Typical cases handled by Richard R. Ruth, P.E.
EDR Frye and Daubert Hearing support for attorneys
Police arrest an individual for negligent homicide by vehicle. The EDR contains critical evidence but the defense objects to its introduction as evidence claiming that it is new or novel and is not yet generally accepted in the relevant field. The local prosecutor does not have any local resource for such a specialized technology and after asking around in the police community is given my name. I provide a complete admissibility package listing 10 to 20 relevant exhibits to establish that the data is not new or novel, and in the alternative if it was that it generally accepted in the field, has been tested, has a known error rate, and has its accuracy published and peer reviewed. I go on to show the data recorder information for the particular case is valid. EDR Specialist in Complex Case. A civil attorney already has a crash reconstructionist and has had the EDR data read out. On closer examination there is something unusual about the data that requires an EDR specialist. The reconstructionist is familiar with my work, and advises the attorney they need to call me in to handle the special issue.
Event Data Recorder Readout and Analysis
1. A large fleet company has a vehicle involved in a crash with another vehicle and is sued by the other driver. The plaintiff demands the information from the event data recorder in the fleet’s vehicle, and proposes their expert obtain it – but the fleet company does not trust the other party’s expert. The fleet company calls and needs a readout completed promptly and needs to make absolutely sure there are no subsequent claims of evidence spoliation, they want to hire someone that understands the complete EDR contents and how to assure the evidence is preserved – an EDR instructor not just someone who reads the boxes occasionally. I read the recorder in a forensically neutral manner and provide the company with a complete assessment indicating their employee did nothing wrong (other cases may find the employee did do something wrong, but most large companies simply want to know the truth, their attorneys and internal disciplinarians take it from there).
2. Vehicle 1 pulls out from a sidestreet and is hit by Vehicle 2 on the main roadway. Vehicle 1’s driver is charged criminally with violating the right of way and there is a subsequent civil suit. I read the EDR in vehicle 2 which shows they were operating at 20 mph+ over the speed limit. I prepare and testify in the criminal defense and the civil suit
3. An 18 wheeler is making a left turn onto a divided highway but must stop in the median for traffic, leaving its rear portion protruding into the road where it is struck by Vehicle 2. The 18 wheeler driver is charged criminally and there is a subsequent civil suit. I read the EDR in Vehicle 2 which shows the driver was significantly exceeding the speed limit and reacted much later than necessary for that speed but far enough away to have stopped if they were going the speed limit.
AIRBAG CASES (I do NOT accept product liability lawsuit cases against manufacturers)
Airbag Non-deployment – Threshold Issue
A driver alleged that the airbags did not deploy when they should have when he impacted a pole. The vehicle had already been repaired and only photographs of crash damage were available. At the request of counsel, I inspected the vehicle and determined that many of the parts listed on the repair estimate had in fact not been replaced and the damage was far less than the damage estimate implied. By checking date codes and witness marks I was able to determine that all the components of the airbag system were still original equipment, and tested the system to determine that it was still in proper working order at the time of the inspection, and could and would deploy the airbags if a crash that met the manufacturer’s deployment threshold was reached. I gave deposition testimony prior to the matter resolving.
Alleged Airbag Inadvertent Deployment
A driver alleged that the airbags deployed spontaneously causing the driver to lose control and go off the road, striking an embankment. I inspected the vehicle, read out the Restraint Control Module and had the data interpreted by the automaker’s supplier. By researching the time that it takes to set fault codes in the module, I was able to determine conclusively that the airbag deployed when commanded as a result of the strike with the embankment and not spontaneously on the roadway as the driver alleged. I also tested the system thoroughly and determined it was in proper working order even after the accident.
Airbag Non-deployment in Severe Impact
In a significant head on collision an driver airbag does not deploy. The car dealership that sold the vehicle is charged with selling a defective product. I inspect the vehicle which is severely damaged but successfully trace the airbag wiring and demonstrate the driver airbag was unplugged and the readiness light was functioning on the day of the inspection, proving the driver was warned that the airbag was not ready to deploy and that improper maintenance was the cause of the airbag not deploying.
Note: I defend automobile dealerships and repair shops falsely accused of making improper repairs that kept airbags from deploying. While most of my work is prosecution and civil defense, I will accept criminal defense cases of those falsely accused or grossly overcharged where the EDR data has been misinterpreted by untrained police, and I may accept plaintiff cases against incompetent repair shops or in simple Joe-vs-Mary cases.