critically reviewed to ensure that everything was done correctly and to ensure that nothing would surface that would result in downstream litigation because of a failure or accident related to the big time period and other factors. The design audit provided this assurance.

The Comanche Creek Nuclear Power Plant required a design audit because the design was spread over a time period approaching 20 years. As such, it was subject to a changing set of rules and regulations regarding design standards, earthquake standards, nuclear regulations, enhanced design analysis knowledge, etc. This audit looked at all of these features forward and backwards. In effect the design that was audited was shown to be free of defects. It should not result in any failures. To ensure this, all forms of reverse engineering was done to simulate an accident/failure. None was identified therefore, re-engineering was not necessary. This process gave me another opportunity to gain additional Expert Witness experience and credentials because through this audit process, failures and/or accidents were analyzed.

From the Expert Witness standpoint, this design review also identified all of the design elements that could fail. Therefore it provided the team leader (Dr. Miholits) with information to permit him to do reverse engineering in the event of a failure.

Again the same argument is used as was used for WIPP. That is, an engineer who has the skills to analyze designs and solve design problems to ensure that failures do not occur will be equally as effective identifying and developing the accident and/or failure scenarios for the legal profession. Dr. Miholits has these skills.


End of Expert Witness Page Page 2 of 5  


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