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Monthly Bulletin of Case Reports & New Toxicological Studies
25 years of noteworthy & celebrated forensic toxicology cases
William R. Sawyer, Ph.D. Toxicologist
  • Diplomate, American Board of Forensic Medicine
  • Diplomate, American Board of Forensic Examiners
About Us
TCAS, LLC provides a wide range of professional services including review of civil and criminal litigation matters with respect to chemical exposures, alcohol ingestion, intentional poisons involved in homicides, occupational or community exposures to carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, pyrolysis products, heavy metals, organic chemicals, dioxins and drugs of abuse. Forensic toxicology and toxic exposure investigations include analytical protocol, referral of autopsy material for analyses, environmental and occupational health risk assessments and site assessment and causation determination. Final work products, including scientific methods and validation as well as forensic documentation and written reports useful in both forensic and routine (non-judicial) assessments, have been provided to multiple clients in over 30 states.
Please Note
We routinely work throughout the Americas from the Virgin Islands, Bahamas to Alaska and have offices in New York state and Florida.
Contact Us
Toxicology Consultants & Assessment Specialists, LLC

5851 North Road
Auburn, New York 13021

6450 Pine Ave
Sanibel, Florida 33957

NY: 315-685-2345
FL: 239-472-2436

Toll free (U.S. & Canada): 

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American Board of
Forensic Medicine

E-Newsletter Introduction and Invitation
TCAS, LLC is sending this first edition of our newsletter to all our past and present clients with the hope that it is of value to your professional endeavors.

Welcome to our new series of short, educational summaries of forensic toxicology matters taken from actual TCAS cases over the past 25 years. Each case summary is factual, however, identifying case information has been removed unless revealed through jury verdict reports. Although interesting to read, the purpose of these case summaries is to show you how the application of toxicological principles can be used in forensic matters. On occasion, we will also be releasing summaries on new toxicological studies and regulations. 

In the event you have an interesting case you would like to discuss, please feel free to call or email myself or Jen for a prompt, confidential teleconference appointment. 

Dr. Sawyer

Forensic Toxicology
Postmortem Alcohol Formation in a Severe Burn Victim

CASE STUDY: TCAS Plaintiff matter (Duval, FL, 2011-CA-001772; Theodore Leopold, Esq, Palm Beach Gardens)

Female plaintiff was involved in a collision in Florida during July, 2008, while riding as a passenger in a Ford F-150 truck driven by her boyfriend. Although the woman suffered only minor injuries during the collision, the truck's fuel system was alleged to be defective when the gas tank was  ripped open as the truck ran over a stop sign post cutting through the plastic safety shield covering the plastic fuel tank. The ensuing gasoline spill caused a massive fire with flames shooting more than 20 feet into the air. The fire breached the passenger compartment of the truck killing the boyfriend and causing catastrophic injuries to the Plaintiff including the loss of both of her legs and portions of her hands and forearm with severe burns over much of her body. The Defendant claimed that the Plaintiff and her boyfriend were both intoxicated as,  prior to the accident, they had both been at a bar.

Postmortem Alcohol Formation

Upon review of the matter, Dr. Sawyer noted that the quantity of alcoholic beverage consumed at the bar was discrepant with respect to the postmortem blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.11% noted for the driver and was also discrepant with the postmortem urine and bile alcohol concentrations when applying generally accepted conversion equations. Such data immediately raised a "red flag."

Review of the autopsy report and photos of the driver revealed that approximately 95% of his body was burned so severely that striated muscle and bones were visibly evident. Although not well known to most professionals, it is generally accepted and documented within the toxicological literature that severely burned postmortem bodies more often than not produce endogenous alcohol. This postmortem alcohol formation stems from microflora deposits upon the open tissues with rapid alcoholic fermentation occurring. This phenomenon has been studied and published in articles by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following the autopsies of hundreds of plane crash victims known not to have consumed alcohol, USS Iowa turret gunnery disaster victims in 1989 and in many other severe burn cases.

Following multiple depositions, motions to preclude his testimony and a hearing before the judge, Dr. Sawyer was permitted to present the evidence regarding postmortem alcohol formation. After a lengthy three week trial, the jury returned a finding that the fuel system was defective and, therefore, partially responsible for the catastrophic injuries to the Plaintiff, resulting in a 4.3 million dollar verdict against Ford Motor Corporation.

View case study on our website

Toxicological Assessment
Munchausen Syndrome or Toxic Exposure?
CASE STUDY: TCAS Defense matter

A female Nebraska Plaintiff  was stocking vending machines as part of her job duties when she slipped and fell on a floor which was in the process of being refinished with a chemical wax stripper. The plaintiff reported that she sustained chemical burns over a large portion of her body from the stripping product even after spending 20 minutes rinsing off in the shower immediately following her fall. She also alleged that the chemical burns caused her to develop a condition known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) due to damage to her immune system. In addition, she also reported a swollen eye which she believed to be related to this event. Plaintiff subsequently brought a lawsuit against the floor refinishing company.

Munchausen Syndrome revealed

A careful review of the medical records revealed various inconsistencies within the Plaintiff's story. Additionally, Plaintiff demonstrated an extensive medical history of skin rashes, blistering, cellulitis and frequent MRSA, which pre-dated her alleged exposure. Statements from Plaintiff's co-workers revealed that she had been seen intentionally injuring herself by repeatedly sticking her fingernail in her eye. Dr. Sawyer and an independent medical examiner opined that there was no permanent impairment of the Plaintiff's skin following her exposure, nor was there any reason to believe that her immune system was permanently damaged or compromised by exposure to the chemical stripping product. In fact, Munchausen syndrome - a mental illness in which a person acts as if he or she has a physical or mental disorder when, in truth, the symptoms are self-inflicted - was considered to be the cause. The presentation was highly consistent with Plaintiff's extensive history of skin rashes, self-induced dermatological conditions, hospitalizations and the reported self-mutilation to her eye.

Were chemicals the cause?

Dr. Sawyer was able to provide conclusive evidence that the diluted chemical ingredients were insufficient to have caused her reported injuries. Furthermore, even if the chemical components of the stripping product had been undiluted, they would have caused skin symptoms to occur within one half hour or less. However, Plaintiff's first indication of any dermatological issues as documented in the medical records occurred a full 22 days later - far outside the required time-frame to be linked to the chemical stripper. In addition, the stripping product had been diluted with water by a factor of five further reducing any dermatological impact. The case settled for a very minimal amount as Dr. Sawyer was able to demonstrate that the Plaintiff's claim was unfounded.

View case study on our website

Meet the Firm
Dr. William Sawyer is a professional toxicologist with a doctorate in toxicology from Indiana University School of Medicine. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Medicine and has over 25 years of extensive experience in public health and forensic toxicology with specialized expertise in causation analyses (plaintiff and defendant) including alcohol toxicology, drugs-of-abuse, pharmaceuticals, herbal products, dioxins, solvents, heavy metals, crude oil, radionuclides/NORM and other substances. Dr. Sawyer has testified in trial or deposition in over 30 states including NY, MA, CT, PA, RI, NH, DE, NJ, WV, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, AR, MO, KY, IN, IL, WI, MI, OH, MN, MT, WA, CA, TX, OK. 

As a skilled scientist and communicator in the area of toxic tort, Dr. Sawyer provides services to governmental agencies, corporations, select plaintiffs or defendants. Dr. Sawyer currently serves as Chief Toxicologist for TCAS, LLC and served for 23 years as an Assistant Professor (adjunct) with the Department of Medicine, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York. Dr. Sawyer also has approximately 14 years experience as a licensed clinical and environmental laboratory director in several states.

Dr. Sawyer is a member of the Gulf Coast Swim Team as a distance swimmer and recently completed the "Swim Around Key West" race in just over six hours. He is also a triathlete with the distinction of being a four time Ironman. He loves to fish and SCUBA dive in northern New York state and the Gulf of Mexico.

Jennifer Clark (Jen) began working with Dr. Sawyer in 2007 after spending the previous 18 years as a full-time mom. With a former background as a legal assistant prior to the birth of her two daughters, Jen spends a considerable amount of her time researching pertinent information related to ongoing cases. Not only does she have a special ability for ferretting out information, she also has excellent grammatical skills which she applies to communications and report preparation. Jen loves a challenge and the fact that no two days at TCAS are the same! 

When not being an honorary toxicology investigator, Jen enjoys gardening, camping, reading and solving jigsaw puzzles. She is also a huge fan of the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and spends several weeks each summer exploring the woods and lakes with her husband, Jim, and golden retriever, Gracie.

Carol Sawyer serves as the bookkeeper for TCAS, LLC. By training, she is a dental hygienist graduate from Indiana University School of Dentistry with many years of practice. She also has prior training and work experience in an accounting firm as a file room clerk and has handled the TCAS records since its inception in 1989. Carol enjoys specialty food preparation, volunteer services to the church and community, barrier island beaches, reading and the outdoors environment.

Support Staff

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This newsletter archive contains informational and instructional publications devoted to toxicology, compiled as a useful educational resource. Footnotes, image sources and references are cited where appropriate. Copyrighted material may only be reproduced and/or distributed with prior permission from TCAS, LLC.