Expert Witness Case Studies

This page outlines some of the expert witness case studies that have been undertaken by Neale Consulting Engineers.  These are necessarily older studies, as more recent work is still confidential.

Single Point Mooring (SPM) bearing failure

An incident occurred in which an oil tanker crashed into a off-shore single point mooring buoy (SPM). Sometime later, after structural repairs had been carried out, the main slewing bearing of the buoy failed. The owners of the buoy sued the tanker company for damage and loss of production resulting from the bearing failure and amounting to £23 million. Neale Consulting Engineers investigated the failure and demonstrated that it had occurred due to incorrect assembly procedures of the bearing and that the collision and the bearing failure were totally unrelated.

Building Hoist Fatal Accident

A passenger hoist installed in a 25 storey building in Hong Kong, failed killing all 12 passengers. Neale Consulting Engineers prepared an expert witness report based upon available witness statements, photographs of the equipment and related reports. They concluded that the failure was due to a mechanical defect in the gear drive and brake system associated with significant contributory factors including poor operator training, inappropriate safety certification and inadequate maintenance. The operator who was accused of manslaughter was subsequently found not guilty.

Helicopter Crash

A helicopter crashed in Brunei, killing all the passengers and crew, due to the loss of it’s main rotor in flight. The design of the oil filtration system, monitoring of wear debris and maintenance of the gearbox were key issues which Neale Consulting Engineers were asked to investigate and clarify. The report was used as evidence in two simultaneous actions of personal injury and air worthiness against the operator and manufacturer of the helicopter.

Ship’s Main Engine Crankcase Explosion

The main diesel engine on a ship failed suddenly, with a crankcase explosion and substantial internal engine damage, only a few days after engine repair work had been carried out by the engine manufacturer. The ship owners alleged that the repairs had been carried out incorrectly, resulting in internal parts of the engine becoming detached.

Neale Consulting Engineers found that the failure was a bearing seizure caused by large amounts of dirt in the lubricating oil, which implied either a defective filter element or an incorrect procedure for changing the filter. These aspects were clearly the responsibility of the ship’s operators, not of the engine manufacturer. The case was settled out of court.

Performance of a Scrap Metal Separating Plant

A complex plant costing approximately £1 million for separating and sorting scrap metal automatically was purchased by a scrap merchant. The plant suffered a large number of “teething” problems, including wearing out of many major components in only a few months of operating. Also the separation and sorting was not very effective even after many modifications and adjustments, so the owner had to employ a number of people for supplementary hand-sorting.

Neale Consulting Engineers investigated the problems and were of the opinion that the plant was effectively an experimental prototype, not a proven design as the purchaser had been led to believe. The report led to the purchaser receiving adequate compensation from the manufacturer.

Fairground Fairground Ride Accidents

Neale Consulting Engineers have investigated a number of accidents and injuries associated with fairground machinery and fairground rides. In some cases the structural design has been found to be deficient, probably due to a lack of professional engineering input at the design stage. In other cases, inadequate operator training has been the main contributor.

There do not appear to be many regulations or controls over the design and use of fairground machinery in the UK, so occasional failures and injuries are not surprising. Many cases therefore rely on an independent engineering input to establish whether reasonable care has been taken or whether the ride is in fact unsafe.