Causation Analysis: Fire cause determination is only the beginning. Often, the circumstances that brought together the fuel, oxidizer and ignition source are undisputed. The question becomes 'Why?' Why did the fire spread so rapidly? Why did the suppression system fail to extinguish the fire? Why did the occupants fail to escape? Why did a product fail (or was the product simply in the wrong place at the wrong time)?
Finding the answers to these questions is usually more difficult than determining the cause of the fire. These deeper inquiries require knowledge of the fundamental behaviors of fires and how people, buildings, systems and products respond to them. Mr. Lentini's extensive experience working with both defendants and plaintiffs in the area of product liability has provided an understanding of how things work and how things fail. Knowledge of the applicable codes and standards is essential. Mr. Lentini's participation in the standards development process provides the ability to identify the pertinent questions and to find and understand the information that sheds light on the issues surrounding a particular event.
The idea is to provide clients not just with facts, but also with an understanding of the issues and events surrounding a fire.
Fire Investigation Review: More so than in most professions, the work product of fire investigators is not uniformly reliable. Only a careful review can distinguish a valid conclusion from an invalid one. Even when the correct conclusion has been reached, an investigator's opinion may require additional support to withstand a Daubert challenge. The all-too-common substandard work requires substantial effort if it is to be successfully challenged. Knowing the difference between a credible report and a contrived fantasy allows our clients to make informed decisions on how to proceed.
Comparing methodology and conclusions with accepted standards of care is the first step in reviewing conclusions for validity. The final step is a 'reality check.' A valid hypothesis must be consistent with all credible data.
Evaluating Arson Charges: This small but growing segment of our practice involves the most serious questions of all. Arson is the only crime for which a citizen can face loss of liberty or life savings based on the unsupported opinion of an individual who acquired all of his skills and training 'on the job.' False accusations are commonplace. This is the result of a generally unscientific approach, combined with a curiously persistent pantheon of mythological 'indicators' that have been promulgated for decades. Despite advances in the profession's understanding of the behavior of fire, there remains a substantial rear guard of alleged professionals, who routinely determine accidental fires to be incendiary.
Mr. Lentini's work in the field, in the laboratory, and in the courtroom has helped to expose the myths and their misguided believers. He has helped to keep dozens of innocent citizens out of the penitentiary, and has helped dozens more innocent homeowners and business owners compel their insurance carriers to honor their contracts.
In many cases, however, the incendiary determination is the correct one. When apprised of the facts, the client can proceed accordingly.
Fire analysis often requires the integration of multiple disciplines. Being able to recognize the limitations of one's knowledge and expertise, and knowing when to call for additional expertise is something that comes with experience. Over the years, Mr. Lentini has performed research, conducted investigations, or been accepted as an expert in the following areas: