Repeated psychiatric examinations of 42 litigants were compared to
determine reasons for differences in findings by experts hired by the
defendant and by the plaintiffs. The lawsuit resulted from the collapse of
a coal slag heap in Buffalo Creek, W. Va., in 1972. All psychiatric reports
prepared for the trial were screened. Experts for the two sides differed
systematically over the extent of recovery from psychiatric symptoms and in
other areas. Changes in the plaintiffs' mental statuses over time are shown
not to be the cause. Extraneous factors, such as "forensic identification,"
the subtle influence of adversarial proceedings on initially neutral
witnesses, are shown to play a part.