David Smith  00:04

All right, welcome back to the Expert Witness Podcast Interview Series. Our guest today is Marcor Platt. Marcor is the owner of MarcorSEN Engineering and Marcor Forensic and Expert Consulting. He has earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil and Structural Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. He has passed both the professional engineering exam and the more rigorous National Structural Engineering exam, as well as the Project Management Professional exam. He is currently licensed in 20 states and pursuing additional licensure in the US Virgin Islands. Over the last decade and a half, he has worked in a variety of industries, and designed powerline structures, water towers, deep foundations, landscape structures, residential structures, commercial structures, and industrial structures. In addition to the design work, Marcor has conducted over 600 forensic investigations, ranging from Hurricane impact to failed trade show video screen walls. He has also testified at numerous depositions and trials as an expert witness. His motto is “excellence through integrity,” and he applies the work ethic he learned growing up on a cattle ranch along with the highest quality writing, mathematical expertise, logical analysis, and application of engineering principles to every project he pursues, whether design, forensic, expert witness, or a combination. When he is not working, Marcor loves rock climbing and having adventures with his wife and eight children. Marcor, we’re glad to have you here and welcome to the show. 

Marcor Platt  01:43

Thank you, David. 

David Smith  01:45

The first question I always like to ask is, How did you get into expert witness work? It’s not something that kids normally talk about wanting to be when they grow up. So, how were you introduced to it? And how did you start working in this field? 

Marcor Platt  02:01

So that is correct. For me, as a kid, I had no idea this existed other than reading Sherlock Holmes; that was about the extent of my exposure to this field. And by the way, my kids will not be among those. They are very aware because I share funny stories with them all the time about this work. But yeah, for me, as a kid, my first exposure to this was when I was an undergrad student at BYU. We would have weekly seminars, and one that I remember the most, and the most interesting one, was a forensic engineer. He spoke about some projects that I’d never even considered would be part of what I could do. I was fascinated by what he did, and I thought, this is something I want to hopefully get an opportunity to do. It didn’t turn out that way. For the first five years of my career, I designed power lines. And then I decided I wanted to pursue the national SE exam, as you mentioned, that I passed. I found out that in order to pass that, I needed to switch industries, so I began designing residential and landscape structures and then commercial structures. When I got into commercials, I started doing a lot of retrofits. I started taking a lot of existing buildings and tried to make them new and enhance them or renovate them. We did a study of churches that had a lot of seismic deficiencies in California. In fact, one of them, when I was investigating it, luckily, it was not on a Sunday, so no one was there. But I was looking at the attachment of a big chandelier-type thing that proceeded to detach and crash onto the congregation that wasn’t there below, onto the empty pews, I guess. So, that’s my first experience with failure.

David Smith  04:10

It collapsed while you were inspecting it?

Marcor Platt  04:14

It fell down while I was inspecting it. And full disclosure; that was probably more due to the inspector than the lack of an adequate connection. I may have loosened something I shouldn’t have. So that was my first experience with a failure. And soon after that, I got an opportunity to do forensic work full-time. I started working with a forensic firm, and I worked for them for three years, doing over 600 forensic investigations. At the very end of that tenure with that company, I was finally deposed for the first time and found that I both found this enjoyable, and I learned a lot of work that I needed to do to be successful as an expert. So I attended the SEAK training. They hold SEAK as an expert witness firm founded and run by attorneys to teach us how to testify, write reports, etc. So I’ve attended their training, bought the materials, and try to keep up on continually training and improving as an expert and as a report writer. So that’s kind of a longer explanation. For me, it was a series of just opportunities and interests and lots and lots of studies.

David Smith  05:52

Yeah, absolutely. So when you were getting into this, were there any barriers or obstacles you had to overcome? Did the cases come slowly, or have you been in high demand from day one?


Marcor Platt  06:09

So the biggest barriers that I have encountered really were, as I said, at the end of my tenure with the forensic company I worked with, I was getting to get deposed, and I found that I felt constrained within the company I was in. That was one reason I left. The company I was with was only doing forensic work. I didn’t do design work for three years, and in my opinion, I’ll get into this later. But an essential part of being an engineer is being able to create things. Studying failure all the time, I felt was a handicap. So I switched firms, and the next firm I was with eventually didn’t want me to do forensic work anymore. In fact, they told me I couldn’t, so I had to leave that firm. I found that there were a lot of complications trying to merge design work and forensic work, which I felt were both essential to what I wanted to do. The biggest constraint really, for me, was to do what I wanted to do; I had to leave and start out my own firm. I’m not saying that every engineer has to do that, but for my particular case, that was the barrier. Since doing that, cases have come in steadily. It’s pretty random how they come in or when, but they do come in. So I guess the biggest barrier that was removed for me was that I was able to finally merge these two parts of engineering in a way that I felt was most effective and worked best for me. That’s why I started my company, MarcorSEN Engineering, about seven months ago. I felt I could better choose whether a case was suitable, better decide how to conduct the case, and whether or not I could do it well. I founded a company that does both design and forensic work on purpose, and I get a good deal of both. I feel like a good design engineer is made better by studying structural failure, and by the same token, a forensic engineer is made better by staying sharp and continuing to design and create buildings and other structures in my field. Incidentally, you mentioned I have a lot of children in your introduction. 4 of those are daughters, and all four of them, except for the baby, are in either dance or gymnastics, and some of them are in both. We found that the ones that did both were better at both, so certain fields complement each other. I feel like design engineering and forensic engineering are definitely in that category. 

David Smith  09:30

Yeah, I would agree. We’ve found the same thing in our company, that doing both tends to build upon itself and make you better in both areas. Very good. Alright, so can you tell us what types of cases you commonly work on? And without sharing any confidential information, can you give us a couple of examples maybe of cases that you’ve worked on or the types of situations that call for your expertise? 

Marcor Platt  09:58

Sure, yeah. As a Civil and Structural forensic engineer and expert witness, the type of cases I study fall into three categories with a few exceptions, but the majority of them fall into these categories in an order of most common. The first category is failures due to natural disasters, or even not necessarily disasters, but just natural forces. So I’ve studied failures arising from wind, hail, snow, flood, and other sources of moisture intrusion. And then the more exotic ones, hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, fire, and even a volcano study. I got to do some volcano studies. Those are the vast majority of the type of cases that I work on. 

The second category would be failures due to manmade disasters. There’s no shortage of those; for example, construction defects and design defects. Some specific ones I studied a case where someone was running a hose off a roof all day and all night, just, well, I don’t know why. But that’s what we found. There was a chronic problem of running water off the roof. I’ve seen roofs hit by hammers, hit by vehicles, usually cars, tiles broken by stepping on them. I once did a case involving a garbage truck that hit a porch at a house. This one’s a bit more detailed. I was not the first engineer that was retained; this homeowner had a somewhat remote location. So the garbage truck would come by once a week, and it happened that one week, the arm on the back of the truck hadn’t been put down. As it was going through, she was actually watching it, and she saw it hit the top of her porch. It was a log house. She said that there was a very loud noise and shaking of her house. The garbage truck then continued through, picked up its garbage, and went on its way. So the garbage truck’s insurance company hired an engineer who came out and took a look at the porch. He found that the only damage he could see was that the log had been scraped off. So it had actually been split somewhat. But, so a piece of the log that it hit split like an axe and took off a chunk of the log. He said that was the damage that had been done, and they were going to give her a little bit of money to fix her log. She wanted a second opinion. So the company I was working for at the time was contacted by her insurance, and I went out and saw the same things, got the same story, and looked at the log that had been damaged. Then I sat down on her porch for a while, and I just said, “So there’s one thing that’s not adding up here. The way she describes this garbage truck hitting her porch – the shaking, the loud noise – all that seems to not be accounted for by a split log. Split logs growing up, like you mentioned on a ranch, there’s not a lot of shaking or anything that comes along with that. So when I’m stuck sometimes, I’ll just share openly and ask for help. I believe in religious man; I believe that we can get help for what we need. In this case, I did. I asked to see what I wasn’t seeing, and then I went out to the end of her porch and started to look at how everything was connected. I found that a bolt had been pulled through and up into the wood, and the bolt was attached to a cable, which was attached to the top of her porch. So I took a step back, way back, and looked at the house. Looking at it from that perspective, the whole thing was leaning. What actually happened was that the force from that garbage truck had been transferred all the way down to her foundation, ripped this bolt through and up into the wood, and caused the whole thing to lean. So, I put together my report and sent it in, and not surprisingly, the other expert wrote back and said, everything that you just saw was due to the wind. So, again, this time I took out all my detailed wind sources and calculated how much wind you would need to be able to create that type of failure. Turns out the only way you could generate that much wind is with a nuclear explosion. So I wrote that and sent it back. And that was the last I heard of that until later on. This homeowner wrote me years later and said, “Thank you for your report; they finally came around and fixed everything.” So, that was really gratifying for me. You know, if we dig a little deeper and ask for help when we need it and are willing to do a rigorous study, we can actually help people. That’s what I love about this field. I feel like I get to help people. Most of the time, when I’m retained, it’s because someone is in a very hard situation; usually, there’s a disaster that’s happened. A big part of mitigating that disaster is getting to the bottom of finding out what caused it, finding out how to fix it. That’s another reason I do design work. It’s important to give them the problem, but I also like giving them the solution. So a good part of my projects lead to a retrofit or at least point them in the direction they need to go to get a retrofit or a fix for the problem. That’s the second category. 

The third category is still in the manmade field, but it’s more on the softer aspects of building and maintaining our environment. I mentioned project management; I have a project management certification. I’ve testified in cases involving cost estimating, and I’ve even been consulted on cases, although I didn’t end up being retained. But there are disasters that come from bad management. There was actually one case where a man was electrocuted on a power line, and it was about whether best management practices were followed. So as a parallel engineer, I was very aware of management practices because they can mean the difference between life and death. In this case, they didn’t. So there’s doing that. That’s another field where not as commonly, but I still get a fair number of cases involving both management, building code interpretation, and correctly designing things. So those are the areas that I work in. There’s a wide variety of situations that call for my expertise. 

David Smith  18:32

Yeah, absolutely. That’s great. Those are some good stories. So do you find that most of your cases are local, or do you do a lot of work nationwide? And is that typical, I guess, for a civil structural engineer?

Marcor Platt  18:49

So, yeah, as a civil forensic engineer, as I described, our most significant source for forensic investigations is natural disasters. These happen where they happen. With hurricane studies, it’s often in the Gulf states. I’m licensed in most of those states on purpose so that I can be available to conduct hurricane studies. For example, I’ve done work in the Virgin Islands, which was necessitated by two hurricanes that hit within a week of each other, wiping out the electrical infrastructure on the island. So I have a pretty wide geographic reach. I’m licensed in 20 states and have worked in most of them, either for forensic or design projects. I maintain this wide reach, but I also handle a lot of local work because there’s plenty of it, and it’s more cost-effective for both clients and me when it’s nearby. I do both on purpose and out of necessity to ensure a steady workflow. 

David Smith  20:11

Alright, very good. So what is it about expert work or forensic work that you really enjoy? Why do you do this type of work? 

Marcor Platt  20:28

So, going back to my college days, I loved delving into the details of things and studying how things really worked. I felt that during college, I delved deep into the theoretical aspects of things and gained a solid understanding. However, after starting my journey into failure analysis, I realized that the only way to really know something is to see it actually, in action, see how it fails, and even test it. So I love getting satisfied with how things really work. And I feel like in forensic expert witness work, there’s a high demand for that. And I found it’s a great niche for me, I love studying detail, I love providing, shedding light on something that seemed really obscure at the beginning, and being able to do that using the scientific method. And asking for help, like I mentioned before, I find a lot of joy in uncovering truth and learning truth. So that’s what I love about it. 

David Smith  21:41

Very good. Have you ever reviewed information for a case, delving into the details, and realized that you are definitely on the wrong side of the case? If you have, what did you do?

Marcor Platt  22:01

Yes, I have found that the conclusions I was reaching would not actually benefit my clients in the way they were hoping. However, it’s interesting, David, my clients have never been angry with me for expressing my opinions; they’ve been disappointed with the results. That it didn’t wasn’t good. It wasn’t how they wanted. But they were not disappointed with me, I guess. They didn’t shoot the messenger. I haven’t had that experience yet. It may happen at some point, but so far, I’m grateful to have worked with many great clients who are genuinely interested in the truth. In fact, I tried to fill out before I take a client if they’re really interested in the truth or if they’re interested in someone saying what they want to say. As long as there’s an upfront understanding I have in my agreement, very clear language that my findings may not benefit, they could actually go against your position. And so, therefore, I’m upfront and I had that discussion to with him along the way, especially if the study is going in a direction, that may not be the direction they wanted. I tried to try and be very open and upfront. And I haven’t had any big issues yet with that approach. And so, yeah, being on the wrong side, I guess would only mean not not being truthful and honest. So I have never had to be on that wrong side. 

David Smith  23:48

Yeah, absolutely. We often find that attorneys really just want to know whether the facts support their case. As an expert, it’s not your job to win or lose a case, but simply to present the facts as you see them. That’s good. I’ve found that most attorneys truly appreciate an honest and upfront opinion rather than trying to lead them on, making them believe they have a strong case, just to bill more hours. Then, when you get to deposition or trial, you flip-flop, and they end up spending a lot of money on something they’ll never win. Honesty and integrity are always appreciated. So, no job is perfect, at least in my opinion. Is there anything about the expert witness industry or this type of work that bothers you or rubs you the wrong way?

Marcor Platt  24:57

I would say that as a business owner and an expert witness, probably the most challenging part for me, especially as a new business owner, has been the upfront discussion and negotiation of the business value with a client. Not everyone immediately sees the value or even after a discussion about what we, you and I, and others do as expert witnesses. Many times, I may have to decline a case simply because it doesn’t make business sense. While it may be a highly interesting and credible forensic study, which is why I do what I love, if it’s not something I can do and run a business with, I can’t take the case. There are situations where there’s a homeowner or someone else in real need, but I can’t provide free services. There are costs associated with testing and consulting in this line of work, and pro bono opportunities are rare. As a business owner and expert witness, I’ve had to learn how to effectively communicate upfront that this work can be costly, especially when it involves getting to the bottom of a complex issue. Unfortunately, there are misconceptions in this industry that it should be cheap, which I’ve found to be far from the truth if you want to do it properly. Sometimes it requires extensive testing and other costly elements. So the biggest challenge I’ve faced is coming to an agreement with clients on the depth of the study needed and the associated costs. I won’t take a case unless I can do it well. So that’s been probably the biggest challenge is just going up against that.


David Smith  28:15

Yeah, that’s interesting. I find that there are some experts who do a really good job and put a good report together, and some who maybe do it quickly and don’t take the right amount of time. Frankly, for me, it’s always nice when the expert on the other side does a really good job because it’s so much easier to work with. One of the things we say in our office is, “It’s hard to argue with stupid.” I hate to say it, but sometimes the arguments that are made are kind of stupid, at least from an engineering perspective. So I always appreciate it when people take the time and energy to do things right and produce a good report. Alright, so, after reports, we often find ourselves in depositions. Many times, these are thought of as serious and well-planned events where attorneys have a whole list of questions that they ask straight from paper. But I’ve found that this isn’t always the case. I’m curious, have you had a particularly light-hearted or funny interaction during a deposition, trial, or something you’ve heard about that you’d share?

Marcor Platt  29:38

So, it’s funny you mention that. There are things that have made me laugh in almost every trial or deposition I’ve been in. In the first case I did that went to trial, another expert and I were retained. He was a construction expert with a wide variety of experience both as a construction worker and as an expert. We were both deposed, and he was deposed first. So, before my deposition, they sent me his transcript so I could get a feel for the type of questions the attorney might ask me. While I hoped this might help me be better prepared, it turned out she asked me mostly different questions. However, from reviewing his deposition, I found some of his responses hilarious. For example, this attorney asked both of us about our credentials as weather researchers. This was a case involving wind damage and water intrusion into a house. Both of us had detailed the weather conditions of that day. So, she asked him about his weather research credentials: whether he went to school as a meteorologist, if he got a degree in weather, and how he could call himself a weather expert. In his deposition, he responded, “Well, I’ve lived on this rock for 60 years. I’ve been wet, dry, blown about, cold, and hot.” That was his qualification as a weather researcher. I found that response excellent. I think I answered differently, but he had already given the best response. I wish I could have observed him at trial. Unfortunately, they didn’t allow us to watch the other expert during cross-examination. One of my regrets is not getting to see how he responded to questions at trial. 

David Smith  32:27

Alright, so if you were going to give someone, who had just been retained on their first case, one piece of advice, what advice would that be?

Marcor Platt  32:39

Hopefully, this person would ask for my advice before they’ve been retained on their first case. Because I would say, before even thinking about testifying as an expert, make sure you study failure and understand how to study failure. In whatever field that’s in—like in the engineering field which I’m most familiar with—as an expert, most of the time, if not all the time, we’re called to study failure. So being able to systematically and scientifically study failure, then present your findings in a well-written and well-thought-out report, is the biggest factor in your success. You can learn the skills to testify and how to conduct yourself in a deposition or trial. However, if your report is bad, that won’t save you. If your study wasn’t done right, or if you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to studying failure and forensic work that leads to expert work, then you’re going to have a hard time. While I take my work as a testifying expert very seriously and don’t view it as a comedic platform, I do see the lighter side of things. But to enjoy testifying at all, you need to have done your homework upfront and produce a well-written, well-thought-out report. So, for someone being retained on their first case, make sure that you are confident in your investigative abilities. 

David Smith  34:47

Absolutely. It always helps to be an expert in the subject on which you’re giving expert testimony, and to take the time and effort to have solid foundations for your opinions. I completely agree. So, what do you believe makes you an effective expert witness? What helps an expert to be persuasive?

Marcor Platt  35:19

The first thing is, I don’t try to be someone else or act differently. I also take part in trainings. My attorneys help prepare me for upcoming depositions or trials. I seek out training sessions; they provide valuable insights on report writing, testifying at trial, deposition techniques, and essentially all aspects of what an expert does. Taking their advice and engaging in role-playing exercises is crucial. To be persuasive, it’s vital to be confident in your conclusions and to have done thorough research—going back to the importance of conducting a sound investigation. If you’re solid on your conclusions, and you’re solid on them, then the judge, the jury will know that, the attorneys will know that, you don’t have to try and manufacture or try and pretend like you know what’s going on if you actually do what’s going on. So the more convinced I am of my case, of my opinions and my findings, then being persuasive comes naturally. Being able to clearly back those up comes naturally.


David Smith  36:47

Yeah, very good. Alright. So, I find that most experts would like to be involved in more cases. What have you found to be the most effective marketing technique, and what’s the best way to get new cases, in your opinion?

Marcor Platt  37:10

The biggest obstacle is for an attorney and an expert to find each other. There’s a need in my field for the areas of my expertise. Getting your name out there is the biggest challenge. I have a website and also have online listings. I have a seek directory listing and am listed on Expert Witness Direct with my CV and experience. That’s been helpful in getting occasional cases. Recently, I spoke with a website and web marketing company and found that Google ads, if you can be the first, second, or even third listing when someone searches for your field, is an effective way for attorneys to find you. I’m starting to explore that as a way to be in front of attorneys. Probably the most effective way is to do well on your cases so that the attorney who retained you will tell their colleagues about you or use you again. Many of my cases have come from that, just from having done well and having another attorney contact me based on what his friends told him about their experience.

David Smith  39:01

Yeah, it’s a small world, smaller than most people realize. Attorneys talk to each other a lot. So, doing a good job on one case can really bring in a lot of business just from word of mouth. Very good. So, if there are any attorneys listening to this, or people that want to refer you, how can they find you? How can they get a hold of you? 

Marcor Platt  39:33

So, my website is – if you just type in marcorforensicexpert.com into your Google or search engine, it’ll hopefully pop up. It has my contact information: phone number, email address, and also the areas of expertise that I work in, that I’ve testified in, that I’m qualified in. So, probably the best way would be to start with my website. You can also search for me on SEAK or Expert Witness Direct. Those all have my CV and contact information. And my email address is mplatt@marcorsen.com. I’d encourage them to look at my website and see if my experience matches what they need for their particular case. 

David Smith  40:29

Alright, very good. Well, Marcor, this has been fun. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and stories with us. And I look forward to talking with you again in the future.


Marcor Platt  40:42

Alright, thank you, David.


Go to https://marcorforensicexpert.com/ to learn more about Marcor’s forensic expertise, and go to https://alpineeng.com/engineering-services/ for Alpine Engineering’s engineering services.

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