15 lessons learned from fiber-optic lawsuits

Fiber-optic expert Eric Pearson has words of advice for contractors, end users and anyone caught in between during a dispute over a fiber installation.

In an article that appears in the June 2012 issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine, fiber-optic expert Eric Pearson offers up 15 lessons that can be learned from legal battles he has seen and been involved in. They all involve fiber-opticinstallation projects, and in many cases Pearson has been brought in to advise a litigant or to act as an expert witness.

"During the past 20 years I have been involved as a technical expert in 20 lawsuits or actions prior to lawsuits," he explains in the article. "This involvement with installation, product and patent issues has demonstrated 15 lessons important to installers and managers involved with fiber-optic installation and products.

Each of the lessons is couched within the context of a real dispute he's recalling. They cover acts and circumstances including back hoe fade, lost-revenue claims, repair costs, suspect test results and more.

Taken out of context, here is the list of 15 lessons that Pearson imparts.

  1. Burying a broken cable is not a viable solution to the fact that it is broken.
  2. Document marked cable locations before a dig begins.
  3. When a cable hit does happen, document it photographically.
  4. If you plan to make a claim for lost revenue based on a fiber outage, verify your ability to offer the capacity in less time than it would take to repair the broken line.
  5. Verify any and all claimed loss of revenue.
  6. Use proper fiber-capacity rates and figures when claiming lost revenue based on a fiber outage.
  7. Hand in hand with number six, verify that you actually had the number of optical channels that you claim to have lost.
  8. Scrutinize repair-cost details to ensure they do not include charges for improvements over the original. (In other words, don't file suit for the cost of a Mercedes Benz against the person who totaled your Kia. Likewise, don't agree to buy a new Mercedes for the poor soul with the totaled Kia.)
  9. Test a broken fiber-optic cable with an OTDR to detect how much of the cable has been damaged and requires replacement.
  10. After carrying out the above, replace the entire length of cable that was adversely affected by the break.
  11. If you use the word "equivalent" when specifying a product, use extreme care in doing so. Equivalence must refer to a product both as the product itself, and as it is to be used.
  12. The party that is the easiest to sue for something that has gone wrong may not actually be the responsible party.
  13. The party that is the easiest to sue may not have the deepest pockets, either.
  14. Specify the precise test method to be used upon completion of an installation.
  15. Require OTDR traces for purchased fiber-optic cable, and review the traces prior to the cable's installation.

Even out of context, these lessons provide some good advice for all parties involved in a fiber-optic install. But they take on even more relevance, and even lend themselves to some humor at times, when they are put into the context of the disputes from which they arose. Read Eric Pearson's complete article here.

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