Case Conclusion Date: 12.31.2002
Practice Area: Litigation
Outcome: Defense Verdict - Upheld on appeal
Description: What happens when a Plaintiff’s lawyer fails to gather the evidence? Another case I was assigned early on in my career involved a small store that was destroyed in a fire not long after a new telephone system was installed by Sprint (the local phone company at the time). Throughout the course of litigation Plaintiff’s counsel did little discovery. Plaintiff’s theory of the case presented at trial was that the power strip that was installed with the telephone system malfunctioned and caused the fire. This theory was supported (somewhat) by testimony from the fire marshal who investigated the fire, as well as an independent fire expert. Both experts testified that the fire originated in the area of the power strip, and explained how the failure of the power strip would be consistent with the burn pattern found at the scene. We represented the Defendants in the case and presented testimony from our own independent fire expert. Our expert testified that the burn pattern was consistent with a fire that could have originated in the plastic garbage can, perhaps from a non-extinguished cigarette butt, that was found, cigarette butts and all, melted in a pile below the power strip. Alternatively, the burn pattern was consistent with a short in the coffee maker power cord (which had mysteriously disappeared after the fire) that was plugged into the power strip. At the end of the day, the jury concluded that the power strip may have failed, but it may not have. Plaintiff failed to meet the burden of proof and lost the case. Shortly after trial, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. I represented Sprint at the mandatory settlement conference and prepared the appellate briefs in the case. The case was ultimately decided without oral arguments, wherein the Supreme Court upheld the jury verdict in an unpublished opinion.