Dallas courts drug test specialist called 'impostor,' sued




Posted on June 28, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 29 at 11:10 AM

DALLAS - The man responsible for handling most of the drug tests in the Dallas County family courts system is the target of what aspires to be a class-action lawsuit.

Jim Turnage is accused by one former client of masquerading as an expert in drug test toxicology and mislabeling citizens as drug users.

"He's not who he says he is and the consequences are far-reaching and they are very painful," said the client, a recovering alcoholic who wants to remain anonymous.

He feels he has been wrongly labeled as a drug addict by Jim Turnage.

Turnage has been appointed by Dallas County family court judges to conduct random drug tests in parental custody cases. Two years ago, the recovering client submitted a urine sample, which came back negative in every category.

But Turnage testified in court and swore in an affidavit that the drug test "was diluted, which means the test was invalid."

The result of that finding is much the same as if he had tested positive.

"I had to have increased weekly random alcohol and drug tests, an interlock put on my car and decreased possession of my child," said the former client.

So he set out to prove his innocence, getting three independent forensic toxicologists to look at the results. All three said Turnage was wrong in his finding.

One of them, forensic toxicologist Steve Harris, found that the sample analysed by Turnage was, in fact, "not invalid."

The client then got suspicious and started digging into Turnage's background.

"So there were a lot of strange anomalies going on that he wouldn't explain about my tests," he said. "Then I started asking him about his credentials, then I realized he was running his own show and making up his own rules as he went along."

The unhappy client then complained to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which ultimately turned down the complaint due to improper jurisdiction, yet still "questioned the scientific validity of Turnage's interpretations as well as his credentials to render such opinions."

Turnage responded to that compliant to News 8 this week.

"You have to consider the source," Turnage said. "It is from a drug user who has got a vendetta out against me because he was caught, positive."

Turnage still testifies in drug test cases, raking in an estimated 10 new cases a week.

So that former client is suing.

His attorney, Larry Friedman filed the suit Thursday, calling Turnage an "impostor" with "no college degree" rendering "unqualified interpretations" of test results.

He is seeking more than $40 million in damages.

"Mr. Turnage is only qualified to testify as to the chain of evidence," Friendman said. "We don't believe he's qualified to testify anything beyond that. We don't think he has the education, the knowledge, the expertise."

Turnage's attorney, Bob Hinton, said his client rejects the claims, stands by his appraisal of the plaintiff's drug test and never claims to be an expert in court.

"If he is asked, 'Are you an expert in toxicological issues?' he will be the first one to say, 'I am not,'" Hinton said.

Turnage continues to be trusted by Dallas family court judges to conduct the majority of drug tests assigned by their courts. Presiding Court Judge Lori Hockett has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com