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RE: META-DISCUSSION: How Participation on SEAINT Can Hurt You

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Good point, Bill.

I had a similar (but much less serious...) experience last week at a
meeting...

A new client I was meeting in Boston for the first time actually "googled"
(now a common expression in the English language, like FedEx'ed or Xerox'ed)
Me and saw (among other things) many of my postings on SEAINT.

I guess, relative to your experience I was fortunate; the client was
impressed with
The fact that I took time out of my day to participate in such a "productive
online professional forum" and offer commentary and advice (whether or not
anyone actually took it!) to my colleagues.


Luckily, the guy was also a DEM, having also seen (I presume) my various
political
Rants on the list...

*whew!*



Gotta be careful what you say and do in this online world, you never know
when
It may be used against you!



Yikes!




David L. Fisher SE PE
Fisher + partners
372 West Ontario
Chicago 60610
 
312.573.1701
312.573.1726 fax
 
312.622.0409 mobile
 
www.fpse.com
-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Polhemus [mailto:bill(--nospam--at)polhemus.cc] 
Sent: Wednesday, November 10, 2004 3:02 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: META-DISCUSSION: How Participation on SEAINT Can Hurt You

I've been meaning to mention this here for some time, but have been 
quite busy.

Not long ago I had the distinct privilege of participating in my first 
actual "trial" as an expert witness. Heretofore I have been fortunate in 
my forensic engineering work to not have to deal much directly with 
attorneys. Typically, my work has been for owners who simply need 
information on how to solve a problem. I have done a couple of 
depositions, and lots of reports and other correspondence but this is 
the first time in the ten years I've been doing this sort of work that 
things actually went to "court."

I'm using quotes because in this case it was a "binding arbitration" 
rather than a jury trial. However, aside from the fact that you aren't 
testifying in front of a jury made up of John and Jane Q. Public, but 
rather a panel consisting of two engineers and another attorney, 
everything else is the same. You call witnesses, are sworn in, and are 
direct- and cross-examined.

When I first got involved with the case, it was simply to provide some 
engineering analysis and advise the client's attorney about engineering 
issues. Many of those issues dealt with interpretations of the building 
code as well as some esoteric analysis topics. At that time, nearly two 
years ago, I came onto SEAINT for some consultation, gathering opinions 
and direction. Of course, at that time it didn't occur to me that this 
could actually come back to haunt me.

As it happens, thanks to GOOGLE, everything you do online is public 
knowledge, and the plaintiff's attorney apparently has done quite a bit 
of that kind of research.

I should mention here, parenthetically, that what you see on the movies 
and what you see in real life are exactly opposite. That is, if you see 
a movie about civil torts--one such that comes to mind that I have seen 
is an adaptation of John Grisham's "The Rainmaker"--they always depict 
the plaintiff's side made up of a couple of scruffy lawyers living out 
of their car, and the insurance company's side is a huge lawfirm with 
tropical fish tanks in the lobby wall and scads of lawyers and paralegals.

It's actually the other way around. The insurance companies are too 
cost-conscious to shell out for an army of lawyers. It's usually the 
plaintiff's attorneys--by virtue of the time-honored rite of 
"contingency fee"--that has the army and the fish tanks in the wall.

Anyway, back to my main point: The plaintiff's lawyer was able to make 
it appear that, since I "had to ask" questions of SEAINT, I obviously 
don't know what I am doing. Oh, and didn't I say in my sworn testimony 
earlier, that I had not spoken to anyone about this case? Etc.

It didn't help that this particular gentleman could serve as the model 
for the classic Texas trial attorney, complete with sneering asides, 
asinine editorializations and lots of yelling and hitting the top of the 
table. Anyway, not having foreseen any of this I was not able to answer 
very clearly--wasn't even sure what he was trying to get at anyway--and 
probably did very poorly in that part of my testimony.

In the end, we lost a case we should have won, because we were, in my 
opinion, completely in the right. I wonder how much effect was had by my 
being blind-sided by this attorney, and "confronted" with the "damning" 
evidence of my obvious ineptitude in the form of actually having to ask 
questions of other engineers.

I thought I'd mention this because I am aware of a few of us who deal 
with legal matters, and if this has never come up before, be advised 
that by my own example, it could.

Beware our legal brethren. They're out to get you.

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