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Slip and Fall Guy: Weather Man Advises P.I. Attorneys

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 01, 2010 1:45 PM

Did you ever think, I wonder what it is exactly that a forensic meteorologist does? Today, that question will be answered. Thanks to reporting by the New York Daily News, we now know just what it is that Albany, New York based forensic meteorologist Howard Altschule does all day.

The former forecaster and TV weather man is an advisor to parties in the sidewalk slip and fall cases so prevalent in the New York area during the wintertime. New York has a specific legal doctrine called the "storm in progress doctrine." Under this rule, a property owner has a "reasonable time" to correct snow and ice hazards on his property, generally around four hours from the fall of the last snowflake. Any injuries that occur after that, he may be liable for. That's where Mr. Altschule comes in.

"I work for whoever calls me first," Altschule told the Daily News, not being biased to either plaintiff or defendant side work. Altschule can reconstruct the timing of the weather conditions, thus either exonerating a defendant or proving liability for a plaintiff. Complicated issues surrounding weather conditions that create melting and re-freezing of ice and snow are exactly the type of thing that Altschule gets paid for.

For example, in a recent case, The Brooklyn Public Library called Altschule when it was sued by a pedestrian who slipped on a patch of ice outside its doors. There was no question that the plaintiff had fallen, but Altschule was able to establish that the ice had formed just a short time before. Per the storm in progress rule, the jury found for the library.

And chalk this one up to climate change. The meteorologist has a new case, way down south. "I never thought I'd be doing slip and fall cases in the Tampa, Fla., area," Altschule told the News. "They don't know what salt is down there." On margaritas, maybe, sidewalks, not as much.

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