Legal cases involving construction situations are becoming more and more complex. The construction world is changing and not being lauded for its regulation and quality control. Legal cases arise with confusing evidence and varied accounts, based on varying factual information.
So how do we know what actually happened? Did we observe it and then remember it? Did we take a photograph or make a recording? Even with these tools the interpretation of what happened is left to our own personal take and interpretation.
So how do we deal with a legal case involving a construction trade where there is an allegation that one or more parties have caused damage or impacted someone. The tradie or contractor may be good at what they do but bad at recording it. When the proverbial hits the fan, the lawyers are left with a bamboozled tradie or contractor defendant with no records and literally just a memory of what happened.
The plaintiff will have their own version of events too, based on their memory or a photo they may have taken before they thought it might be relevant in a legal case. If they record events while it is happening that is better, but how much do they understand about the technicalities of what they are viewing?
In legal cases involving construction trade activities that have impacted others, there is often a need to re-construct events out of the back story of the events. Memories fade, photos have different meanings, battle lines diminish objectivity.
If only we could wind back time and like a video , replay it.
This article addresses this problem. A series of research methods are used that combine and are designed to re-construct events in these situations and restore a body of evidence that is potentially enlightening to the case and the court.
The primary research tool is called the Case Study. The case study is an analysis of a specific field of activity, usually bounded by time and space (or location). Events are played out (like on a sporting field) in a logical order based on certain rules and activity sequences.
When we recount these events ( through memory) within this playing field they will either fit into the picture or not, like a jig saw puzzle. An activity might not fit into the logic of the other activities or might not fit into the location or time of day. If constructed properly, case studies have a high level of ‘self-validation’ if created based on these principles and combined with other methods.
So when your lawyer is looking dumfounded at your lack of evidence because you are a great tradie but a bad administrator and recorder of events, there is hope yet.
Dr Jonathan Drane
Expert Witness Complex Construction and Legal Cases