Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Post Repeatedly Using The Word "Bizarre"

A pipeline rupture. A cautionary tale.

It's bizarre enough that the expert witness in Hammell v. Shooshanian Eng'g Assocs., Inc., Appeals Ct. No. 07-P-147, changed his opinion two weeks before trial. It is also bizarre, but not surprising, that this opinion change benefited the expert's client, one of the defendants. It is very bizarre that the expert witness waited until he was actually on the witness stand to disclose his new opinion to the parties and the jury. It is very, very bizarre that the judge allowed him to do so.

But there are two especially bizarre aspects of this case.

First, the University of Massachusetts, which was ultimately found liable by the jury, knew that the expert in question (and another expert to be offered by another defendant) was going to nail it with responsibility for the pipeline rupture. The responsibility was also allocated to two of the other defendants (including the expert's own client), but still. UMass should have hired an expert and didn't. Bad idea.

Second, the jury seems to have believed the expert who had that last minute realization that, oh, just so happened to exonerate his client. You can almost excuse this given UMass' strange decision against hiring an expert. Almost, but not quite.


The Andover Snark said...

Actually, this case is a great cautionary tale to plaintiffs who sue the state and other parties. In defense of the AAG, I suspect that UMass didn't hire an expert because its maximum exposure was $100,000 under the MTCA. The AAG figured, expert or no, the state was probably going to get tagged, and $100,000 is less than $100,000+cost of expert.

The person who really screwed up here was the plaintiff, who didn't come equipped with an expert to testify about allocation of liability. The lesson learned here is that if you sue the state and other private parties, and the claim is for more than the MTCA cap on liability, your expert needs to have an opinion about the fault of the co-defendants.

Terry Klein said...

Indeed. I blame Art Barber.