Feeling like a Good Samaritan, I recently filed a report with the local police station after witnessing a crime involving the repeated damage and theft of an unattended car.
The alleged lout had furiously kicked the front door in, smashed a bottle of Scotch through the driver's window, hopped in and drove away while his girlfriend looked on laughing.
Watching in disbelief, I then saw the owner of the car rush out from a building screaming and obviously in full-blown panic mode. I of course, gave her a hand.
Eight months later and I receive a subpoena to testify against the alleged reprobate -- who not surprisingly has a string of serious offences behind him. This is where the nerves kick in.
You see, I've never been a witness before. Apart from a few stints in court as a keen work-experience student back in high school, I've never had to swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but. Not that telling the truth will be a problem. It's just the thought of stepping into the witness box to give evidence against a crim who will probably be staring me right in the eye, whispering curses under his breath.
Now imagine this.
You're in the witness box. You have to testify, and instead of a crim gazing at you across a packed courtroom, it's none other than your boss and most likely his boss. You're up there because you were working on a Y2K project which proved unsuccessful. As a result, the company you're working for was sued and this, my friend, is a counter-suit squarely aimed at you.
If you think this is an over-rated, hyped-up possibility that will never happen to you -- or for that matter anyone you know -- think again.
As our cover story, "Y2K lawyers and you, will you sink or swim?" points out: "Any self-employed contractor who negligently fails to secure the change of century data is handled correctly will be able to be sued in any proceedings."
And according to one authority on the matter, permanent IS managers and programming staff should also be worried. "If their company goes into liquidation, they could find themselves the only asset rich targets left for third parties with Y2K grievances."
If that hasn't convinced you, maybe this comment from one lawyer will: "It is still feasible for a customer to sue both a company and its employees for negligence."
Even if you're safe from this kind of situation, think of your colleagues. They might not be that lucky. So do the industry a favour.
Advise them to put everything in writing and get their butt covered. Fast.