In my twenty plus years as a forensic meteorologist, I have provided forensic weather analysis for cases where the weather was fairly straightforward. However, the majority of the cases I work on are anything but straightforward. Many times, an attorney will approach me after having reviewed weather data they retrieved from the internet. The initial conversation usually starts with the attorney’s interpretation of the weather on the date of incident. I then provide them with my detailed weather analysis. Many times, the attorney’s interpretation of the weather is inaccurate. Those inaccuracies end up being case-critical, flipping their strategy upside down. The following are a couple of examples I have encountered when working on slip and fall cases.
A defense attorney approached me on a slip and fall case and explained that they had done some research on the internet. They determined there was a significant snowstorm occurring at the time of the alleged fall. The attorney asked me to prepare an expert affidavit to support their “storm in progress” Summary Judgment Motion. I did my own professional forensic weather analysis using official and credible weather records and tools. I discovered that the attorney was correct that a snowstorm was in progress at the time of the incident. However, after reviewing deposition transcripts of the involved parties, I discovered that the plaintiff described the ground condition that they slipped on as a layer of solid and clear ice underneath several inches of snow. The temperature was well below freezing during the storm. In addition, all of the precipitation from the “storm in progress” was in the form of snow. Therefore, it became evident that the storm-in-progress defense became a much less effective case strategy. The ice under the snow had to have formed prior to the storm in progress.
On another slip and fall case, a plaintiff attorney contacted me for a forensic analysis of weather and ground conditions. Based on their research, they didn’t believe there had been any snow or ice for a couple of days prior to the incident. This put the defendant on constructive notice of the icy condition that the plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell on. I reviewed of the deposition transcripts of all involved parties. It was evident that the plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell on black ice. (Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice). A thorough weather analysis revealed conditions were favorable for the formation of black ice within an hour of the incident. With the defendant not having actual or, now arguably, constructive notice, this changed the entire case strategy for the plaintiff attorney.
As you can see, the expertise of a qualified forensic weather expert can prove to be invaluable for attorneys when developing an effective and solid case strategy. Retaining a forensic weather expert early will prevent an attorney from having their case strategy turned upside down in the late stages of a case.