The news reports that three men, who were experts at defusing bombs, were killed while trying to defuse World War II bomb discovered during a construction project. The explosion happened in Goettingen, Germany Wednesday. The explosion happened about 45 minutes before the men planned to take the final step. They had delayed doing it to allow a passenger train to go past and just moments before it did, the bomb went off. The team had been working on explosive removal for years and were highly experienced in defusing unexploded bombs from World War II. More then 2,000 tons of American and British bombs as well as German grenades and Russian artillery shells are unearthed in Germany each year. The great majority are defused safely. It seems to me there are some lessons to learn from this tragic news story in our trial work.
Doesn’t it seem to you that this is analogous to the situation involving a hidden defect in a product or a building or environment? I mean, you can have weeks, months and years go by without the defect causing harm or damage and then, suddenly, without warning it "goes off." Like a ticking time bomb, the defect is there, waiting for the victim. The question is not whether it will cause injury or harm, rather who the victim will be. That bomb was in the earth for over 65 years without causing damage, injury or death, but it was only a question of time until it did.
Then there is the perspective from the standpoint of those unfortunate men trying to defuse the bomb. In a tort case, the tort feasor would probably claim the three men were negligent themselves or had assumed the danger. As dangerous as their job was, they had successfully done it numerous times. There was a standard procedure they had to follow to defuse the bomb safely. One wonders is the interruption and unusual delay of their standard procedure in order to allow the train to go by was a contributing factor. A physician can perform a procedure that has a high degree of risk, but when they deviate from the step by step safe procedure disaster can occur.
I make it a practice to save news items like this one that I think I can use in my trial advocacy. I started out putting them in notebooks with dividers as to topics, but with computers, scanning and indexing makes it easier. Anyway, its worth thinking about.