Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twelve Angry Men (and Women)

I've been on jury duty for the past 5 weeks, but unable to talk about the case until a verdict was reached. This is the first time I've ever been on a jury and have to say the experience was fascinating. Unfortunately I was only an alternate juror, so had to sit through the trial, but did not get to go through the deliberation process. However, I still recommend the experience of fulfilling one's civic duty.

The case that I was assigned to was a civil matter involving the City of Larkspur vs. Jacobs Engineering. The City of Larkspur was asking for damages of $20mil to replace the Bon Air bridge in Larkspur (at left). The city asserted that the work Sverdrup (which was acquired by Jacobs) had done in 1994 widening the bridge had actually damaged the bridge. Their claim centered on the fact that Jacob's had deliberately concealed information about this faulty work from the City.

I now know more about spalling (example at right is not of the Bon Air bridge), thermal expansion and expansion joints than I ever imagined. Both sides called a series of civil engineering experts to testify. We got to see a computer simulation of the thermal effects on the bridge produced by Dr. Astaneh-Asl which was interesting.

I have to say that the lead attorney for the City of Larkspur did an outstanding job of framing their case and cutting through all the information to get to the most salient points. If I ever had to go to court on a construction matter I would want to hire Mr. Spellberg. I wish I could say the same for the defense attorneys, but unfortunately I felt that they made things more laborious and tedious than they needed to be. The defense brought 17 huge binders of documents as evidence that their witnesses had to flip through and testify about and often it felt really extraneous and muddled.

The verdict reached last week did find Jacob's had deliberately conceald information about their work on the bridge and the city was awarded $8.3 million (See Marin IJ article http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_10513351). Jacobs could still appeal this decision so it will be interesting to see what happens here.

1 comment:

Shutterbug said...

Addendum to this post:
According to a press release issued by the law firm representing the city of Larkspur, Sverdrup was involved in the design of the collapsed I-35 bridge in Minnesota as well! Obviously this fact was not brought up during the trial, but now I definitely feel like the jury reached a good verdict!