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WAS THERE TIME TO WARN?

A line of heavy thunderstorms moving across the suburbs of Detroit during the spring of 2001 caused a wall and scaffolding on a construction site to collapse. Several workers were injured as a result of the incident. Their legal consul filed suit, claiming that the construction company should have warned the workers of the impending storms and ordered them off the scaffolding until the dangerous weather passed. Defense attorneys argued that the storm was an act of God and struck suddenly and without warning. It was their contention that the construction company should not be held liable for the workers’ injuries.

Attorneys working on behalf of the plaintiffs sought out expert advice from COMPUWEATHER. The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case began his analysis by examining where and when the line of storms had developed. His research showed that the thunderstorms had started forming 60 minutes before the incident took place and at a distance of about 40 miles west of the construction site. With prior notice the key point, the meteorologist examined the forecasts, watches and warnings which had been issued on that day by the local office of The National Weather Service. The regularly scheduled forecasts stated that there was “a 60% chance of thunderstorms, some of which could produce strong winds”. Ninety minutes before the storms hit, a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued for a large area which included the county in which the construction site was located. In addition, 25 minutes prior to the storm’s arrival at the construction site, a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for the entire county. The warning gave specific information about the location of the line of storms, how quickly they were moving and in which direction. It also named several towns and cities that were in the path of the storms, one of which was the town the construction site was in.

With evidence clearly indicating that the storms did not hit suddenly and without warning, attorneys for the plaintiffs were in a much better position during settlement talks. Because of key evidence provided by COMPUWEATHER, a settlement was reached which was favorable for the injured workers.