Investigation Through the Internet
By: Douglas B. Abrams
The Internet has become an amazing resource for trial lawyers. The proliferation of useful web sites has emerged as one of the most exciting developments in the practice of law in years. One of the best uses is for pre-suit or non-formal discovery. This paper will briefly discuss some of the Internet sites most helpful to attorneys.
This URL is the web site for Ralph Hoar and Associates and is an excellent source of information for products liability attorneys. One of the more interesting features of this site is the News section where recent verdicts and settlements are discussed. The questionnaire requests specific information on the product and a summary of the hazard involved and assists in the formation of a Products Hazard Database. The site also lists defect investigations opened and closed by NHTSA. In addition to automobile components, these defect investigation listings include a wide range of products, including child car seats and motorcycle helmets.
The site also provides links to other significant Internet sites including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), FHWA/NHTSA National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC), and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). Each of these links is also an excellent resource for safety issues.
Additionally, Ralph Hoar’s site also includes a guest book where site visitors can make comments on the site and inquiries about products and/or cases. Both attorneys and consumers are allowed to make comments in the guest book. These comments regularly detail problems that consumers are having with certain products.
This is a very simple web site created by Thomas Register . The site can be particularly useful in identifying manufacturers of certain products. Once you log on to the web site you will go through a short “registration”. Once registered, you may access information either by company, by brand or by product. Assume, for instance, that you need information concerning a company called Arrow Automotive Products. You know nothing about where the company is located or what they manufacture. By simply typing in the name “Arrow Automotive” you will learn the address for the company’s headquarters and a short description of the products manufactured and/or sold by this company. It is a simple way to begin a search for a company or a product.
Many states are in the process of putting their state corporation division information on the Internet. North Carolina’s Secretary of State has already done this and the site is invaluable in obtaining quick information on a corporation(s) current standing and registered agent for service of process. The North Carolina Corporations Division may be accessed at www.state.nc.us. The State of Michigan should have their corporations site up and running shortly. The State of Delaware, unfortunately, does not yet have a web site which containing this information.
The State of Wyoming has county-by-county web sites which lists criminal records for individuals. These sites contain summaries of criminal proceedings, mainly for traffic and game and fish violations. Several of the Wyoming counties list more specific information such as the nature of the violation, the judgment in the case and fines and court costs.
People Finders on the Internet
There are several “people finders” on the net. These resources may be useful in locating witnesses or possible defendants. Some of these are:
Big Foot www.bigfoot.net
People Page www.peoplepage.com
Yahoo People Search www.yahoo.com/search/people
You can also find company names and addresses on the net using the following web sites:
Hoover’s Business Resources www.hoovers.com
ATLA NET http://www.atlanet.org
ATLA NET has strived to be on the cutting edge of technology. This site has now developed to the point that it is one of the best legal sites on the Internet.
Below is a listing from ATLANET of some important web sites for attorneys:
American Bankruptcy Institute http://www.abiworld.org
News, legislation, and a library of bankruptcy materials.
Internet Bankruptcy Library http://bankrupt.com
Bankruptcy and insolvency resource materials, directories of bankruptcy court clerks and insolvency professionals, discussion groups, and news.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://www.epa.gov
Searchable databases for programs such as Superfund and the environmental regulations published in the Federal Register.
National Environmental Information Service (NEIS) www.chemindustry.com/index.html
A clearinghouse of official environmental documents from the EPA and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including inspection and enforcement manuals, toxicological profiles, and hazardous waste management and storage tank documents. NEIS claims to sell all the EPA and OSHA documents sold by the federal government’s own National Technical Information Service at a discount of at least 10 percent.
Pace Global Environmental Law Network
A virtual environmental law library from Pace University School of Law that features a search engine for locating links by subject, citation, popular name, or keyword.
Family Law Centre http://www.interlog.com.eg
A Canadian family law site geared to both the practitioner and the public.
Federal Office of Child Support Home Page
An official U.S. government site containing news, policy documents, and links to state child support programs.
Legal Information Institute: Divorce Law Materials http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/divorce.html
Uniform matrimonial, family, and health laws; state family law statutes; and recent New York cases, from Cornell University.
Legal Information Institute: Insurance Law Materials http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/insurance.html
Federal and state statutes and recent opinions from the New York Court of Appeals.
Intellectual property law
Intellectual Property http://www.ipmag.com
An online magazine covering high technology law and policy, with links to Internet resources and a directory of intellectual property law firms.
Online Gazette http://www.micropat.com
Fully searchable summaries, including drawings, of the more than 2,500 U.S. patents issued each week. The site operator, MicroPatent, says it is no longer charging for access to the gazette.
Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) http://www.uspto.gov
An online service of the USPTO allowing you to search for patents from 1976 to the present.
Patent Server http://www.ibm.com/patent
An IBM site providing free access to a database of more than two million patents issued since 1971. The site contains images of patented devices dating from 1987 to the present, and IBM intends to add images dating back to 1974. A copy of the complete text of a patent can be ordered from the Web site for a fee ranging from $3 to $12.
Medicine and medical negligence
The area of medicine and medical negligence has seen some of the most extensive improvements in Internet access. ATLANET has access to Medline. Only a few years ago, this type of access was very difficult and expensive to find.
We have listed some other important sites on the web.
COBRA Online http://www.medlaw.com
A resource center of information on the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), regulations issued under those statutes, and new court decisions concerning medical malpractice issues.
The “most comprehensive site on the Internet devoted to modern medicine and health care,” according to promotional materials.
This site has an intuitive search engine.
The operator of the site will compile and mail to you a background report on any medical doctor licensed to practice in the United States. In addition to education and certification, the report includes state medical disciplinary board actions.
The Medical Malpractice Home Page
A brief list of links relevant to medical malpractice and health law. The site was created by Villanova University’s Center for Law and Information Policy and attorney Peter E. Sand.
Jonathan Tward’s Multimedia Medical Reference Library http://www.med-library.com/home2.htm
A comprehensive listing of medical reference materials including homepages of various medical organizations and hospitals, online research journals, and articles and papers written by professionals on a wide-range of medical topics.
Listing of informational and education materials on a wide range of topics and medical organizations.
Federal agency press releases and recalls:
Consumer Product Safety Commission http://www.cpsc.gov
Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration http://www.dot.gov/affairs
Archived material, including documents from Brown and Williamson Tobacco Co., housed at the University of California at San Francisco.
Securities and Exchange Commission http://www.sec.gov
A site featuring the commission’s News Digest, which covers rulings and enforcement proceedings and is updated daily, as well as EDGAR, an extensive database of corporate filings.
Securities Class Action Clearinghouse http://securities.stanford.edu
An updated list of all securities class actions begun since enactment of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1996; full text is available for pleadings, orders, and decisions from many cases. This site is operated by the library at Stanford University School of Law.
Statistical information on civil cases
Update on court opinion sites
Thanks to those readers who emailed the Web addresses of free court opinion sites not listed in the January 1997 Law OfficeTechnology column. Here are some additional sites:
British Columbia Superior Courts http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca
Colorado Supreme Court http://www.cobar.org/coappcts/scndx.htm
Utah Supreme Court and Court of Appeals
Incidentally, the Web addresses in ATLA NET’s online version of Law Office Technology columns are linked to the sites. Web addresses often change, and ATLA attempts to keep those in the online version of TRIAL updated.
Mr. Peter C. Quinn is managing editor of the ATLA Law Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].
Mr. William Skeels, a well-known author in the field of computer and the law, has several interesting and helpful articles on the use of the Internet for litigation. A primer appears in his article TRIAL LAWYERS USE OF THE INTERNET: A CASE STUDY AND PRIMER Back to William H. Skeels, IV Articles. His website, , also offers helpful and interesting navigational tools for the trial attorney.