Lawyers are using internet auction website eBay to secure material needed to win court cases.
According to the Los Angeles Times, one lawyer shelled out $2,125 for a 1941 naval machinery manual which proved crucial in proving that asbestos was used in the construction of a particular ship.
The same lawyer was also able to demonstrate that asbestos was used in the production of a former brand of cigarettes by buying an old box from a collector and having its contents tested.
A Los Angeles lawyer preparing lawsuits for lung cancer victims bought a number of old cigarette ads to recreate for jurors the atmosphere in which his clients became addicted.
Deborah Hensler, a Stanford University law professor who tracks legal trends, told the newspaper that that the internet was becoming a good source of evidence.
"Web-trawling for evidence is a logical extension of lawyers' increasing use of the internet for everything from identifying causes of action to publicising class-action lawsuits," she said.
Stephen Gillers, vice dean of the law school at New York University, told the paper that he expects the use of such evidence to grow.
"Both the ability to locate evidence and to get it quickly are valuable to lawyers and their clients," he explained.
Texan lawyer Mark Lanier told the paper that evidence gleaned from auction sites is extremely useful in the development of cases.
In the days before eBay, Lanier would fly a team of investigators to search for documents at libraries in the hometowns of target companies and try to persuade the librarian to take items out of cases for photographs and hard data.
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