If you haven’t read it already, turn to the lead article on the front page of this week’s issue and pick up some friendly advice from Tom Jackson, an attorney with the Washington, DC, law firm of Kelley, Drye and Warren, LLP. Jackson was kind enough to follow up on questions asked of him at the conclusion of the recent National Hvacr Systems Security Summit, sponsored byThe Newsand the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

Jackson has some interesting thoughts for contractors who asked what impact new building security measures would have on the hvacr trade, from a legal point of view. His candid and forthright answers, both at the summit and here in print, set off light bulbs above the heads of the editors at The News.

Since so many summit attendees were interested in the legal issues surrounding building security, wouldn’t it stand to reason that other members of our trade would be interested in knowing more about their legal rights on other issues? Since so many business owners are held accountable for what they and their employees do on a job, it seemed like a logical assumption. Now we need you to prove it was the right assumption.


The word “lawsuit” is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine, especially a business owner. That’s why so many are careful to screen their employees and have good safety programs in place. These programs usually have a system of rewards built in to recognize employees who work safely and follow the rules. A lot of time is spent studying equipment to see if there is a pattern of warranty problems, safety defects, or recall notices. The fallout from the damaging effects of defective equipment could virtually wipe out a business.

I’ve kept in contact with a contractor who has decided to shutter his business, in part because of the failing economy in his market and in part because of a costly lawsuit involving a former employee. Although he felt the litigation was unjustified, the court costs kept mounting and drained his cash reserve to fend off the lawsuit.

The cost of litigation is only exceeded by the pain and heartbreak of watching company profits being eroded by lawyer’s fees and court costs. It’s no wonder that, when given the opportunity, business owners want to garner as much legal advice as possible. That’s precisely why Jackson was such a popular and sought-after panelist at the summit.


We feel fortunate to have Jackson fill the title role inThe News’new feature, “Ask the Lawyer.” We will need participation from you, our readers, to make this feature a success. But I’ve got a feeling that this new venture will be an instant hit.

Here’s how it will work: If you have a question about any legal issue involving your business, be it about security issues, a problem with a current or former employee, an installation or service call that has resulted in an unhappy customer, etc., write it down and send it to us. We will pick out the most compelling and/or the most popular questions and ask Jackson to offer his opinion on the topic.

Relay your questions to me by fax, e-mail, or telephone at the contact information listed below.

I believe this will be a very informative and important addition to the already impressive list of features in The News and at our website. I hope you’ll agree.

Hall is business management editor. You can reach him at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); johnhall@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 02/18/2002