Engineering Inc. - March/April 2005 - (Page 10)

A Perfect Legal Storm By Alan D. Crockett Engineering firms are falling prey to out-of-control lawsuit abuse. It Strand Associates being cleared happened years ago, but the of any wrongdoing in the acci- w o u n d is still fresh even dent. But damage still had been today for Roger Huchthausen, done. vice president of Madison, Wis.- It cost us nearly $100,000 to based Strand Associates. fight the case, and easily another In 1992, a speeding driver in $ 1 0 0 , 0 0 0 in lost time and a 25-mph zone ran a stop sign effort, Huchthausen says. We on a Wisconsin bridge leading l e a r n e d a lot of good lessons to a highway and collided with a b o u t the legal system and another vehicle. A passenger in changed a lot of the things we the second vehicle suffered seri- d o today. The primary lesson ous head injuries and was in a was that there's always an attor- coma for a year before dying. ney out there looking for a deep The woman who ran the stop pocket, regardless of the facts or sign tested positive for driving the merits of the case. under the influence of alcohol and drugs and was sentenced to The Litigation Boom jail. Strand Associates' legal night- The estate of the deceased vic- m a re is being experienced by tim pursued the woman who ran more and more firms through- the stop sign for legal recourse, out the engineering industry as then the county, the state and the so-called litigation boom even the contractor who built continues to sweep through the t h e bridge. All efforts were nation's judicial system. stymied. One Nevada-based structural The estate then looked to the engineer had never been sued in designer of the bridge Strand 25 years of business. Then, in Associates. the span of five years, the engi- You have a woman driving neer had to defend himself in under the influence, who's speed- n e a r l y 60 lawsuits that were ing and who runs a stop sign. clearly nuisance litigation. All, And we end up being blamed for CATHERINE GEHM/PICTUREQUEST however, had to be settled at a the accident because there was high cost, both financially and n o one else left to sue, emotionally. Huchthausen recalls. It practically drove him out Litigation lasting more than o f business, says Nicholas two years and ending at the state Wieczorek, the engineer's attor- S u p r e m e Court resulted in

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - March/April 2005

Table of Contents
From ACEC To You
Ask Members
News & Notes
Market Watch
Legislative Action
COVER STORY: A Perfect Legal Storm
Interview With F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Is There an Engineer in the House
ACEC/PAC Donations Break All-Time Record
ACEC Roundtable
Members In the News
One on One

Engineering Inc. - March/April 2005