COMPUWEATHER’S FORENSIC WEATHER HALL OF FAME
CompuWeather has been in business for over 37 years. During this time we have worked on over 73,000 cases and claims. We are very proud of the work that we do and the exceptional service that our meteorological staff provides to our clients. Many of our clients can recall work that they assigned to CompuWeather in which our findings significantly made the difference in the outcome of their case.
CompuWeather’s longtime clients may recall that we used to publish these types of case studies in our email newsletter in the “CASE OF THE WEEK” section. We have received hundreds of requests to reinstate this and are glad to be able to again provide you access to some of our case journals.
Listed below is a selection of some on the more unique cases and claims that CompuWeather is proud to have worked on. If you have used CompuWeather in a case or claim where our services made the difference and the case or claim has a unique twist that others may find interesting, please CLICK HERE to contact us and provide us with the details.
In a rural Wyoming town, a cattle rancher was headed to his daughter’s elementary school sporting event. A police officer stopped him upon entry to the school athletic field and said that he had seen a gun in the rancher’s jacket. The rancher had actually left his gun in his vehicle, and was not carrying it at the time. The policeman claimed that he saw the gun when the rancher’s jacket blew open, due to wind. The rancher said that first of all, he always wears his jacket zipped up, and second of all, it wasn’t windy at all that day. The cop slapped the rancher with a felony charge for carrying a concealed weapon on school property. In his defense, the rancher hired CompuWeather to perform a site-specific meteorological wind analysis for that date and time to determine what the actual wind speeds were at the time of the arrest.
CompuWeather meteorologists analyzed the data and found that the wind speeds for the day in question were only 8 mph or less. The winds would not have been strong enough to blow someone’s jacket wide open, revealing anything underneath. The findings were revealed to the court and the charges were later dropped.
During a routine stop for a traffic violation, the police officer detected what he deemed to be the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle he had pulled over. Having what he considered being probable cause; the officer searched the car and found two bags of pot in the trunk. He promptly arrested the driver and charged him with possession of a controlled substance.
The arrested individual told his attorney that the policeman “had it in for him” because of the way he looked and because of his previous run-ins with the law. Knowing that his client already had two prior convictions on drug charges, and that he was looking at serious jail time if convicted a third time, the defense attorney knew that he had to come up with something. He contacted CompuWeather, requesting an analysis of the weather at the time of the arrest, especially with regards to the wind. The meteorologist assigned to the case did a micro-analysis of the wind field at the exact site where the car was pulled over. He also made a site visit to the location, in order to determine what, if any, effect surrounding objects, such as buildings and trees, might have had on the wind.
The meteorologist’s analysis showed that at the time of the arrest, the wind was coming from such a direction that it would have been flowing from the officer’s back towards the car, at a speed of 17-20 miles per hour. The report indicated that it had been a warm evening, so it was not unreasonable for the car to have had all of its windows rolled down, as the driver had stated. This would have the effect of allowing wind to flow into the window on the driver’s side of the car, and then out the open windows on the other side. Using this information, the defense attorney argued that there was no possible way that the officer could have smelled the pot in the trunk of the car, as the wind was blowing away from him at a fairly brisk pace, which would have carried the odor away, and not towards him. So the search of the vehicle was illegal, as there had been no probable cause to do so.
Based in part on this information, the District Attorney reduced the charges against the driver, since the credibility of the officer’s testimony had, to a certain degree, gone up in smoke. The driver agreed to the plea, and received a lesser sentence – for the time being anyway. Months later he was arrested once again and convicted, which lead to a much longer stint in jail.
While on a summer vacation at a popular beach area on the Gulf Coast of Florida, a family from Mississippi met with tragedy when the father and his daughter were on a parasail ride. The two were a few hundred feet in the air and about a half-mile offshore, being towed along by a power boat, when the weather suddenly changed. A violent thunderstorm struck with high winds that produced very rough waves in just seconds. The boat capsized, causing the tow-line to break. The sail keeping the two airborne collapsed, sending them into the churning Gulf waters where they both perished.
A suit was filed against the company that operated the parasail ride by the surviving family members. The claim alleged that the operator was negligent in allowing the ride to happen in the face of changing weather conditions. At pre-trial hearings, defense attorneys presented evidence in the form of climatological normals and averages. This data summarized the frequency and likelihood of thunderstorms in that section of Florida during the month of January. The data showed that thunderstorms, and in particular severe storms, did not frequently happen at that time of the year and because of this, defense claimed that the parasail ride company could not have reasonably expected this type of weather to occur and thus, was not at fault. The attorney representing the family contacted CompuWeather.
The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case began his research by examining the weather which occurred on the day of the tragic event. Doppler radar imagery showed that the thunderstorm had formed about 90 minutes prior to hitting the beach area. It had developed out over the Gulf of Mexico and then intensified as it moved closer to the beach. With prior notice being a key point in this matter, the meteorologist then researched what had been forecast for the day. Forecasts indicated the possibility of thunderstorms for that afternoon. In addition, 45 minutes before the time of the accident, The National Weather Service (NWS) had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area, specifically because of that thunderstorm cell. At deposition, the CompuWeather meteorologist stated that anyone monitoring an inexpensive NOAA Weather Radio or even just a local radio station would have heard this warning. Had personnel of the parasail company heard this advisory, there would have been ample time to stop the ride and bring the father and daughter safely back to shore.
The matter never went to trial, as a seven-figure settlement was agreed upon.
A cargo vessel making a voyage from Bremerhaven, Germany to Baltimore, Maryland arrived 30 hours late. The Captain stated that he encountered strong head winds halfway through the journey and made a decision to alter the ship’s course in order to avoid the adverse weather. The company which had chartered the vessel to transport its cargo filed a claim to recover the cost of having the ship and cargo arrive late. The owners of the ship countered that if the Captain had not changed course, the vessel would have arrived even later than it did.
The attorney for the ship’s owners contacted CompuWeather about performing a post-voyage analysis or the 2 routes. A Marine Meteorologist from the Ocean Routing division (FleetWeather) was assigned to the case. He first traced out the route that the ship would have taken had the Captain not changed course. An analysis of the winds and waves along that route showed that it had indeed become quite rough at the time that the Captain chose to change direction. In addition, strong head winds would have persisted along that route for the following 72 hours. The meteorologist then mapped out the actual route that the ship followed and performed an analysis of the winds and waves along that path. The weather was less than ideal along that route as well, but substantially better than on the originally intended route. Calculations which factor in winds, waves, type of vessel, etc, were used to determine that had the Captain chose to stay on the original route, the vessel would have arrived nearly three days late.
Based on CompuWeather’s analysis of the weather and sea conditions along the two routes, it was ultimately determined that the Captain used prudent judgment in altering the ship’s course. In doing so, he saved the company which had chartered the vessel almost two full days of lost time. The claim was subsequently dropped.
While walking down the indoor stairway at her apartment complex, a woman slipped and fell on the landing in between the second and first floors. The tumble sent her down the remaining ten stairs to the ground floor, causing severe injury to her back. She was unable to return to her job and perform her normal work duties. Surgery was unsuccessful in helping her mobility, and the accident left her unable to move around or to sit for an extended period of time.
The woman claimed that she slipped because there was a puddle of water on the second floor landing. She stated the reason why the water was there was due to rain coming through a large window which was routinely left open. She said that the hand cranks, which were used to open and close the windows, were missing. Thus, the windows were frequently left in either the open or shut position for days and even weeks at a time. Attorneys representing the owners of the apartment complex presented a settlement offer in the amount of $175,000. The woman’s attorney felt that the offer was inadequate to compensate his client for what she had gone through. He sought out the expert advice of CompuWeather to hammer down the facts of the case.
At trial, the CompuWeather forensic meteorologist testified that there had been a heavy rainstorm the night before the accident occurred. Over one inch of rain had poured down at the location of the apartment complex. In addition, the storm produced strong, gusty winds from an east and northeasterly direction for the first seven hours of the more than ten hour rain event. This was a critical point, as the window in the apartment complex faced east. The conclusion was that the strong east winds would have caused the rain to be blown through the window and onto the adjacent stairway landing where the slip had occurred on the morning after the rainstorm.
The testimony by the CompuWeather meteorologist finished the second day of the trial. The next morning, before court was called to order, a settlement figure of $350,000, or double the original offer amount, was presented to the plaintiff and accepted.
A municipal employee of a town in Chester County, Pennsylvania was terminated from her position due to excessive absence and tardiness over a period of time in the winter. The employee’s union filed a grievance against the town, citing wrongful termination, in as much as the woman was unable to make the 32 mile drive into work on the days she was absent due to bad weather and poor driving conditions. Attorneys representing the town presented evidence which showed that a number of other employees made it into work on those same days, and thus, the town was within its rights to terminate her employment.
The attorney working on behalf of the union contacted CompuWeather. Presented with a list of days and the driving route that the woman would normally take on her way to and from work, the meteorologist assigned to the case went to work. An analysis of the weather showed that on several of the days which the woman claimed she could not make it in to work, the weather was significantly different at her home, compared to where she worked. And each time, the weather was worse. In one instance, freezing rain changed over to rain at her workplace early in the morning. But at her home, the freezing persisted into the midday hours, as her home was located in a valley area which held the colder air in place longer. This meant that roads remained quite hazardous into the afternoon on that day. On another day, scattered snow squalls fell across the area, but none of them in the town where she worked. At the same time, heavy bursts of snow deposited several inches of snow in her hometown. This caught the local highway department by surprise and delayed making the roads safe to drive on. And on yet another instance, fog which had formed overnight, caused a slick glaze to form on many streets and roads in and around where she lived, due to temperatures which had fallen into the 20s during the night. At the same time, in the town where she worked, no fog formed and thus no ice was ever produced.
The union attorney presented this evidence to the town, along with a request that the employee be reinstated to her job. She was, and was given pay dating back to the date of termination.
A family in Louisiana sought damages from the cemetery where their Grandmother had been laid to rest. While visiting her gravesite two weeks after the funeral, the family was horrified to find that the casket which contained her remains had risen out of the ground and was partially visible! The family was seeking damages for the trauma caused by seeing the casket of the recently deceased, and for negligence in the handling the burial process. The owners of the cemetery were sympathetic and presented what they considered to be a fair settlement to the family. This was turned down. A higher amount was then offered, but again, this was turned down. With the family showing no signs of wanting to settle, the attorney for the cemetery owners began to put together a defense.
The attorney contacted CompuWeather. The meteorologist assigned to the case analyzed the weather for the two week period starting with the day of the funeral and up until the day the family arrived at the cemetery and made the discovery. In the three days before the family made their visit to the site, it had rained – a tremendous amount of rain, in fact. Using Doppler radar imagery, the meteorologist was able to pin-point the exact amount of rain which had fallen at the cemetery. Over 22 inches of rain had come down in less than 60 hours causing the ground to become super-saturated. An historical comparison showed that a rainfall of this magnitude was a once-in-a-150 year occurrence. A very unusual amount of rain for that short a period of time. This more than likely saturated the ground underneath the coffin to a point where it was lifted towards the surface, and out of the ground.
The attorney presented this information to the family, adding that this type of occurrence was not something that the cemetery owners could have reasonably expected to occur, and thus, were not liable for. Rather than taking the matter all the way to trial, the cemetery owners made another offer to settle. This time, in light of the meteorological explanation provided by CompuWeather, the offer was accepted and the matter was put to rest.
While cooling off at the beach on a sunny, hot, early summertime day, a man sustained injuries to his head as a result of being hit by a runaway beach umbrella. The victim never saw the umbrella as it hurtled towards him, carried along by a gust of strong wind. Witnesses said that the person who placed the oversized umbrella into the sand, did so in the “usual” manner, but made no effort to bolster it even though the wind was kicking up. The injured man required hospitalization, and suffered from recurring headaches and loss of memory, both of which were attributed to the head injury.
As the medical bills and lost time at work continued to mount, the victim retained the services of an attorney. In order to establish negligence, it would need to be proven that the wind which caused the umbrella to go sailing down the beach was not a “freak” occurrence. The attorney phoned CompuWeather. After examining the details of the case, the meteorologist assigned to the case did an analysis of the wind conditions reported at airports nearest to the beach. Observations from three locations showed that there had been a small increase in the wind speed just before the time of the accident. But even so, the wind speeds that were reported were not strong enough to cause an umbrella with a fairly heavy metal pole to be swept down the beach. CompuWeather’s meteorologist knew that there were more factors that needed to be taken into consideration.
Since the incident occurred in early June, the temperature of the ocean water was still relatively cool, especially in contrast to the air temperature that afternoon which was in the upper 80s. Since the landmass of the beach and nearby areas heated up much more rapidly than the water, the heated air over the beach would have risen vertically at a rapid rate. This rising air over the beach would have been replaced by cooler air rushing in from off the ocean. Or, in other words, the sea breeze was very strong on the day of the occurrence. The meteorologist used mathematical equations which take into account the differences in air and water temperature in order to estimate what the wind speed would have been on the beach and more importantly, to determine at what time the wind had started to kick up. For if it was already windy at the time the umbrella was planted in the sand, then the defendant should have been more diligent in securing it. The meteorologist’s research showed that the wind had already started to increase prior to the defendant even arriving at the beach.
Armed with the report produced by CompuWeather, the attorney for the plaintiff was able to work out a very favorable settlement for his client.
On a rural stretch of highway in Tennessee, a pick-up truck ran into a cow that had wandered out of a nearby pasture and onto the shoulder of the road. The driver of the pick-up sustained injuries as a result of the crash, and the truck itself was heavily damaged. The driver retained the services of an attorney, who filed suit against the farmer that owned the cow. In addition, the county in which the accident took place was also named in the suit, citing inadequate lighting on the road. The driver claimed that he could not see the cow “until the last moment” because of how dark it was. The accident had taken place at 1:30am. Attorneys working for the insurance carrier that underwrote the policy covering the county contacted CompuWeather. They wanted to know what factor, if any, the weather played that night.
After going through the details of the accident, the meteorologist assigned to the case suggested that an analysis of the Moon and how much light it provided be included in the report. The weather was clear that night, with no fog, haze or other natural obscuration present. That would prove to be an important point when combined with the result of the astronomical portion of the analysis. The meteorologist determined that the Moon was in between its Waxing Gibbous and Full phases, meaning that approximately 87% of the surface was illuminated that evening, at an angle of 70 degrees above the horizon. In plain language, “a lot” of natural light would have been present.
Defense attorneys, at the suggestion of CompuWeather, retained a lighting reconstruction expert. Working in conjunction with CompuWeather’s forecasting division, the expert was able to take his light meter readings, on a night when the weather was similar to that which existed on the night of the accident, and when the Moon was in a similar position and phase. It took more than six months for those conditions to come together, but the CompuWeather forecast office kept track of the weather and was able to alert the expert days in advance. After presenting the weather and lighting evidence, it was eventually determined that a lack of lighting did not play a factor in causing the accident that night, and the county was deemed not liable in the matter. The driver eventually settled with the farmer. The cow, sadly, did not survive the ordeal.
While traveling along the stretch of Interstate 90 in northeastern Ohio known as “The Snow Belt”, the driver of an overnight delivery service truck encountered a blinding snow squall. The snow reduced the visibility to a mere few feet in a matter of moments. The truck went into an uncontrollable spin on the snow-slicked roadway, causing a chain reaction pile-up involving a dozen vehicles. Several drivers were injured and many of the vehicles were total losses. The snow passed as quickly as it came in, and by the time emergency vehicles arrived on the scene the sun was out and shining brightly. To add insult to injury, the police issued a ticket to the truck driver for not driving in a manner that was safe according to conditions.
The law firm working on behalf of the insurance carrier that covered the delivery company contacted CompuWeather. The attorney handling the case wanted to verify what the driver had stated, and present that evidence in traffic court. He felt that if the driver could be exonerated, it would help matters if, and when lawsuits were filed by other drivers involved in the accident. The CompuWeather meteorologist assigned to reconstructing the weather went to work. He examined the observations from several surrounding locations nearest to the site of the accident, as well as Doppler radar imagery, satellite photos and storm spotter reports. The information clearly showed that a well defined line of heavy snow developed on the south shore of Lake Erie and moved rapidly in a southeasterly fashion. This brought the line of snow across the Interstate right at the exact time the truck and other vehicles were passing by. The intensity of the snow was such that the meteorologist was able to state that the visibility would have gone from “unrestricted” just before the snow squall hit, to “near zero” in a matter of just moments. And because the snow came down fast and furious, the roadway surface would have become quite hazardous within the first moments after the squall began. All of this was consistent with what the delivery driver had stated.
During traffic court, the attorney presented the findings of the forensic report prepared by CompuWeather. The judge rendered his verdict in favor of the defendant, as it was determined that the suddenness of the snow would not have allowed any driver time to react behind the wheel of the truck. Subsequent claims against the delivery company by the other drivers involved in the accident were settled in a favorable fashion, thanks to the verdict in traffic court which limited the liability for the driver and his company.
During a youth soccer game, the sky suddenly went from sunny to cloudy in a matter of moments. Seconds later one of the soccer players was struck by a bolt of lightning. He suffered extensive, serious injuries which hospitalized him for more than nine months. His family sued the soccer league, its referees and the municipality in which the accident took place, since the soccer field was owned by the town. Their claim was that the league and the referees were negligent in not calling the game off due to dangerous weather conditions.
The attorney representing the soccer league and its referees contacted CompuWeather. The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case first looked at the observations taken at the two nearby airports which were on either side of the town where the soccer field was located. He then took a look at localized storm reports and observations taken by co-operative observers of The National Weather Service. None of these sources indicated that a thunderstorm had taken place. The meteorologist then went one step further, and examined lightning strike data. What the data showed was that a true meteorological quirk had taken place. One single lightning strike, and only one, occurred that evening in the area where the soccer player had been injured. It was that one bolt of lightning that had struck the player.
Delving deeper into the events leading up to this accident, CompuWeather’s meteorologist examined what had been forecast prior to the evening of the soccer match. Forecasts issued by The National Weather Service (NWS) the day before the accident took place had indicated the slight chance of a shower during the time period that the soccer game was to take place. Each subsequent update, up through the last one issued prior to the match, continued to mention that slight chance of a shower but never the possibility of a thunderstorm.
During pre-trial hearings information compiled by CompuWeather lead to the determination that the soccer league, as well as its referees, should not be held liable for damages. Local forecasts, which league officials check every day, did not indicate the threat of a thundershower or lightning. In addition, the thundershower which had occurred on that day happened so suddenly that there was no advance warning which could have allowed the referees to halt the match.
A well-known insurance company received a large personal injury claim from a person who experienced a slip and fall in a large amount of snow. The badly injured person claimed that at the time and place the injury occurred there was almost a foot of snow on the ground which was the cause of his accident. After reviewing the claim, the insurance claim representative decided to verify the amount of snow at the point of loss and make sure the amount of snow present was consistent with their insured’s statement. He went online on the Internet to a commonly used weather web site and attempted to access the historical snow amount for the time and date of the loss. He reviewed the data and he concluded based on his interpretation of the data that there had only been a minor snow event a few days before and that there was no snow cover on the ground on the date of loss for the location where the injury occurred.
The insurance company denied all claims for the injury and told their insured that they could not verify the snow that allegedly was the cause of his injuries. The badly injured individual hired an attorney and sued the insurance company for his medical and legal costs. The insurance company also hired a defense attorney to handle the case. After reviewing the case documents, the defense attorney contacted CompuWeather for a site-specific weather analysis with the results delivered in a phone consultation with the attorney. The question was simply, snow or no snow?
The CompuWeather Meteorologist assigned to the case determined that there was actually a 13″ snow event that ended the day before the accident and that there was 9″- 10″ of snow on the ground when the injury actually occurred. The attorney concluded that this matched up with the plaintiff’s story and recommended to his client (the insurance company) that they move to settle this case quickly and avoid going to trial. A large settlement was accepted and the insurance company suggested to their employee that in the future he should not try to play meteorologist using the Internet but rather consult an expert when dealing with large claims of this type that involve weather.
COMPUWEATHER was recently contacted by the attorneys for a very large construction company in the Midwest United States which was working on a 30 mile road improvement and renovation project on a major interstate. The company planned very carefully for this project which included taking numerous precautions to make sure their work crews would remain safe while working in extreme heat on this job. They were especially concerned with their crews working during the day since the most extreme heat would be experienced during that time. Field managers and workers were provided training on methods of staying hydrated and staying safe when working in extreme heat.
On one evening in July the company dispatched their night crews out to the project site. The temperature during the peak of the day had been well over 100 degrees. At 9 pm the temperature had dropped to almost 80 degrees and this appeared to be one of the “cooler” nights they had seen in a few weeks. The temperature continued to drop a few degrees per hour and made for a very comfortable work environment compared to earlier in the day. Normal precautions were taken to deal with an anticipated 70-80 degree evening and public weather forecasts were checked, which confirmed the conditions would be in that range for the entire work shift.
At 4:15 am ambulances were called to the project site to deal with numerous heat emergencies and injuries for over 50 of their workers including heat exhaustion and extreme dehydration. Injured workers reported extreme heat after midnight much worse than the predicted 70-80 degrees they were told to expect. Did the company fail to take the proper precautions, were field managers not properly trained, could negligence be involved – all of these were questions posed by attorneys representing the injured workers.
COMPUWEATHER’s team of forensic meteorologists were retained to investigate why these injuries occurred at night and to determine the temperatures experienced specifically at the job site throughout the night in question. An analysis was conducted and it was confirmed that the temperature at the job site had dropped from a peak of 107 degrees during the day to 78 degrees at midnight and continued to drop to 71 degrees at 2am. Between 2 am and 3am the temperature rose dramatically to 102 degrees where it stayed throughout most of the night. The extreme night temperatures combined with high winds and falling dew points were conditions that led to the unexpected nighttime conditions confirmed by the injured worker’s statements.
COMPUWEATHER concluded that a rare weather phenomenon known as a “heat burst” had taken place at the job site that evening which could not have been anticipated or forecasted. Heat bursts are extremely rare and typically occur at night time. They are characterized by a rapid increase in temperature, a decrease in dew point and gusty winds. The analysis by COMPUWEATHER made it easy to explain the unexpected high heat in the middle of the night. The case never went to court as the information provided by COMPUWEATHER proved pivotal in minimizing and determining the construction company’s liability in this matter.
A business owner in Missouri filed a claim with his insurance company stating that the roof of his building had been heavily damaged by a severe hailstorm. As a result of that barrage of hail, rain was able to pour into the building, causing extensive damage to walls and equipment. The insurance policy stipulated that damage to the interior of the building due to rain would be covered only if rain entered the building due to natural causes, such as damage to the roof or exterior walls by virtue of strong winds or hail.
The hailstorm which occurred in that section of Missouri on that day was well documented. It caused extensive damage to homes, vehicles and businesses. Upon inspection of the damaged roof, the adjuster for the insurance company suspected fraud. He contacted COMPUWEATHER and requested a complete breakdown of the weather for that day and time period. Pin-point analysis of the weather for the exact spot in question was critical. The forensic team of meteorologists at COMPUWEATHER went to work. In addition to analyzing surface weather observations, storm reports and other special weather statements, Doppler radar images were also viewed. And these images told the tale. Hail was indeed widespread around the area that day, but not at the building site. The closest hail occurred about one-half mile to the north, northwest and east of the location of the building.
Based on this analysis, the claim was denied saving the insurance company $350,000. It was later determined that the damage to the roof, which allowed the rain to enter, was caused by neglect.
During the winter the roof of a building in upstate New York collapsed. Several small shops, offices, and a restaurant were located in the building. All of the businesses sustained extensive damage to their equipment and inventory, and had to either close down or find other locations to conduct their business. A class-action suit was brought against the owner of the building, with the claim being that the roof, which was flat, was not constructed properly, and thus could not hold up under the weight of the snow and ice which accumulated on it.
The attorneys working on behalf of the insurance carrier which wrote the policy for the building owner contacted COMPUWEATHER. A comprehensive report was prepared which detailed the amount of snow and ice which had occurred from the start of the winter season, up through the day that the roof collapsed. The report also included the daily temperature profile in order to establish how much frozen precipitation was likely to have been on the rooftop on the day of the collapse. The meteorologist assigned to the case outlined each melt/re-freeze cycle which occurred in the weeks prior to the accident. He also took into account the moisture content of each of the snow events which had taken place, since that information would be critical in determining the weight of the snow. Using mathematical equations which take all of this information into account, the final analysis showed that the roof collapsed under the weight of snow, ice and slush which added up to 45 pounds per square foot. This figure was nearly 20 pounds per square foot more than what local building codes required at the time that the roof was put on the building many years earlier.
In light of the evidence brought forth in the report from COMPUWEATHER, it was deemed that the owner of the building was not liable for damages and loss of business which resulted from the roof collapse.
A multi-vehicle accident involving seven cars and four trucks occurred on a stretch of Interstate 95 just outside of Richmond, Virginia. The accident took place in a roadway construction zone. The driver of the first vehicle involved in the accident stated that he slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting a construction barrier which was in his lane. That began the chain-reaction pile-up in which three people were injured badly enough to require hospitalization. The insurance company which covered the driver of the first vehicle paid claims which were filed by several of the other drivers. Their subrogation unit then initiated an investigation.
The investigator contacted COMPUWEATHER and requested a breakdown of the weather on the day of the accident. The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case determined that the sky was clear and that there had been no precipitation. This ruled out a slippery roadway surface playing any part in the accident. The wind however was a different story. Analysis showed that the wind had increased in the hours just before the accidents happened. Winds of 20-25 miles per hour along with gusts to 40 miles per hour were occurring. In addition, the wind was coming from a northeasterly direction. That meant that the wind was blowing from the construction area and towards the northbound lanes of I-95, which is where the accidents had occurred.
With the knowledge that the wind more than likely played a role in moving the barrier from the construction site and onto the road, the investigator looked into reports that the State Police had logged on that day. More than two dozen calls had been received by the police from motorists reporting construction barriers and debris being blown onto the road in that same area. The insurance company filed suite against the construction company claiming negligence in not properly securing the barrel-like barriers. Over $150,000 was recovered by the insurance company.
The company which owns and operates a huge parking facility at the Croton-Harmon commuter train station north of New York City was being sued in Small Claims Court. Plaintiff was the owner of a car which was damaged while parked in the lot on a day that flooding took place. While the amount in damage reimbursement being sought by the vehicle owner was relatively small at $ 550, there was concern by the parking lot company owners that if judgment was found in favor of the Plaintiff, that the flood gates could be opened for many other lawsuits, as over 1,000 vehicles had been damaged by water in the parking lot on that same day. So because of this concern, the owner of the parking lot brought in their attorney even though the case was being heard in Small Claims Court. Their attorney brought in COMPUWEATHER.
The big questions were this: Why did such terrible flooding occur in the parking lot and was it something that the owners should have reasonably expected to occur and prepare for? The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case prepared an in-depth analysis of the weather on the day of the occurrence, as well as the preceding day. What it showed is that a ferocious storm with very strong winds and heavy rain moved through the area. Rainfall for the two-day event amounted to more than three inches. A bad rainstorm? Yes it was, but not bad enough to explain the extensive flooding that occurred. Digging deeper, the meteorologist discovered that a rare astronomical occurrence had taken place on the very day of the storm. The occurrence was called The Great Syzygy, and it is an event which takes place only once every few centuries. Six planets in our solar system were in alignment on that day, along with the Moon. The result of this alignment was that the tidal flow in the Hudson River (which runs right next to the Croton-Harmon parking lot) was running extraordinarily high that day. This much higher than usual tide, combined with strong west winds on the backside of the storm which pushed water towards the east bank, caused water from the Hudson River to come up and over the embankment in between the river and the parking lot. That, on top of more than three inches of rain, produced the flooding.
The report prepared by COMPUWEATHER was presented as evidence at the hearing. Based on the fact that what had caused the flooding to occur was so rare an event, it was deemed by the judge that the owners of the lot could not have reasonably planned for such an occurrence to take place. Thus, they were not held liable for the damage which occurred to Plaintiff’s car. In following months, several other suits against the owners of the lot were heard. And each time, verdict was for the defense.
A rear-end collision took place on a side street in a suburb of Houston, causing injury to the driver of the first vehicle which was stopped at an intersection. The driver of the second vehicle stated that the sun was in his eyes to a point where he was temporarily blinded and could not see the first vehicle, which had stopped for a stop sign.
The attorney for the plaintiff called upon the expertise of COMPUWEATHER to determine what the weather was at the time of the accident, including what factor, if any, sunlight or glare had played in the occurrence. A site-specific analysis of the weather indicated that even though there was no rain occurring at the time of the incident, there was a high degree of cloudiness present. In addition, an analysis of the angle and location of the sun at that moment in time, combined with the direction at which the car was traveling, revealed that sun glare would not have played a factor, even if there had been a small break in the clouds at the time.
Due primarily to the information in the report provided by COMPUWEATHER, the attorney representing the plaintiff was able to work out a very favorable settlement for her client.
A painting company was hired to do work on the outside of a multi-story building located on the lower west side of Manhattan, New York. Scaffolding was constructed on the outside of the building for their painters and maintenance personnel to work on. The scaffolding, when properly constructed, was manufactured to hold up in winds of up to 50 miles per hour.
Three days after the painters began using the scaffolding; it collapsed, injuring two workers. Suit was filed against the manufacturer of the scaffolding, as well as the painting company. The suit claimed negligence on the part of the painting company, for allowing employees to work on a windy day, putting them in a dangerous situation. Attorneys for the defense, presented evidence in pre-trial hearings, which indicated that the wind speeds on the day and time leading up to the accident, were below the threshold levels established by the manufacturer of the equipment. While it was a windy day by some standards, they claimed that it was not excessively so, with the wind speed measured at 25-30 miles per hour out of the northwest.
The law firm representing plaintiffs contacted COMPUWEATHER. An analysis of the weather for that day verified that winds measured at the closest observing sites to the location of the accident were indeed 25-30 miles per hour. But the forensic team at COMPUWEATHER knew that there was more to look at than just the observations. A visit to the location of the scaffolding collapse by one of our meteorologists, revealed that to the west and northwest of the location, across the street from the site of occurrence, were two sets of buildings. And it was the alignment of these buildings that prompted the meteorologist to make a return visit to the site. That return visit was made on a day when the wind was coming from the same direction, and at the same speeds as on the day of the accident. The meteorologist brought along an anemometer, which measures wind speed. Placing the instrument where the scaffolding had been located, what it registered told the story. At the same time that winds were being measured at 30-35 miles per hour at local observing sites, the wind at the accident site was being measured at 45-65 miles per hour! What was happening is that the wind was coming from such a direction, so that it flowed in between the two sets of buildings across the street. The wind was being “forced” in between the buildings, and when this occurs, it accelerates in speed. That is a principle of physics known as The Bernoulli Effect. So while the winds at the observing sites measured one speed, the winds at the exact site of occurrence were quite another story.
Backed with this information from COMPUWEATHER, Plaintiffs attorneys were prepared to go to trial. After disclosure of the information though, a favorable settlement was reached before the matter reached a courtroom.
An auto accident occurred on a road in Riverside County, California when one vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. The driver of the car which crossed the center line claimed that he lost control of his vehicle due to high winds. The driver of the other vehicle filed suit. Multiple defendants were named in the suit, including the local municipality. The claim stated that the city in which the accident occurred was negligent in the planning and construction of the road on which the accident took place, in as much as it was an area known to experience Santa Ana winds.
Attorneys representing the insurance carrier which covered the city contacted COMPUWEATHER. An analysis of the weather on the day of the accident was prepared, with emphasis on the winds. The research showed that it had been a day in which Santa Ana winds were coming off the mountainous areas to the east. Since the location of the accident was a number of miles away from the closest wind observing site, the meteorologist estimated the strength of the wind based on those observations as well as the local topography. His research determined that the wind at the time of the accident was coming from the northeast at 50-60 miles per hour. Since the road had been constructed eight years earlier, the meteorologist then did a search of all of the days during that time in which winds were of similar speeds of higher, and from the same northeasterly direction. The conclusion stated that there had been 26 such occurrences during that eight year span.
The attorneys then performed a search of public records. Traffic statistics indicated that an average of 5,500 vehicles use that stretch of road each day. Over the course of the 26 days, that amounted to 143,000 vehicles, each of which was a potential wind-related accident. But on all of those 26 previous days with similar Santa Ana winds, there was not one accident reported.
After presenting this evidence during several pre-trial hearings, it was determined that the city was not negligent, and was thus dropped from the suit.
A 31-year old man sustained injuries after he slipped and fell in the parking lot of a bank in Danbury, Connecticut. The accident took place just before 5:00 pm on a Friday in February. The man was trying to get into the bank before it closed for the day, when he slipped on what he said was a patch of ice. His injuries were severe enough to keep him out of work for several months. The insurance carrier which covered the bank offered $ 12,000 to the man. He did not have health insurance coverage and his medical bills amounted to more than three times that amount. At the advice of his family, he retained an attorney.
Attorneys representing the insurance company disclosed to plaintiff’s attorney a weather report which had been prepared by a company in Connecticut. The report stated that at the time of the accident, the temperature was 33 degrees. In addition, there had been no precipitation on the day of the accident, nor the day before. Two days prior, there had been a snowfall of three inches. The conclusion stated that ice would not have been present at the time of the slip due to the temperature. With his client insistent that there had been ice, plaintiff’s attorney contacted COMPUWEATHER.
The forensic meteorologist from COMPUWEATHER analyzed the weather on the day of the accident and came to a similar conclusion about the temperature. However more information was needed about the exact location of the slip and fall before a final determination of the condition of the ground could be made. The meteorologist made an on-site visit to the bank parking lot. He observed that the spot where the man had fallen was exposed to direct sunlight until around 10:30 am. After that time, it was in the shadow of the building in which the bank was located. This was a critical observation, since the temperature was a key issue. In the presence of direct sunlight, snow can melt in temperatures as cold as about 25 degrees. But when the effect of direct sunlight is lost, moisture as a result of melted snow will re-freeze. Therefore, on the morning of the accident, sunshine along with temperatures rising through the 20s would have produced some melting of the snow on the ground from the storm two days earlier. Evidence showed that the snow had been shoveled off to the side, but not removed from the lot. The COMPUWEATHER meteorologist’s report went on to state that within one hour after the effect of sunlight was lost, any melted snow which had run off onto the sidewalk would have become frozen into a thin, icy surface. This meant that more than five hours passed in between the time that ice formed in the lot, and the time the man slipped. More than ample time to take care of the hazard, argued plaintiff’s attorney.
With the plaintiff’s testimony that he had slipped on ice now given credibility by the COMPUWEATHER report, his attorney was able to work out a more favorable settlement with the insurance company. The amount of the settlement was $110,000.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man was arrested in connection with a robbery/homicide that occurred in a convenience store. Based on a description given by a witness on the street, the police picked up a man who lived several blocks away from the store. During questioning, the accused man told police that he was innocent and was nowhere near the store at the time the crime took place. But since he had been alone at the time he had no witnesses that could back him up.
At deposition, the defense attorney questioned the witness about how clearly he was able to see the man leaving the store. The witness stated that he had a “clear shot” from where he was standing, and was able to see “everything”. After hearing this, the attorney contacted COMPUWEATHER. The forensic meteorologist in charge of the case performed an analysis of the weather for the entire day with added emphasis on what was occurring at the exact time that the crime took place. His research determined that it was cloudy at the time. Very cloudy in fact, with low-hanging, dark clouds overhead. In addition, a thin layer of fog and haze had been present. Visibility was the key issue. The meteorologist estimated that at the time the crime took place, “good” visibility would have occurred at a distance of 150 feet or less. From 151 feet to 225 feet, visibility would have been “fair”. At distances beyond 225 feet the visibility would have been extremely restricted. The witness was approximately 350 feet from where he saw a man leave the store.
The defense attorney presented this evidence to the Assistant District Attorney handling the case. With little in the way of additional evidence, the testimony of the witness was critical for the prosecution’s case. With that testimony now of questionable credibility, the DAs office dropped the charges against the man. More than two years later a man already in prison for another crime was charged with the robbery and murder at the convenience store. He had made the mistake of bragging to his cellmate about the crime. The cellmate turned him in.
Three days after a storm dropped eight inches of snow across southeastern New York, a 56-year old man slipped and fell in a shopping center parking lot in Westchester County. He sustained injuries to his right hip, shoulder and head as a result of the accident. The man stated that he had slipped on a patch of ice which was present in the parking lot near a large pile of snow which had been created by the plowing of the lot three days prior. His attorney obtained the weather records from the closest observing site to the shopping center, in hopes that it would clearly show a temperature profile that would indicate a melt and re-freeze cycle in between the time the snow ended, and the time that her client slipped. If it showed that, then it could be stated that snow from the built-up pile had melted, run-off and then re-froze into an icy surface. To the dismay of the attorney, the daily temperature records indicated that it had been very cold in the days following the storm. Daytime highs were only in the mid 20s, while overnight lows were in the teens and single digits. So much for the melt/re-freeze theory. Or so it seemed.
The attorney called on the expertise of COMPUWEATHER to help explain how the ice had developed. The meteorologist assigned to the case did a complete analysis of the weather from the day of the snowstorm up through the time of the accident. Using the same data that the attorney had viewed, as well as data from other sources, the explanation for the patch of ice slipped right into place. Simply looking at the high and low temperatures was not sufficient in this particular situation. In the two days after the snow ended, the sky was clear and sunny all day long. This was a key point, as snow…and freshly fallen snow in particular…will begin to melt in temperatures as cold as 24 or 25 degrees when direct sunlight is present. But shortly after sunset, after the effect of direct sunlight is lost, that melted snow will re-freeze very rapidly, while any remaining snow on the ground becomes more hard-packed. In addition, when snow is shoveled or plowed into large piles, compression takes place due to the weight of the snow. This causes snow on the bottom of the pile to compress, and under the right circumstances, to melt.
The analysis by COMPUWEATHER made it very easy to explain how ice could have formed in the parking lot. With the key point being that 32 degrees is not the “magic number” for snow to melt or water to freeze. Those two things can and usually do, take place at a temperature lower than 32 degrees. The case never came to trial, as the information provided by COMPUWEATHER proved pivotal in securing a favorable settlement.
The body of a man who was reported missing for three days was found on the shore of a public park in Westchester County, New York, which is adjacent to Long Island Sound. Police forensic experts determined that the body had been in the water for about 72 hours, and that trauma to the man’s head was the cause of death, not drowning. Subsequent investigation led to the arrest of a man in connection to the murder.
The District Attorney handling the matter contended that the victim was murdered at a location some distance from where the body was found, and that after being dumped into the water, the body floated and ended up at the location where it was found. The man accused of the crime contended that he was nowhere near that area where the DA postulated the victim was murdered. And in fact he was close to where the body was actually found, at the time that the DA contends he was at the other location.
The attorney defending the accused called upon the expertise of COMPUWEATHER. The Forensic Meteorologist assigned to the case reviewed the facts and decided to enlist the help of one of our in-house marine meteorologists to assist with this case. Working together it was determined that the body could not have been dropped into the water at the site that the DA contended. Analysis of tidal movement, along with the direction and speed of the wind during the time that the body was in the water, clearly indicated that the body could not have floated from where the DA postulated, to the spot where it was found.
Based on this evidence, charges were dropped against the accused. Over time, another man was brought to trial on the murder and convicted of the crime. Testimony from the trial later confirmed that COMPUWEATHER’s findings were correct and accurate regarding the location where the body was dumped into Long Island Sound.
Plaintiff, a woman in her 30s, filed suit against a hospital in southeastern New York, after slipping and falling due to a puddle of water at the entranceway to the building. The woman was entering the building with her boyfriend, who was there undergoing blood tests. Her boyfriend testified that he noticed the puddle at 9:20 am as they were entering the building. They both claimed that the accident occurred as they were leaving, and that it was not raining or snowing at the time of the slip.
Defendant Hospital contended that the accident occurred as plaintiff was entering the building, and that a snowstorm was still in progress at the time. At trial, expert testimony from a COMPUWEATHER forensic meteorologist, confirmed the Hospital’s stance that snow was indeed still falling at 9:20 am, and was part of a storm which had started several hours earlier. The storm came to an end shortly before 10:00 am, which was determined to be after the time that the slip took place.
Verdict came back in favor of defense, based on COMPUWEATHER’s testimony that at the time of the slip, snow was falling, and thus, it was an event in progress.
Plaintiff, a 44-year old physician in Massachusetts, slipped and fell in a parking lot during the winter. She sustained multiple injuries as a result of the fall, and would be unable to perform her normal job functions for an extended period of time. A suit was filed, claiming that the owner of the parking lot as well as the maintenance firm that was hired to remove snow and ice, were negligent in their duties.
During deposition, the physician testified that she slipped and fell on a patch of ice. Attorneys representing the defendants presented evidence in the form of official U.S. Government Certified Weather Documents, which indicated that the temperature leading up to and at the time of the incident was above the freezing mark of 32 degrees. This served to diminish the credibility of the plaintiff’s testimony that it was ice and not snow that caused her to slip. Her attorney thought otherwise, and called upon the expertise of COMPUWEATHER.
By analyzing the temperature profile from the time of the last snowfall and up through the time of the accident, (including a review of the very same certified data that defense had presented) forensic meteorologists at COMPUWEATHER were able to put the matter on ice. At trial, it was explained to the jury that temperature readings recorded at officially-recognized weather observing sites, such as the one which defense presented as evidence, are taken at a height of 10 meters, or over 30 feet, above the ground. At ground level, and in particular on a dark-colored surface such as a paved parking lot, the temperature will be a few to several degrees colder than at that 30+ foot level where the thermometer sensor is located. So despite the fact that the official temperature was 34-36 degrees leading up to the time of the accident, at ground level it was likely anywhere from 28-32 degrees. As a result of that, the snow which had fallen on the previous day and melted could have easily become frozen, forming a layer of ice in that parking lot at the time of occurrence.
With the plaintiff’s testimony now given credibility by the COMPUWEATHER meteorologist’s explanation, the jury came back with a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $2.2 million. Prior to trial, defense had made a settlement offer of $350,000.
A jewelry store in the southwestern part of the United States ran a contest that stipulated if the temperature reached a certain record level on the day of the contest, that every customer who purchased from the store that day would receive free jewelry. The record temperature to be used for the day of the contest was to be 115 degrees. According to the jewelry store, the temperature that afternoon hit 116 degrees, which meant that every single customer was given free jewelry, costing the store some $100,000!!
Prior to the contest, the store had taken out an insurance policy to cover their potential loss, should the record-breaking event occur. And according to the store, it did. They even turned in an “official looking” document to their insurance company, claiming they had a loss which they wanted to be reimbursed for. The claims adjuster for the insurance company contacted COMPUWEATHER and requested a verification of the temperature for that day. The report provided to the insurance company by COMPUWEATHER showed a temperature of only 112 degrees. The reporting station that the jewelry store used in their claim to the insurance company was from a location which is not monitored or controlled by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Since there is no quality control at this site, it is not considered an official site for weather records. Based on the report from COMPUWEATHER, the claim was denied saving the insurance company $100,000.
Plaintiff, a woman in her 40s, filed suit against a horse farm located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. She sustained severe injuries after the horse she was riding on, stepped into a hole located on a riding trail inside the expansive farm, and fell over, causing her to be thrown to the ground. The trail is maintained by the farm, and is open year-round. The incident took place in the month of December.
Defendant Horse Farm contended that they had no knowledge of the existence of the hole, as it was filled and covered by snow and ice from winter storm events which had occurred in the two week period leading up to the day of the incident.
At trial, the COMPUWEATHER forensic meteorologist testified that it had indeed snowed on two different occasions in the 10 day period leading up to the day of occurrence. However, temperatures and degree of sunshine during subsequent days after the last snow event would have been sufficient to cause the amount of snow that had accumulated, to melt away completely. This would have taken place at least 60 hours prior to the date and time of the incident.
Verdict came back in favor of plaintiff, based on COMPUWEATHER’S testimony that more than two days time would have passed in between the time that the hole became visible after the snow melted away, and the time that the accident occurred.
Plaintiff, a woman in her 50s, claimed that she slipped and fell in the alleyway behind the rear entrance to the apartment complex she lived at, in New York. The claim indicated that the cause of the slip was residual ice which had been leftover from a previous storm which had taken place several days beforehand, and that the owner of the apartment building should have had removed. She stated that the ice was covered by a light dusting of snow, which was occurring at the time of the slip.
At trial, Defense called upon the expertise of COMPUWEATHER to provide testimony as to what the weather conditions were leading up to, and at the time of, the slip. Testimony given by the COMPUWEATHER meteorologist indicated that a light accumulation of snow had taken place five days before the day of the slip. Following that snowfall, the combination of sunshine and daily high temperatures in the 20s and 30s, would have been sufficient to cause all of the snow which had fallen from that storm event, to completely melt away. At the time of the slip, the only snow or ice that would have been present was from the snow which was falling at the time.
Based on the fact that the slip was a result of a storm-in-progress, and not from leftover ice from a previous storm, the jury came back with a verdict in favor of the Defendant.
During a performance of a nationally-known traveling circus, a severe thunderstorm developed and moved rapidly across the area. Strong winds from the storm caused a portion of the big-top to collapse, injuring more than a dozen spectators, some of them seriously. Attorneys for the injured plaintiffs filed suit, claiming negligence on the part of the circus company for the way that the big-top tent was put up, and also for failure to monitor forecasts for the possibility of severe weather.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys presented evidence in the form of surface weather observations from local airports, which indicated that the storms that day produced wind gusts as high as 57 mph. The winds, they claimed, were high, but not high enough to cause the damage and collapse of the circus tent, had it been properly constructed and secured.
Attorneys representing the defendant circus company came to COMPUWEATHER for a more detailed, pin-point look at the storms which occurred on that day in southern Minnesota. Forensic meteorologists went to work, obtaining not only the same data which plaintiff’s attorneys had presented, but also images of Doppler radar for the area, at 15 minute increments from the time the thunderstorm developed, until the time it had passed the area where the circus was being held. And it was the radar images which told the tale. The parts of the line of thunderstorms which passed over the nearby airport observing locations were much weaker than the part that went over the circus location. In addition, that part of the storm underwent “explosive strengthening” no more than five minutes before striking the area. At nearby airports, the highest winds observed were 57 mph. But at the site of the circus, radar measurements and estimates of the downdrafts coming out of the thunderheads indicated a high probability that winds were in excess of 90 mph, and possibly as high as 120 mph. COMPUWEATHER meteorologists examined severe weather advisories and statements issued by The National Weather Service for that afternoon. While they were somewhat accurate in forecasting the chance for severe weather, they were lacking in emphasizing the true severity of the storms which occurred.
Since the storms were of unusual and extraordinary strength, striking with little advance warning, even a tent which was properly constructed and secured (as the circus claims it was) stood little chance of holding up. Based on this information, the two parties were able to reach a settlement prior to trial. The settlement was one which attorneys for the circus termed as “much more favorable for our client, thanks to the detailed information provided by COMPUWEATHER “.
A shipment of hand-crafted, one of a kind furniture arrived from Europe at the Port of Newark, New Jersey, where it was then loaded onto a truck which would take it to its final destination in Memphis, Tennessee. While on the trans-ocean trip, the large container in which the furniture was held had been wrapped in a shrink-wrap-like covering for added protection from the elements. The wrapping was removed for the over-land part of the journey, as safety regulations prohibit driving with such wrapping on the outside of the container being hauled by the truck.
Three days later, when the truck pulled into Memphis and the cargo was being unloaded into a warehouse, several items of furniture were found to have been damaged. It was determined that moisture was the cause. The furniture dealer blamed the trucking company, saying that rain must have entered the inside of the truck enroute. The trucking company checked with its driver who said that he didn’t run into any rain during his trip. The trucking company pointed to the steamship company as the culprit. They denied any wrong-doing, saying that the container was wrapped up tight as a drum during transit. They said it must have happened at the docks in Bremerhaven, Germany, where the furniture was loaded onto the ship. Fingers were being pointed in every direction, with no one taking responsibility. The attorney for the Memphis furniture dealer used his finger to dial COMPUWEATHER.
Since the furniture had been a moving target, forensic meteorologists at COMPUWEATHER first obtained copies of the truckers log, which indicated where the vehicle was at various times and days. By analyzing the weather along the drive route at the specific times of the day the truck was traveling through, the driver’s story was verified: no rain had fallen on the truck during the drive. Since the container had been sealed watertight during the ocean part of the transit, rain could not have entered during that leg of the journey.
COMPUWEATHER then checked the weather in the Port of Bremerhaven on the day the shipment was loaded onto the vessel. Once again, no rain was found. But looking beyond precipitation, the source of the moisture which caused the damage was located. On the day that the furniture was loaded into the container, the weather was very hot and humid. This meant that the air inside of the container was very damp. The container was then sealed tightly, trapping this moisture-laden air inside. During the trans-ocean part of the trip, the cargo ship encountered colder weather, which caused the air inside of the container to cool off rapidly. Since colder air can’t hold as much moisture as warmer air, condensation occurred inside the closed container. That condensed moisture ended up on the furniture, causing damage to several expensive pieces.
A 54 year old man slipped and fell outside of a casino on the Las Vegas strip. He sustained injuries to his leg, shoulder and head. The suit filed by his attorney stated that the man had fallen due to a layer of ice on the sidewalk where the incident took place.
Attorneys representing the insurance carrier which covers the casino sought to find out the source of the ice. After all, this was Las Vegas, a location in a desert area not known for wintry type precipitation. They contacted COMPUWEATHER looking for an explanation. First, the meteorologist assigned to the case did a complete analysis of the weather in Las Vegas on the days leading up to the accident. He determined the weather had been dry, with no precipitation reported at anytime. Ice forming by virtue of rain, snow or sleet was immediately ruled out. After receiving this information, the defense attorney questioned the plaintiff. In deposition, he stated that the source of the water which froze into ice came from a nearby lawn sprinkler which goes on and off automatically. It was cold the night that he fell, so the wayward water from the sprinkler must have become frozen just before he walked across it.
Defense attorneys came back to COMPUWEATHER looking for additional information. The forensic meteorologist working the case did an analysis of the daily high and low temperatures for the preceding 30 days. What he found was that the temperature was indeed cold at the time the slip took place. However despite the 29 degree temperature at the time, it was nearly impossible for the water from the sprinkler to have become frozen. The ground was simply not that cold. Temperatures over the preceding month had dropped into the 20s on a few occasions. But by in large, low temperatures during that time were in the 30s and 40s, along with daytime highs mostly in the 50s and 60s. This was not the type of temperature profile that would lead to a cold ground, which would have been needed in order for water to freeze that night.
Armed with this information, defense refused any offer of settlement presented by plaintiff’s attorney. Eventually, the plaintiff admitted that it may have been just water, and not ice, which he stepped on that evening. With his testimony now lacking credibility, the suit was eventually dropped.
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.
A Tennessee man filed a claim with his insurance company to cover damages to a building he owned. He claimed that the damage took place during a severe thunderstorm. An adjustor came out to take a look at the building and concluded that there was damage which appeared to have been caused by the weather. Part of the roof was missing and damage inside of the building was extensive. The man received a check for just under $97,000. Shortly thereafter the case was flagged for investigation by the insurance company’s subrogation unit. What prompted the investigation was the length of time that the building had been insured prior to the claim being made: three weeks.
The investigator contacted COMPUWEATHER. The forensic meteorologist assigned to the case prepared an analysis of the weather on the day that the building owner stated the storm did its damage. Thunderstorms had occurred on that day, but they were not particularly strong or severe. Doppler radar images, as well as observations from nearby airports, showed that top winds with the storms were only 38 miles per hour. Hardly enough wind to tear part of a roof off. The meteorologist then began to look further back in time, in order to find any occurrences of severe weather during the previous two months. His analysis determined that six weeks prior to the alleged date of the storm damage, severe weather had occurred. On that day, thunderstorms produced straight-line winds of 72 miles per hour along with golf-ball sized hail and torrential downpours of rain.
Armed with this information, the insurance investigator began to look at other claims which had been made in that part of the state. A number of claims had been paid after the event six weeks prior. The investigator spoke with several home and business owners in the area that had filed those claims. What he learned was that the man who made the claim about the damaged building did so after speaking to them. He had purchased the building after the storm damage had occurred. He became keenly interested in the repair work that was occurring on nearby homes and buildings, and found out from the owners about the severe weather which had caused the damage.
The building owner was eventually found guilty of fraud and was forced to pay back the insurance company. He didn’t even own the building at the time that the damage actually took place.
Plaintiffs comprised of 12 homeowners and three business owners in Brooklyn, NY, claimed property and structural damage due to the flooding of their basements after a heavy rainstorm. Defendants, which included the local gas utility and a construction company sub-contracted by the utility, had previously dumped 70 cubic yards of sand in the vicinity of the damaged buildings, which they planned on using in a backfill operation. Plaintiffs claimed that the sand and runoff from the rainstorm, combined with the heavy rain, caused the storm drains to clog up, resulting in the flooded basements. Plaintiffs further contended that the City was negligent in maintaining the storm drains and catch basins.
At trial, defense attorneys called upon COMPUWEATHER meteorologists to examine the weather and explain to the jury what had occurred. By analyzing the magnitude of the rain which fell on the day of the flooding, and comparing it to historical standards, the COMPUWEATHER meteorologist concluded that the event was a “50-year 1-hour storm”. The amount of rain which poured down during a mere one hour’s time could only reasonably be expected to happen in Brooklyn about once every 50 years. Engineers for the City testified that the storm drain system was designed to handle “5-year storms”.
Based on the testimony that the storm was an extraordinary occurrence, the jury vote was 6-0 in favor of the defendants.
We’ve all seen it happen at least once. A grocery store parking lot on a windy day. Empty shopping carts that seem to have a mind of their own. BAM! Dented car door. It happens often, despite the best efforts of store management to dispatch employees outside to corral the wayward carts in a timely fashion.
Shopping carts are one thing, but when a full-sized metal dumpster is the rolling culprit, the damage inflicted can be more substantial. And that’s exactly what happened to the owner of a BMW in the parking lot of a Kash-n-Karry in Florida. She came out of the store to find the dumpster up against the side of her car, along with damage to the passenger-side door, the side panel and window. Even the frame of the vehicle was bent slightly from the force of the 450-pound dumpster hitting it.
The owner of the car filed a damage report with the store, and the report was subsequently sent along to their insurance carrier, which made payment on the claim.
The insurance company’s subrogation unit began an investigation that included a call to COMPUWEATHER. An analysis of the wind indicated that it was strong that day, with gusts going as high as 30 mph when the incident took place. But was that enough wind to cause a heavy dumpster to roll on its own? Further investigation was warranted.
Over the course of the previous several years, the insurance company had processed a number of damage claims stemming from wind-driven shopping carts. Those dates were provided to COMPUWEATHER, and the meteorologist analyzed the wind and weather on those days as well. The report showed that on all of the previous days when cart damage occurred, the wind speed was at least 27 mph. And on a few of the days, winds exceeded 40 miles per hour.
So it was deduced that a wind of at least 25-30 mph was required to cause the much-lighter-weight shopping carts to careen out of control. It didn’t seem likely that a heavy dumpster could be moved by winds of similar speeds.
With weather now ruled out as a possibility, the investigator began looking elsewhere. It was eventually determined that the dumpster had a faulty braking device on its wheels, and that the refuse company had made a pickup during the time that the BMW owner was parked in the lot. When the dumpster was emptied and placed back on the ground, it started rolling because of the faulty brake and ended up colliding with the car. The insurance company recovered what it had paid out from the refuse company.
During a rainstorm, a large tree toppled over. Due to its enormous size and weight,the tree fell over the fence separating two yards and onto the neighbors garage,causing extensive damage to not only the garage and tool shed located next to it, but also to the two vehicles parked inside. Both vehicles were high-end quality and relatively new. The owners of the garage shed and vehicles filed a claim with their insurance company, and received a payout in the amount of $97,000 to cover the loss and damages. Their insurance company then filed suit against the insurance company which covered the homeowner who owned the tree, and received reimbursement for the entire amount. Shortly after that, the subrogation division of the tree-owner’s insurance company started an investigation.
The investigator handling the case contacted COMPUWEATHER.He wanted to know if the amount of rain which occurred on the day the tree fell, was extraordinary and could have played a part in it falling over. While analyzing the weather for that day, the meteorologist assigned to the case noted that rain had fallen intermittently on the 10 days leading up to the day of occurrence. He conveyed this along to the insurance investigator along with a recommendation that a study be performed to determine if the amount of rain that fell over that 10 day period was unusual. Working in conjunction with COMPUWEATHER’S in-house computer technology division, a program was written which would analyze the amount of rain and/or melted down snow equivalent which occurred over each and every ten day period of time, dating back to the year that weather observations first began to be collected at the nearest spot to the point-of-loss. That observing spot began taking observations some 65 years earlier.
In the 10 days leading up to the day the tree fell,a total of 3.12″ of rain had fallen. But was this enough to cause the ground to soften up enough to play a part in the tree falling over? Probably not. The results of the 65 year study indicated that 3.12″ or more of rain over a 10 day period of time, had occurred a total of 247 times. Certainly NOT an unusual occurrence for this location.
Now that weather could be ruled out as a cause, the investigator dug deeper, calling on the knowledge of a tree expert. His examination of the photos determined that the tree was in a weakened state due to decay, and probably should have been removed, or at least pruned back substantially, well before the accident. The insurance company filed claim against the owner, stating that he had been negligent in his care and handling of the tree. A settlement was eventually reached, with the insurance company recouping a substantial amount of what it had paid out.