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A FAREWELL TO MAGGIE: FAT CATS AND BUSBOY BUCKETS

A FAREWELL TO MAGGIE: FAT CATS AND BUSBOY BUCKETS

When the phone rings after midnight, it is typically bad news. This phone call was no exception.  I was driving with a million other people along an interstate trying to beat hurricane Florence to the punch and return home prior to her landfall. Had I heard that Maggie died?   My senses were immediately arrested as the chords of memory played out along a well-traveled highway with no gasoline or place to eat or sleep. And if anything went through my mind, it was the lessons learned from a waitress in a restaurant long before most readers of this post were born. Maggie was not any waitress. And the restaurant where we worked together was not just any restaurant: The Gulf View restaurant was a place where fat cats went…
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Mrs. Stanford’s Pecan Pie

Mrs. Stanford’s Pecan Pie

And so it came to pass that I found myself at trial. Not just any trial. This was eminent domain, the government’s, or any condemning authority’s, right to take our property if it can demonstrate the taking serves the most good for the most people. The authority retains experts to assess the value of what shall be taken to ensure that the offer is just compensation in the marketplace. Article 5, the Bill of Rights. Of course, one side’s opinion of just compensation differs from the other side’s idea of just compensation. And that is where the rubber meets the road, and where the mischief begins in many situations. In this matter, I was retained by the property owner’s attorney. At issue was the value of pecan trees in a grove…
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Dead Trees DO Talk

Dead Trees DO Talk

11:30 p.m. Had you been there on the wooded hill illuminated by the full moon, you would have definitely heard the noise. But you probably would never, ever have imagined its source. Something like a muffled groan but intuitively not human. Time would pass and you would have filed the origination of the sound back into the Rolodex of your mind. 11:45 p.m.  Now there’s another sound, a high-pitched sound. Again non-human but unmistakably present in the still night. The sound repeats itself again, then again. You could search the landscape for something that was making these sounds, but you would find nothing because nothing was there except the trees. And to that point, it was the sound of a tree slowly splitting and giving way under massive decay at the base…
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Consider the Evidence from All Sides Before Passing Judgement on the Claimant’s Validity

Consider the Evidence from All Sides Before Passing Judgement on the Claimant’s Validity

Joe Samnik, Consulting Forensic Arborist If I’m going to be honest with myself, I must admit that one of the components associated with my mental Rolodex boils down to these questions: Does this claim have merit?  Is the claimant being honest and straightforward with regard to his claim?  One of the things that piqued my curiosity when entering the accident scene itself was the serenity juxtaposed to the landscape. It was a quiet site in nature. The speed limit was 10 miles an hour. And I observed that speed limit not because it was posted but because of the calmness and peculiar layout of the entry drive. Next to the entry drive was the remnant portion of a large palm tree species called the Royal Palm tree (Roystonea regia). This…
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Acts of God and Other Silly Notions of Trees

Acts of God and Other Silly Notions of Trees

If you are in the business of adjusting insurance claims, you have no doubt heard this scenario numerous times: “There was this incredible wind out of nowhere, and the next thing I knew my huge tree fell through my roof.” Another often repeated theme goes like this: “It must’ve been a bolt of lightning! It hit the tree by my garage and the tree crashed down on my car!”   While the story changes from time to time, the general theme is that an act of God caused my tree to fail. If you are lucky, it is “just” property damage. If you’re not so lucky, it’s a death or injury. In any and all cases, acts of God are a rare occurrence. Certainly there are the vicissitudes and inclementicies of…
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Ethics, “White Lies,” and a Red Dress

Ethics, “White Lies,” and a Red Dress

My bride and I decided to step upon a path with irreparable conclusions as this slippery slope of truth was applied to our personal relationship. What if, just for 24 hours, we both applied that definition of truth? Could it even be done? And what would the consequences become? We had a solid foundation upon which to build, solid enough that I felt secure in accepting this daunting challenge of telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, for 24 hours. My bride and I are ethicists. Our upbringing in formative years and our professions hold us tightly to the matter of ethics. It’s an extremely boring subject, especially if one sits in an auditorium for a one-hour presentation and resultant CEUs. Moreover, the entire subject is boring. Everyone has…
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If a Tree Fell in the Woods, Would an Insurance Agent Hear It?

If a Tree Fell in the Woods, Would an Insurance Agent Hear It?

It is an amazing phenomenon to observe from afar. Extremely intelligent and well-versed insurance professionals handling claims become immobile when a tree or landscape issue comes before them. Their eyes glaze over. Their right hand goes to their chin. Their eyebrows rise. They ponder, what to do? Given that the tree or landscape did not kill or injure someone (which is an entirely different matter altogether), the agent is left with the task of paying the claim, denying it, or attempting to seek help in the marketplace to verify the casualty opinion of value. Claims sit on a desk for a year or more because the agent is frozen in a state of confusion. Resentment from the insured rises as his claim is not paid. The company name becomes tarnished.…
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Age Discrimination in the Marketplace

Age Discrimination in the Marketplace

I am the luckiest man in the marketplace. The older I get, the more I am  perceived as being better at my niche in the marketplace, better than somebody younger than I. I have noted much discussion and many articles regarding age discrimination in the workplace.  While paraphrasing, it seems the mantra of the older applicant or job holder is: "I have forgotten more than the younger worker (applicant) knows, and yet I am going to be fired or replaced by a younger applicant." I believe this statement to be true. So what is it that spurs the ubiquitous conversations on age discrimination? And why does age discrimination exist? I believe that it does exist, but cannot prove it. I do not attempt to prove it. An attempt is made to offer remedial possibilities for age…
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What I have learned as an expert witness in over 800 litigation assignments

What I have learned as an expert witness in over 800 litigation assignments

I have had the good fortune of being named as an expert witness in over 800 litigation matters. I have been qualified in federal, civil, criminal, small claims and eminent domain courts of law. I have testified to tree values, wrongful deaths, personal injuries, eminent domain and product liability. My representation is nearly 50/50 plaintiff vs. defendant. I have traveled across the nation, and I have witnessed some remarkable events. I haven’t seen it all yet; however, what I have seen has been quite an educational experience. Knowledge is, after all is said and done, what one learns after knowing it all for 20 years, or so. In preparation for an upcoming litigation assignment, I fell to reflecting on what I have learned during my tenure as an expert witness. These bits of empirical knowledge…
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