OmniTrace has helped me with cases that seemed hopeless. They locate witnesses where other investigative companies have failed.

Chris Placitella
Cohen, Placitella & Roth
Former President, New Jersey Trial Lawyers (ATLA-NJ)

Case Studies

 

ASBESTOS

GENERAL

CHEMICAL EXPOSURE

SLIP AND FALL

PERSONAL INJURY

BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION

MISSING PERSONS INVESTIGATION

RECORDS ACQUISITION


Case Study – Asbestos

Our client represented Helen W. (Born in 1934). Helen was a factory worker from 1955-1975 in Kinston, NC.  Helen described her job function as sewing the side seams of shirts that were later pressed and packaged for shipping. Helen could not recall any living coworker names.  Our client had been unable to identify coworker names via their standard methods.

OmniTrace was enlisted to identify and locate coworkers who could identify products and brands.  Ideally, our client wanted us to find a press machine operator (the press machine likely had asbestos in the press pads and confirmation was needed). We were also asked to search for general maintenance workers.

After only a few hours of research, we identified over 30 workers at this facility during the correct time frame.  We then researched these persons to determine if they were alive, where they resided, and what their job positions were.  Ultimately, we provided our client the names and addresses of several living co-workers of Helen who could establish asbestos product id.  One of these worked in general maintenance and one was a press machine operator. 


Case Study – Asbestos

We conducted an investigation involving a class action suit against Con Edison facilities in New York State.  Our clients (several plaintiff firms) requested that we interview the named plaintiffs and establish prospective witnesses and additional potential plaintiffs who had received exposure to asbestos. 

We were able to identify and locate a large number of additional persons exposed to asbestos who ultimately became plaintiffs and witnesses.  In many instances, we only had a name or nickname to work with.

Once located, we established a rapport with these persons to:

  • Evaluate them as witnesses
  • Obtain mappings of the Con Edison facilities
  • Determine their individual work histories
  • Determine their work experiences with other plaintiffs
  • Learn about the production processes of the facilities
  • Establish the types of asbestos exposure to the plaintiff described by the witnesses
  • Determine asbestos insulated equipment at the facilities
  • Determine the manufacturers of asbestos products used at the facilities
  • Determine the suppliers of asbestos products used at the facilities
  • Determine what companies performed asbestos related maintenance at the facilities
  • Develop information about purchasing department policy and purchasing agents
  • Determine safety protection and safety equipment provided by the facilities

Over a period of 20 years, we have conducted investigations for hundreds of asbestos related cases of similar scope.  In addition, in later years when some of the larger scope asbestos litigation was diminishing, we were retained to investigate more secondary and subsidiary cases. 


Case Study – Asbestos

Case Name: Donald F.
Case Type: Batch Search and Interview

Task Request: OmniTrace was provided with a crew list of 25 people dated from 1984. It was requested that we locate the crew and interview for familiarity with the plaintiff and knowledge of asbestos use onboard.

Result: 17 people located
7 interviewed
2 worked with the plaintiff and had knowledge of asbestos onboard
3 additional had knowledge of asbestos use onboard


Case Study

Case Name: Bob D.
Case Type: People Search

Task Request:  OmniTrace was provided with the last name of a subject, along with former place of employment and state of NJ as a possible place of residence.  We were also provided with the possibility that he might have a daughter who was a New Jersey attorney. This information was obtained from a family member of the plaintiff.

Result: We could not initially find the subject or a daughter who was an attorney.  Our client located a female attorney with the provided last name in NJ and inquired as to why we did not think it was the daughter of the subject.  Further investigation indicated the last name was acquired via marriage and thus she had no relation to the subject.  When our researchers could not find any trace of the subject, we re-interviewed the plaintiff and discovered that the spelling he originally provided was significantly off.  Based on the new information, we located the subject within half an hour.


Case Study

Case Name: Alex A.
Case Type: Co-Worker

Task Request: OmniTrace was provided with the plaintiff’s name, former place and years of employment with the goal of locating co-workers who worked with the plaintiff.

Result: We located 17 former co-workers.  The first two interviewed knew the plaintiff, so no further calls were made to the remainder.  We deferred to our client in order to minimize expenses.


Case Study

Case Name: David H.
Case Type: Co-worker

Task Request:  OmniTrace was provided with the plaintiff’s name and three former places and years of employment, with the goal of locating co-workers who worked with the plaintiff.

Results: For Company A, we located co-workers who worked during the same period of time but none who knew the plaintiff.  Company B operated out of an apartment, and no co-workers were located.  We could only locate executives of Company C, who provided ownership information.  Overall, we would classify this case as unsuccessful but overall investment was just three hours of our research time.


Case Study – Chemical Exposure

We conducted an investigation in Paterson, New Jersey of an Environmental Protection Agency established hazardous waste site on behalf of a plaintiff who developed serious and permanent occupational injuries as a consequence of exposure to harmful chemicals.  The plaintiff was a young technical supervisor with a background in engineering and worked in management for a medium size company called Seaview Thermal Systems that recycled contaminated soil and various other hazardous waste products.

Seaview Thermal Systmes mainly operated a unique and innovative Thermal Disorption Unit known as the HT-6 Unit to recycle hazardous waste products.  The HT-6 Unit was to be the model and trial project for over 200 future hazardous waste sites around the country and could be inexpensively copied 

The HT-6 Unit was a technically sophisticated, computer driven, equipment assembly that was a little larger than the size of a basketball court, and sections of it were up to eighty feet tall.  A large utility company, PSE&G, owned and oversaw the Paterson site.  A company called Woodward Clyde Corp. had an affiliation with PSE&G and oversaw the Seaview project serving as the safety representative, which promulgated the health and safety plan for the site and was responsible for good industrial hygiene practices.  The plaintiff indicated that Bechtel Corporation was also involved at the site, but he had little knowledge about them.

The defendants in the case were Woodward Clyde and PSE&G.  We interviewed the plaintiff in the hospital, and we located and interviewed Seaview coworkers, Seaview managers, and the Seaview owner.  We also located and interviewed former Woodward Clyde employees from around the country who had previously worked at the Paterson project site.  In addition, we located and interviewed former and current OSHA inspectors that were involved with the Paterson site.

We were able to establish and document considerable hazardous chemical exposure to many employees at the project site from the various chemical waste products. The causes of exposure were primarily due to (a) design flaws in the HT-6 Unit causing repeated leaks and equipment failures (b) negligence of safety procedures and practices (c) constant and repeated deceptive practices by project supervisors such as falsifying meter readings, gauge readings, and log entries (d) deceptive practices by management and advisors such as repeatedly lying to employees telling them that they were safe when respirators and special Tyvec protective suits and equipment were necessary (d) ignoring repeated OSHA citations and fines.

Primary sources of chemical exposure were (a) contaminated soil (b) the inhalation of vapor emissions mainly from broken pipes and related equipment on the HT6- Unit (c) coal-tar derivatives leaked from the housing chamber and auger on the HT-6 Unit (d) heavy oil leaked from the filters of the twenty foot high refractory tower on the HT-6 Unit.  A piece of equipment on the HT-6 Unit would break down almost daily or require constant maintenance, replacement or repair. Technicians, engineers, workers, laborers, involved in the repairs would receive considerable hazardous chemical exposure for many hours at a time.  In as much as other employees were continuously working nearby where repairs were taking place, they also received considerable exposure.  At the end of the day, workers were covered with contaminated soil, dust, and oil that made them resemble coal miners. 

The project site had no facilities for washing or cleaning off.  Employees could only wash their hands in mud puddles from the ground. 

The primary reason there was such extensive chemical exposure at the Paterson site and also the lack of cleaning and hygiene facilities was that the HT-6 Unit was originally designed to be a closed system whereby workers would only be required to take readings, measurements, and observe with no exposure to hazardous materials.  However, companies involved with the project instituted considerable alterations and changes making the HT-6 Unit, in essence, an open system.  The purpose was to cut the cost of the HT-6 Unit considerably and make it more appealing and adaptable for future waste sites

As our investigation progressed, we applied our skills to locate people and found a number of former Seaview and Woodward Clyde employees now living in other parts of the country (the nature of the business is such that workers move around from project to project). We learned they were experiencing various and serious health problems that were verified by doctors and hospitals.  These workers were certain that their health problems began not long after their employment at Seaview Thermal Systems.   They personally knew the plaintiff involved in the case and of the serious problems and hazardous chemical exposures at the Seaview project site.  They confirmed what the plaintiff and other witnesses had stated.  They also said that they had kept their mouths shut out of fear that the word would get out in the industry and they would be unable to find future employment.

Consequently, the law firm for the plaintiff asked us to further investigate what role Bechtel Corporation and any other company may have played at the Seaview project site.  We learned that Bechtel subsidiaries, Zytel Bechtel (an engineering company that instituted structural changes at the Seaview project site and built the model for the HT-6 Unit off of blue prints conceived by Seaview Thermal Systems), Bechtel Environment, and Bechtel Corporation stood to gain enormously if the Paterson, NJ project site could be inexpensively copied.  Seaview and Bechtel related companies had large corporate clients anxiously waiting to buy the recycling units with the hope of taking it worldwide.  The success of Seaview would give these companies several years jump on competitors. 

As a result, a tremendous amount of pressure was brought to bear to make the Paterson, NJ project site work.

We were able to establish that the owner of Seaview obtained a written 100% guarantee of success from Zytel Bechtel.  This type of guarantee is unheard of and does not exist in the industry because projects are just too risky. The parent company, Bechtel Corporation, apparently lost PSE&G as an account after they disputed bitterly over the site.


Case Study – Chemical Exposure

We conducted an investigation of Morton International Corporation (Morton Salt)
in New Jersey where a plaintiff worked for many years as a chemical operator.  Morton International primarily made liquid dyes and dry dyes. The plaintiff had developed inoperable bladder cancer and medical specialists attributed it to exposure to certain chemicals at the Morton plant that went into the making of the dyes.

We initially identified and located many co-workers of the plaintiff, but only a few had bladder cancer.  However, through research and further investigation we were able to enlist the cooperation and resources of union officials, industrial hygienists, the National Institute of Safety & Health, the Committee of Interns and Residents in Manhattan, and doctors from the Barnhert Hospital Pathology Department in northern New Jersey who disputed reports from Morton environmentalists and Morton medical doctors.  With the help of these sources, we found that at least thirteen, and as possibly as many as eighteen, Morton International workers had contracted bladder cancer.  Some of these individuals were retired, but most were deceased.   A NIOSH official who had performed medical surveillance at Morton International and a professor from the University of Massachusetts who had conducted research at Morton International said that they were willing to testify when we presented them with the facts of our investigation.  The University Of Massachusetts professor also found old Morton plant documents in his attic that were helpful to the case.

We interviewed a medical doctor who specialized in carcinogenic chemicals and guided us to investigate worker exposure to a group of seven specific chemicals at the Morton plant that are related to bladder cancer.   The four most important chemical agents were:  alpha napthl amine, beta napthyl amine, beta napthol, and benzidine.  The other three were: o-toluidine, aniline, and mixed xylidine that we later learned were used in the making of Red-B-1 dyes.

As far as carcinogenic exposure was concerned, the form these chemicals were in (whether liquid or dry such as crystal, powder, or flake) was particularly significant.

Our investigation established three sources of exposure to carcinogenic chemicals
that were especially extensive. The first source was from 55-gallon drums containing carcinogenic chemicals that went into the manufacturing of various dyes. These drums were stored in the warehouse of the Production Building.  Chemical operators would use handcarts to transport the drums to huge vats where they scooped the dry powder chemicals from the drums into a liquid solution.  This scooping procedure created much chemical dust in the air and on the worker’s clothes.  The chemical operators and nearby workers inhaled the chemical dust.  Also, for hours at a time, chemical operators inhaled potent chemical fumes constantly emitted by the mixing and stirring of the chemical solutions in the vats.

The second source of chemical dye product exposure was the Tinsel Building where chemical operators and workers went to perform a procedure called “skimming” the vats.  During this procedure, liquid chemical dye spilled all over the floor.  The dye would dry and solidify.  Chemical operators and workers got on their knees and used scrapers to scrape up the solidified dye. This procedure created a considerable amount of chemical dust that the workers inhaled.

The third source of exposure was the Filtration Plant where pollution control was maintained.  Waste products from the dyes and carcinogenic chemicals were piped into storage tanks in this building and emitted strong fumes.  Chemical operators did not go into this building every day, but at times, would spend a number of hours there working.

Chemical operators, daily, had liquid chemical dyes all over their hands, arms, and faces. The chemical dyes also saturated their clothes and was absorbed into their skin.  In order to save money, workers commonly wore the same clothes for several days.

The only chemical that had a warning label on the 55 gallon drums was the mixed xylidines.  The warning label appeared in the early 1970s and said that the contents were hazardous and there was a picture of a skull and cross bone. 

Part of our investigation pertained to identifying the specific chemical companies that manufactured the carcinogenic chemicals used in making the dyes at the Morton plant along with the suppliers of these chemicals.  Materials Safety Data Sheets assisted in this process.


Case Study – Slip and Fall

We conducted an investigation on behalf of an elderly woman (the plaintiff) who tripped and fell and broke her hip leading to permanent injury as she stepped from the jetway boarding tunnel at Newark International Airport onto a Continental Airlines jet passenger airplane.  The plaintiff had been assisted in a wheelchair by an airport employee to the end of the jetway but was left alone to step a height of approximately four to six inches between the end of the jetway floor and the floor of the airplane doorway. 

To determine possible liability, we investigated (1) the Federal Aviation Agency boarding procedure policy for the disabled and people in wheelchairs (2) Continental Airlines compliance with the FAA boarding procedure policy for the disabled and people in wheelchairs (3) Past infractions of boarding policy procedures committed by Continental Airlines that were similar to our case (4) Boarding procedure policy for the disabled and people in wheelchairs at other airlines in the Newark Terminal where the incident occurred (5)  The jetway (landing bridge) manufacturer whose tunnel where the accident occurred (6) The jetway manufacturer recommended procedures for boarding of the disabled and people in wheelchairs (7) Jetway operators who stand in the jetway cab at the end of the tunnel near the plane and operate the controls of the mobile driven jetway unit to align the jetway up against the plane (8) The industry accepted distance from the floor end of the jetway cab to the floor end of the jet passenger plane doorway and the industry accepted height differential between the two floors (9) Other jetway manufacturers and recommended procedures for the disabled and people in wheelchairs (10) Possible liability of Newark International Airport.
During our investigation, we interviewed airline employees such as pilots, ticket agents, gate agents, flight attendants, crewmembers, jetway operators, airport security, and passenger assistance.  We also contacted and interviewed about fifteen individuals from different government agencies knowledgeable about airline boarding safety and oversight.

For this particular case, we indexed our report with a table of contents and included a summary of the results of our investigation.  As an illustration, we have provided here the table of contents. 

Table of Contents

Summary Of Case Investigation

Section 1  (a) Document “New Horizons” FAA Disabilities -13 pages.
(b) Document “FAA Americans with Disabilities Act Information”
(c) Document “FAA Regulations Parts Index”

Section 2   Document – Department of Transportation Discrimination Case
Against Continental Airlines Concerning Passengers With
Disabilities (in Wheelchairs) During Boarding. A number of 
violations are cited.      

Section 3    Document – “Passengers with Disabilities” – Office of General Council
(Department of Transportation)

Section 4  National Safety Council published article “Safer, Easier to Use, and
More Comfortable Aircraft Boarding Chairs” 5 pages.

Section 5    Agencies and People Contacted

Section 6    Information Gathered About Jetways

Section 7    Jetway Manufacturers

Section 8    Periodical and News Articles About Jetways

Section 9    Literature and Pictures of portable boarding ramps from the manufacturer Extren Corporation

Section 10  Recent Additional Leads and People That Can Be Contacted

Of Note: In our Summary of the Case Investigation, we presented the following four significant points.

1) The responsibility of Newark International Airport wheelchair passenger escort technically ended when the passenger left the wheelchair of her own volition.  However, the escort pushing the wheelchair should have stayed at the end of the jetway tunnel cab attached to the plane until the passenger safely entered the plane.

2) Passengers in wheelchairs are normally boarded first.  Continental Airlines was aware of and was notified about this passenger.  It is the responsibility of the head flight attendant to ensure that someone (usually a flight attendant) assists the passenger safely from the wheelchair onto the plane and into her seat.  Continental did not do this.

3) The FAA classifies anyone who requests a wheelchair as disabled.  There is no specific FAA code or regulation addressing a possible difference in height between the floor of the jetway cab and the floor of the plane that may cause a passenger to step up or step down.  However, the standard industry practice is that the jetway operator should see to it that the floor of the jetway cab is level to the floor of the doorway of the plane.  In as much as jetway operators are sometimes in a rush to get to another jetway where there is a plane that has landed and approaching the terminal, it is a bit of a problem in the industry that sometimes the floors are not level.  As a safety precaution to address this problem, some airlines use a small, lightweight, portable boarding ramp that is placed between the two floors.  Continental Airlines at Newark International Airport did not do this.  In Section 9 of this report we show a picture of a typical boarding ramp and literature from a ramp manufacturer.

4) Airports differ, but at Newark International Airport each airline purchases, owns, and operates the jetways.  The operator of the jetway usually is an employee of the airline.

The jetway operator normally receives training from the jetway manufacturer either through a brief training course, a seminar, or by just studying the manual.  Operating a jetway does not necessarily require a great deal of skill and often only a little bit of practice can suffice.  A jetway operator we interviewed said that his primary concern was to get the jetway as close to the plane as possible without damaging the jetway or the plane.  He tries to leave a one-inch space where the floor of the jetway cab meets the floor of the plane’s doorway so when you step over the one inch space the outside macadam on the ground approximately twelve feet below can be seen.


Case Study – Personal Injury

When the son of a New York City professional football head coach received a devastating throat injury during a Little League practice session, we were asked to interview witnesses, coaches, parents and league officials and conduct an onsite investigation of the incident.  This was an emotionally charged case with developing hostility, and we handled it in as calming manner as possible in order to establish the truth behind the biases.


Case Study – Personal Injury

When a New Jersey medical doctor and his wife were driving during a cold winter evening to a waterfront restaurant and searching for a parking space, they turned down a side road adjacent to the restaurant and drove into a river.  The road’s warning sign was down and so was the crossing chain.  The current carried the car down the river.  The doctor drowned and his wife suffered irreparable brain damage. They had children that needed care and the doctor’s wife requires full-time nursing care for the rest of her life.  The city, county, and the restaurant battled over who was liable. Our job involved investigating the facts, developing witnesses, interviewing Department of Transportation experts, and researching and establishing comparable cases.


Case Study – Personal Injury

When two Newark police officers, at 2:00 am, from another district, purportedly drove their cruiser over an African American pedestrian, we were asked to delicately investigate the facts.  Through an in-depth investigation, we uncovered two conflicting police reports, interviewed police department personnel and officials and developed local witnesses.  We developed evidence that suggested the pedestrian was indeed hit by the cruiser.


Case Study – Background Investigation

When a suspected, apparently notorious, WWII concentration camp guard from Poland was possibly spotted, a law firm asked us to investigate and develop information on this person.  We developed names, conducted background research, developed contacts with the Jewish Defense League, and interviewed officials at the Department of Immigration.  As our work was progressing, authorities told us to drop the matter.  In as much as there was no legal case yet established, we complied.


Missing Persons Investigation

Ron Kovic is a Vietnam veteran, former Marine Corps sergeant and author of Born on the 4th of July. Mr. Kovic along with Oliver Stone was the co-screenwriter of the film BORN ON THE 4th of JULY released in December 1989. This Academy Award-winning motion picture starring Tom Cruise is based on the life of Ron Kovic.  Ron Kovic was missing.

We were hired by a talent agency who had represented Mr. Kovic.  The agency owed him a substantial amount of money and had tried, via several other investigative agencies, to locate him in order to make payment.

We found Mr. Kovic—residing in a small, rundown California hotel—after only a few hours of searching.  He was overjoyed at the good news that he was to receive money from the agency.  He had been unaware that he was owed anything. This was a particularly rewarding search for us to successfully complete.


Records Acquisition

In addition to the above referenced investigative skills, members of our staff have extensive experience regarding mass tort litigation pertaining to the acquisition of records necessary for litigation. These include:

  • Medical Records
  • Radiology Records
  • Pathology Records, Blocks and Slides
  • Echocardiogram Records
  • IRS Records
  • Worker’s Compensation Records
  • Social Security Records
  • Employment Records

Also, our staff members have extensive experience locating records from hard to find physicians and physicians that have retired or are deceased.  We have also developed considerable resources to enable us to obtain records from medical facilities that have closed, moved, or changed ownership.