Maybe an expert witness is just not what you want

Flashback to the 1980s, when this pilot fish works for a small family-operated tour company and is responsible for its minicomputer-based IT operations.

"In 1988, I moved to another state to go to graduate school," says fish. "My replacement lasted about 30 days and was never replaced. I did consultant work part time over a modem to maintain the systems until the mid-1990s, when the tour company went bankrupt."

By that point, the minicomputer vendor has gotten out of the hardware business, the tour company's owner has died, the manager that fish worked for -- a nephew -- has moved on, and another relative has taken over as owner/manager of the U.S. operations.

So fish isn't exactly delighted to get a call from the new owner/manager more than a year after the last time fish did any work for the company.

It seems that when the tour company went bust, the owner/manager left the company's computers in the offices that the tour company had stopped paying rent for. That building's owner then leased the space to new tenants and cleaned out the offices, tossing the computers into the trash.

Now the owner/manager and his attorney want fish to testify about the value of the lost computer systems. There's a consulting fee in it, but fish isn't interested. He knows the equipment is so outdated -- dumb terminals and a few 386-based PCs at a time when Pentiums have long since flooded the market -- that there's no value in it except tax depreciation.

But they won't take no for an answer. Finally, to get them off his back, fish says he will testify -- but if someone asks fish in a deposition or in court what he'd have done when the company shut down, he'll have to respond honestly: "For a system of that value, upon knowledge that the business was shutting down, I would have immediately rented a truck or trailer and moved them to storage, a garage or somewhere I could keep them indefinitely."

Reports fish, "The conversation wrapped up -- and, oddly enough, I never heard from them again."

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