Update (5/26/2011): ADT seems one step closer to having a Minnesota jury trial and the late production of documents, referenced below, may complicate its defense considerably (see pages 16-20 of this week’s order).
Update (5/3/2011): U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim (D. Minn.) heard argument on a number of motions on May 2. Amanda Cialkowski argued on behalf of ADT. Paul Peterson and William Harper argued on behalf of Swenson/Hawkinson estates.
The hearing may have given some hints as to the “musical chairs” of ADT counsel, referenced below. Newly hired counsel squarely blamed the late production of documents (after the close of discovery) on earlier counsel. Documents should have been produced but were not due to “plain lawyer error,” Cialkowski told the Court. (The consequences of the late disclosure would be very serious for ADT if plaintiffs’ counsel has its way. Judge Tunheim has taken their related motion under advisement. Regardless, new counsel is often at least one step in a litigant’s damage control under such circumstances.)
ADT Alarm Systems cannot much relish a high profile trial brought by the estate of slain people (and children) when the ADT home security system failed to prevent a slaughter. ADT goes the extra mile and brings in a charge of comparative fault against local law enforcement. At issue, is what obligations does an officer have when responding to a domestic abuse call under Minnesota law (518B, Sub. 22, or 629.72, Subd. 1a(b)) and whether or not an arrest is “discretionary” if the wrong-doer has fled the scene on arrival of the police.
It is not self-evident that blaming the “men in blue” will score points with a jury (or public opinion) but, on the other hand, who knows? These are the tough calls that parties and their counsel need to make in the face of potentially huge liability and Swenson and Hawkinson’s counsel made it abundantly clear at the hearing that they see this as a multi-million dollar case (repeating, for example, that they are seeking punitive damages and that ADT purportedly reaps profits (not revenue, profits) of over $2 million/day).
Original Post (4/29/2011):
So what to make of the musical chairs of local counsel in the ADT case?
Often, reading a case’s “docket” is like Kremlinology (aka Kremlin-watching) (“lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to ‘read between the lines’ and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as ‘First Secretary’ and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics”).