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Dr. David Schwartz is a founding partner of Innovative Science Solutions, LLC (ISS), a scientific consulting firm specializing in helping legal teams prevail in high-stakes litigation involving complex scientific principles. Dr. Schwartz has served as a consulting scientist to the legal industry for over 25 years and has provided support to cases involving environmental and occupational exposures, radiation, drugs, medical devices, dietary supplements, cosmetics, industrial chemicals. But over the course of the past several years, Dr. Schwartz has focused on the role of genetics as an alternative cause in toxic tort litigation. As part of a strategic alliance, ToxicoGenomica, Dr. Schwartz and other ISS consultants have been providing consulting support on asbestos and talc cases focusing on genetic evidence as an alternative cause of mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. In 2017, Dr. Schwartz (ISS), myself (A2L), and others co-hosted a pioneering conference on the subject of the role of genetics in civil litigation. Now two years later, I sat down with Dr. Schwartz to get a better understanding of how genetic science has evolved since then and how it is likely to change the way toxic tort cases will be litigated in the near future, specifically in talc and asbestos cases. Q: Give us a quick summary as to how genomic science will change toxic tort litigation. A: Modern medicine is advancing from broad-based treatment based on randomized controlled clinical trials to “precision medicine” where treatment is tailored to individual patients based on their genetic profile. Similarly, toxic tort litigation has been based on so-called black-box epidemiology studying large groups of people and trying to determine risk. We are bringing the field up to date by applying the tools of precision medicine to evaluate risk in toxic tort litigation. With genomics, we can directly ask if a person was born with genes that predispose them to develop a disease (like mesothelioma) instead of relying on statistical inferences from large populations. This is a watershed moment in toxic tort litigation. Q: Talc litigation is heating up. Last I read, there were 14,000 claims filed related to talc. Do you think genetic science has a role in talc litigation? A: Absolutely! Genetics provides a medically sound alternative cause argument no matter what the alleged injury: mesothelioma, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, lymphoma, autism. These conditions are all known to have well-established genetic underpinnings. If a defense lawyer can demonstrate that a plaintiff had a specific set of genetic factors, then it is legitimate to make the argument that the condition was caused by those factors. Q: What is a genetic mutation? A: A mutation, also referred to as a variant, is an error in the sequence of a gene that could drive specific types of cancer. A gene can have hundreds or thousands of different types of mutations. Some mutations have no known effect on a person’s life, while others will drive the onset of cancer. Q: If genomic testing is already being used in precision medicine, has that information ever been used for litigation purposes? A: Yes. Sometimes the genetic analysis at a hospital can be very informative. That’s especially true for cancer treatment at excellent cancer hospitals. Having the capability to review plaintiffs’ medical records for relevant genetic evidence will be a core skill set moving forward.

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And The Winner is . . . ?

  by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.Managing Director, Jury Consulting A2L Consulting Nurse Kaci Hickox.  After she volunteered in Sierra Leone to treat Ebola patients, she headed to Newark airport to come home. Her timing was impeccable, because a mandatory quarantine was instituted on the ground while she was in the air. That day’s rule change was a reaction by New Jersey’s Gov. Christie to the frenzy caused by New York’s first Ebola patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, who visited numerous public places in two boroughs since his return from Guinea, before he developed fever and went to the hospital. Self-quarantine, evidently, would not satisfy a worried public.

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So Little Trust, So Much Double-Speak

  by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury Consulting A2L Consulting Funny how officials repeat how hard it is to get Ebola, that the NYC doctor did all the right things, that you can’t catch it when there aren’t symptoms, so there’s no need to sanitize the subway because there’s essentially no risk. New York’s health commissioner at the first press conference related that the doctor at issue kind of self-quarantined, but not really... 

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6 Ways to Convey Size and Scale to a Jury

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Although checklists are not as dramatic as other types of litigation graphics such as three-dimensional animations or interactive PowerPoint timelines, they can be very effective in persuading juries on key issues and in making it easier for them to recall the important elements of a case.

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Information Design and Litigation Graphics

by Ken Lopez The term information design is less than fifty years old.  The use of specialty trial graphics in the courtroom started less than thirty years ago.  Only very recently have the terms been used in the same sentence. That is, only recently have individual practitioners of both arts emerged. Wikipedia describes information design as "the skill and practice of preparing information so people can use it with efficiency and effectiveness. Where the data is complex or unstructured, a visual representation can express its meaning more clearly to the viewer."  I would call it simply the effective and efficient presentation of information. Applied to the litigation graphics consulting industry of which I am a member, I would add the word persuasive.  This is true since the job of the modern litigation graphics consultant is to persuade not merely to present information.

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