Attorney Mike Perley Challenges Meterologist on the Stand
Kevin O'Connell is not a meteorologist, but he plays one on TV
When you're an attorney representing a client who was injured falling in an icy parking lot, who do you call as an expert witness on weather?
WGRZ-TV weatherman Kevin O'Connell, of course.
The Robert D. Berkun law firm, which quotes an endorsement from O'Connell on its website, called the veteran broadcaster to the stand Wednesday in Niagara County Court, where the firm was representing Sharon Zientek of Wheatfield in a lawsuit against Niagara County.
"Are you a meteorologist?" asked the county's lawyer, Michael F. Perley.
"No, sir, I'm a Catholic," O'Connell replied.
But he has a seal from the American Meteorological Society and said he's been "involved in weather" for 44 years.
Zientek claimed she injured her shoulder when she slipped and fell in the parking lot of the county Human Resources Building in Niagara Falls on Feb. 7, 2014.
The lawsuit claimed the county was negligent in not doing a better job of clearing the parking lot after nearly a foot of snow in the two days before Zientek's fall.
O'Connell said he was paid for his testimony – he didn't say how much – and has testified in many cases. Most of his testimony Wednesday dealt with the effectiveness of various types of ice melters in cold temperatures.
O'Connell, citing National Weather Service records, said the temperature in the Falls at the time of the accident was 11 degrees, with a wind chill advisory in effect. He said when the temperature is below 14 degrees, salt doesn't work well on ice.
He and Perley had a long discussion of whether a melter's effectiveness is diluted by the resulting puddles.
"I don't like the word 'diluted' because I think it gives a wrong impression," O'Connell said.
Perhaps Perley's cross-examination diluted the impact of O'Connell's testimony. The jury unanimously found the county was not negligent, and Zientek won nothing.
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