Disputes and litigation: What happens when your materials let you down?

Disputes and litigation: What happens when your materials let you down?

Smithers has considerable experience in offering expert witness services relating to both rubber and plastics materials. Our experts have worked on many complex cases, large and small, from individual personal injury claims to significant court actions involving multiple litigants.

One of the several factors that are of crucial importance in terms of ensuring the service success of any product is the material from which it is made. The proactive way to avoid potential issues with key materials is through proper material selection, processing, specification, testing and sourcing. Applying due care and attention to all of these will go a long way towards the goal of a trouble free product lifetime, but even so, things can and do still go wrong. When the unintended does happen the consequences can be extremely serious and costly, for a number of different reasons.

Imagine for a moment the situation where a polymer based medical implant ruptures within the body of a patient. Clearly the consequences for that particular patient are going to be far reaching, distressing and expensive. The outcome could be a need for further invasive surgery, but also in terms of who is ultimately responsible for the failure, it may also bring patient into conflict with surgeon and hospital into dispute with implant supplier. It is at this point that the litigation process often begins.

If a rubber seal in an industrial pipeline fails, it not only causes damage and potential safety issues, but the costs in terms of lost production mount very quickly indeed. Therefore the seal user will often find themselves in dispute with their supplier about who is ultimately responsible. All too often the courts are eventually needed in order to decide who will bear the cost of the failure.

When a product as common place and seemingly innocuous as a hot water bottle ruptures, the user can be scalded and face an often long and painful recovery. This not uncommon occurrence often results in a personal injury claim against the organisation that sold the hot water bottle in the first place, and they in turn try to claim against their own supplier. The consequences associated with such an issue mount rapidly, and corporate reputations can suffer, particularly if one of the outcomes is a high visibility product recall.

The financial costs associated with any of these issues can also be significant. If court proceedings do ensue, the litigation process in its own right is hugely expensive. But frequently the cost of loss of orders, loss of production, revenue and corporate reputation can prove considerably more substantial than those of the legal process itself.

In terms of resolving these often emotive, expensive and complex situations, what all of the above scenarios have in common is a need for a robust and independent technical investigation of the cause of the issue. It is the results of this investigation that will form the basis for the legal proceedings that may follow, and which will eventually lead to a resolution for all of the parties involved.

In order to pass judgment in any case involving the failure of materials, the courts need access to the testimony of experienced and specialized expert witnesses who understand the science behind the issue that has occurred. Having access to this type of expert technical support at the outset of any litigation process is therefore critical if a successful judgement is to be achieved in court. It can also help those involved to avoid court proceedings altogether, as many cases of this nature settle out of court once the parties involved are aware of the scientific evidence that the investigation yields.

Smithers has experience in providing expert witness support both to clients and the courts. Past clients include solicitors, manufacturers, retailers, importers and end users of a wide range of polymer based products. So why not call one of our experts today, to find out more about how our independent rubber and plastics experts can help you to reach a resolution to issues that you are facing.

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