“Leave the Friggin Thing Alone!”

It still amazes me that whenever a fire occurs in a machine, like a car or a tractor, somebody who is NOT authorized, has to mess with it. There are still people out there that don’t realize that when they disassemble something they are tampering with evidence.  Even if the case has nothing to do with anything criminal, there is the possibility that a product defect or faulty workmanship might have been responsible for the fire.  But, if the machine (evidence) is disassembled, then evidence is compromised if not destroyed outright.  Disassembly and subsequent testing or examination cannot occur without all interested parties being placed on notice.  Once notified, all parties must be given the chance to participate in formulating a protocol for the disassembly, testing and examination.  After the protocol is formulated, the parties must agree on when and who will perform all necessary functions.  In short, all parties must have access to the same information at the same time.  If not, the potential for spoliation of evidence claims can become an avenue for additional lawsuits or defense, depending on your point of view.  Note that many property insurance policies have a subrogation clause which requires that the policyholder do everything it can to protect their carrier’s right which includes protecting evidence.

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A Successful Trial

Recently, one of our clients successfully defended themselves against a lawsuit alleging faulty workmanship.  The circumstances were such that our client performed an oil change on a 2007 Dodge Ram 3500.  Once the truck was returned to their customer, the vehicle was driven between 1700 and 1800 miles when oil was observed to have been leaking from the truck.  In the process of leaking oil, the engine was damaged and was going to have to be replaced.  Upon investigating, it was determined that the oil filter gasket had torn and allowed oil to leak from the filter.  The company that owned the truck subsequently filed suit against our client and the manufacturer of the oil filter.  During the trial we were able to prove that the damaged gasket was not the result of installation and that the oil filter and gasket were manufactured by the oil filter company named in the lawsuit.  Our client was found to have been completely blameless and the filter manufacturer 100% at fault.

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