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Contractors fear high-court precedent in Miller Park case

December 24, 1999Madison — The State Supreme Court’s eventual ruling on media’s access to depositions arising from the Miller Park crane collapse could set a precedent that would push contractors under the eye of public scrutiny. William Lampson, president of Lampson International Ltd. in Washington, which provided Big Blue for the Miller Park job, submitted to one of the depositions debated in the Supreme Court case. “It’s not earth shattering, it’s just damn unfortunate our industry is being forced into so much litigation,” he said yesterday. “Eventually it will have to lessen if people are going to work in good faith in this country.”The deaths of three workers at Miller Park when Big Blue collapsed July 14 took a back seat to legal wrangling this week as attorneys for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Inc. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America Inc. squared off before the Supreme Court. The attorneys argued over whether the newspaper has a right to view and release depositions now are posted on the newspaper’s Web site.John A. Busch, who represents Journal Sentinel Inc. in the case, said a Supreme Court decision allowing access to the depositions should not impact the construction industry. He said the ultimate decision of access in individual cases would still lie with the courts. “If a contractor believes the fruits of a deposition contain embarrassing information he doesn’t want known, he can bring forward a motion for a protective order,” Busch said. “They absolutely have an opportunity for protection.”The high-profile nature of a project such as that at Miller Park offers itself to public regardless of whether the details of the deposition are released, Busch said. He said he would think a contractor would want to release information voluntarily so the scrutiny is based on truth rather than rumors.Lampson said he has nothing to hide in the Miller Park case, but he still doesn’t think the details of the deposition should be released. He also questioned why of the 25 to 30 depositions given, only three have been released to the public.

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