Lawsuit proceeding against The Weather Channel due to fatal car accident

Jesse Risley

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Apr 12, 2006
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Some of the allegations here don't bode well for TWC, given that there is evidence that they were aware of problematic driving behaviors, might have looked the other way, and most disturbingly, purportedly asked someone to grab cameras shortly after the accident.
 

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First, I have to prime this response by not forgetting three people died. That cannot be changed and no lawsuit will resolve the pain and loss the friends and family have suffered.

Having said that, it's my opinion that The Weather Channel has a very long history of promoting and executing dangerous behavior. There are references on the Internet and in new groups regarding this, and I've authored a few. For example: they once put Jim Cantore in danger, despite knowing the individual who was providing the chase transportation had been accused multiple times of reckless behavior, including well-publicized video clips of such behavior on the Internet. One could also argue they recklessly placed their own chase crew in danger near El Reno, which resulted in serious injuries. Had they used individuals with long-time chase experience, the accident may have been avoided. I do not know the facts leading up to the fatal Texas accident, but it should be easy to reconstruct the routes driven that morning and see if TWC was aware of any prior infractions, or if past video clips showed irresponsible behavior they ignored. Given TWC's past history, it may not be hard to establish a pattern of ignoring such behavior. I personally warned TWC and made multiple public statements about my concerns years ago, but they were ignored, or I was chastised / slandered for interfering. This should be a lesson for other weather organizations like Accu-Weather who still use chasers with a history of reckless and misleading behavior.
 
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Jesse Risley

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Apr 12, 2006
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This is also a pretty damaging amalgamation of flagrant traffic law violations that someone took the time to meticulously count and document for the suit. Contrary to what some people are saying elsewhere that is rather dismissive, TWC will have a hard time walking away from this one without paying some coin, regardless of how stellar their top dollar barristers of jurisprudence might be.


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Jun 18, 2017
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Tennessee
I looked into it a bit. Doesn’t look good on TWC. Growing up, I used to love TWC, and I’d argue that the TWC should’ve handled some of situations better in the first place. Also, I don’t think Accu Weather and TWC are alone in this situation. I’m sure other news networks did the same thing. My local stations have their own chasers and chase vehicles (surprise bc I live in TN), but I’ve not heard any issues about them so far. Chances are, especially across the Plains, the local news networks are going to get a shot, and sometimes things get reckless. I once came across a video. During landfall of Hurricane Michael, TWC Cantore had to rescue NBC reporter from being swept away once the NBC reporter lost his balance. Also, Cantore had a reaaaaaallly close call with 2x4 on live. Basically, I’m talking about upper Cat 4 winds, borderline Cat 5. My opinions... on putting reporters in danger. Cantore and the NBC reporter should have a right to stay in shelter and protect themselves in the first place regardless if it’s a hurricane, winter storm, tornado, or whatever. Same goes for all reporters out there. I honestly don’t know the whole story, but if both were ordered to report in a category 5 hurricane, a freakin’ Cat 5, that’s where I have a problem. On storm chasing issues... I’d say the TWC should’ve fired or disciplined the reckless driver and not assign reporters with those drivers. On top of that, they should’ve come up with some ways to check the chasers’ histories, driving records, etc before hiring them. When I join for storm chase, I had a complete trust into the couple who took the interns out for chasing. I was so thrilled to see a beautiful LP supercell and an incredible HP sup on separate days, but I had a utmost confidence into program’s director and her husband to make the chase safe as possible and stay in bounds of traffic laws. We even had a ?drunk? driver on the road when we’re driving to HP storm, but they handled the situation well and we got to the sup (though I’m not sure if they thought about or had called the cops). Although we joked about trying to core-punch those sups, core-punching isn’t something I’d take lightly. I’ve seen what baseball sized hail is capable of in Knoxville area back on 4/27/11. Traffic laws are to be followed for safety too. In the end, I still love TWC since it’s my childhood, but it needs to fix those situations and learn from them. I’m trying to keep my stance neutral here, and TWC isn’t alone in this one, especially with Hurricane Michael and storm chasing. I bet many news outlets do the same things at some points.
 
This really opens up a Pandora's box in regards to The Weather Channel and others asking people to send in video footage involving dangerous situations. Now that a precedent has been established, I can see others going after The Weather Channel anytime someone is injured or killed while trying to gather footage for them, especially those who have multiple submissions or an established relationship. I've also noticed some of their live interviews with chasers in the field have potential problems as they are encouraging amateurs to "get the shot." Things are changing.
 
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Jun 18, 2017
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This really opens up a Pandora's box in regards to The Weather Channel and others asking people to send in video footage involving dangerous situations. Now that a precedent has been established, I can see others going after The Weather Channel anytime someone is injured or killed while trying to gather footage for them, especially those who have multiple submissions or an established relationship. I've also noticed some of their live interviews with chasers in the field have potential problems as they are encouraging amateurs to "get the shot." Things are changing.
No joke. As someone who forays into Twitter, I’ve seen that a LOT with people being asked not just by TWC, but also (more often) local and national news outlets to use their pictures. I’d say that a minority (I hope) had done something reckless to get those pictures or videos. Some, including storm chasers, did get videos or pictures in safe and respectful manner. Some of people asked were unfortunate souls who happened to be struck by storms. I also don’t condone any reckless behavior regardless of the situation, and if I was in position of one of those storm chasers, I’d get real about chasing, not encourage amateurs to “get a shot.” Safety, knowledge of storm behavior, experience come first before “getting a shot.” There were some situations where chasers weren’t at fault partially or completely in first place (ie. drunk driver in other vehicle, animal collision, etc), and I’d encourage people into looking at all of nuances before going after TWC (or news outlets). If the chasers were the ones who’s doing stupid things, I’ll not encourage those stuff.
 
Honestly, I hope the family of Corbin Jaeger wins this case. I grew up watching The Weather Channel, but ever since 2010, TWC seems to have taken a drastic turn for the worse. I knew Kelley wasn't the safest of chasers, but after I read that paper the lawyers wrote I was shocked at how many times Kelley had broken the law just in those videos they watched. I was also very surprised with how long it took for this lawsuit to be filed. May this be a reminder to every chaser out there to get there act together and drive safely. WE DO NOT need another tragedy like this ever again. No amount of money can EVER replace the lives lost that day.
 
No joke. As someone who forays into Twitter, I’ve seen that a LOT with people being asked not just by TWC, but also (more often) local and national news outlets to use their pictures. I’d say that a minority (I hope) had done something reckless to get those pictures or videos. Some, including storm chasers, did get videos or pictures in safe and respectful manner. Some of people asked were unfortunate souls who happened to be struck by storms. I also don’t condone any reckless behavior regardless of the situation, and if I was in position of one of those storm chasers, I’d get real about chasing, not encourage amateurs to “get a shot.” Safety, knowledge of storm behavior, experience come first before “getting a shot.” There were some situations where chasers weren’t at fault partially or completely in first place (ie. drunk driver in other vehicle, animal collision, etc), and I’d encourage people into looking at all of nuances before going after TWC (or news outlets). If the chasers were the ones who’s doing stupid things, I’ll not encourage those stuff.
Yes. And outlets like TWC are banking on amateurs getting excited about being interviewed on live TV. For many people, that is better than the rip-off $50.00 they might pay you. They are well aware of the enticement power and the potential issues. Telling people to "be careful" is not a release.
 
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Jun 18, 2017
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Tennessee
About the passage that Warren showed, I agree that it’s interesting. Since I’m with college newspaper, I might dive a little deeper in this one and give my thoughts about that. I’ve not seen Storm Wranglers, but based off the passage, hiring farmers with zero training instead of actual meteorologists is a terrible idea. I was originally excited about it when the preview was released, but I never saw the show itself. I would honestly have watched the show and loved it had the TWC hired people who follow safety and traffic laws and were actual meteorologists or had those trainings. Also, I agree with the logo because it looked stupid. Knowing that the TWC is my childhood, it felt like being kicked so hard in the guts, so I’m honestly a little cheesed off. I’ve not watched TWC much lately, but I still read their articles to this day. I’m not saying that I’ll stop reading their articles online, but I’m saying that they need to fix their issues. Honestly, they deserved the lawsuit for what they have done in the first place, especially with storm chasing. The irony with TWC is that it sounded a little hypocritical since it preaches safety to viewers, but they interviewed overeager, attention-hungry amateurs who encourage other amateurs to get the shot even to the point of being reckless. (I’m not saying that all amateurs are glory hogs since I’m amateur myself) I still cherish TWC, but the situation has to stop. Maybe they should start interviewing people with better sense than those glory hogs for better... but... still not as profitable. In the end, when I first broke the surface of this situation, I thought “this ain’t adding up” at first, but it started to make sense about hypocrisy from especially TWC and other news outlets in general.
 
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May 18, 2013
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I read the entire complaint, and it is very different than any motor vehicle accident complaint I have seen. Two things strike me as different. First, the amount of homework they did before filing (watching a ton of YouTube videos) is staggering. I guess it goes to show they think a ton of money is likely in this case. Second, it seems like they had already done a ton of discovery related to cell phone records. I find it strange they had such access to these non-public records before filing, but I am not an attorney. My bet is this never goes to trail and TWC settles, even though TWC probably has paperwork saying they where indy contractors. Let this be a lesson to all chasers not only to drive safe, but also that everything you say or post online can be used against you in court.
 
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I read the entire complaint, and it is very different than any motor vehicle accident complaint I have seen. Two things strike me as different. First, the amount of homework they did before filing (watching a ton of YouTube videos) is staggering. I guess it goes to show they think a ton of money is likely in this case. Second, it seems like they had already done a ton of discovery related to cell phone records. I find it strange they had such access to these non-public records before filing, but I am not an attorney. My bet is this never goes to trail and TWC settles, even though TWC probably has paperwork saying they where indy contractors. Let this be a lesson to all chasers not only to drive safe, but also that everything you say or post online can be used against you in court.
Cell phone records can be subpoenaed even for civil matters, but they have to be relevant to the case or they will not be admitted into evidence. My wife has to do this with cases dealing with distracted drivers, including fatal accidents.
 
I read the entire complaint, and it is very different than any motor vehicle accident complaint I have seen. Two things strike me as different. First, the amount of homework they did before filing (watching a ton of YouTube videos) is staggering. I guess it goes to show they think a ton of money is likely in this case. Second, it seems like they had already done a ton of discovery related to cell phone records. I find it strange they had such access to these non-public records before filing, but I am not an attorney. My bet is this never goes to trail and TWC settles, even though TWC probably has paperwork saying they where indy contractors. Let this be a lesson to all chasers not only to drive safe, but also that everything you say or post online can be used against you in court.
This is an excellent point. Once there is video of you doing reckless things it never leaves the Internet. I know of at least one individual who will have this monkey on his shoulder forever. God forbid he injures or kills someone. Yet another reason to chase responsibly and just enjoy the ride without losing your mind over a storm or posting idiotic footage.
 
Feb 19, 2007
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This is an excellent point. Once there is video of you doing reckless things it never leaves the Internet. I know of at least one individual who will have this monkey on his shoulder forever. God forbid he injures or kills someone. Yet another reason to chase responsibly and just enjoy the ride without losing your mind over a storm or posting idiotic footage.
Warren, you are very right. I am hearing that the most recent incident (within the last month) of the chaser driving wrecklessly into traffic with vehicles flashing their headlights at him is currently being reviewed by state prosicutors for criminal charges. It may not be a good timing.
 

Jesse Risley

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Warren, you are very right. I am hearing that the most recent incident (within the last month) of the chaser driving wrecklessly into traffic with vehicles flashing their headlights at him is currently being reviewed by state prosicutors for criminal charges. It may not be a good timing.
I asked our former state's attorney about this, because they had a couple of incidents where videos were uploaded somewhere on social media that showed someone drag racing and another that indicated vandalism was done to a vehicle. He said the reason these often don't net successful prosecution is because the state still has to prove a certain person committed an offense, and if you cannot affirmatively prove who the driver was in a video, for example, then there is some legal doubt that a competent defense attorney could use.

If a chaser uploads a video that shows an egregious traffic violation, they still need to be able to prove that the chaser that they want to prosecute was the one driving the vehicle. For example, some people do have drivers that could be silent during parts of the video, and others may on occasion have someone share a stream or upload a video on their account that someone else in the vehicle took or with whom they were riding.

That's obviously not an issue in the case surrounding the lawsuit filed yesterday, but it probably partially explains why there has been more than one high profile incident of fairly serious moving violations broadcast on storm chaser streams, YT videos, or stringer video sold to the media that, heretofore, hasn't knowingly resulted in traffic citations and/or reckless driving charges by proxy.

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Feb 19, 2007
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I asked our former state's attorney about this, because they had a couple of incidents where videos were uploaded somewhere on social media that showed someone drag racing and another that indicated vandalism was done to a vehicle. He said the reason these often don't net successful prosecution is because the state still has to prove a certain person committed an offense, and if you cannot affirmatively prove who the driver was in a video, for example, then there is some legal doubt that a competent defense attorney could use.

If a chaser uploads a video that shows an egregious traffic violation, they still need to be able to prove that the chaser that they want to prosecute was the one driving the vehicle. For example, some people do have drivers that could be silent during parts of the video, and others may on occasion have someone share a stream or upload a video on their account that someone else in the vehicle took or with whom they were riding.

That's obviously not an issue in the case surrounding the lawsuit filed yesterday, but it probably partially explains why there has been more than one high profile incident of fairly serious moving violations broadcast on storm chaser streams, YT videos, or stringer video sold to the media that, heretofore, hasn't knowingly resulted in traffic citations and/or reckless driving charges by proxy.

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It seems like i am hearing about in car video being used to prosicute more and more. Its an interesting topic with live streams rolling. The stop light traffic cams do not show who is driving, but folks still get a ticket and fine. I wonder just how big of a news story the TWC story will create and if they can dig up the original footage from the other chaser to use an example. Could be related video.
 
It's your past reputation, statements and actions that will do you in. Everything you post on social media, every TV show you are involved with, every video you post and even your interactions with other chasers can come back and haunt you years from now. This not only applies to chasing, but life in general now days. We live in the age of mass data gathering.
 
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Jesse Risley

Staff member
Apr 12, 2006
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Macomb, IL
www.tornadogenesis.org
It seems like i am hearing about in car video being used to prosicute more and more. Its an interesting topic with live streams rolling. The stop light traffic cams do not show who is driving, but folks still get a ticket and fine. I wonder just how big of a news story the TWC story will create and if they can dig up the original footage from the other chaser to use an example. Could be related video.
The stop light and speed camera citations are generally treated as civil violations that go with the vehicle, much like a parking ticket. They're not bona fide moving violations in most every state.

The streaming or video based cases against chasers (and others) are generally moving violations, or perhaps criminal misdemeanor reckless driving charges lobbied against an individual driver, so they are going to have to be certain that the person charged committed the violation(s), not just a registered motor vehicle. While not an issue in the case in question that resulted in the lawsuit, it would be the case with the Alabama tornado on March 3rd.
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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What ever happened to going out to SEE the storm versus going out to SHOW somebody else the storm. I think this is where chasing has lost it's focus. If everybody is after a pittance of a paycheck or even worse, followers, we're going to continue seeing things like this happen and corporations taking advantage of people's need to be recognized.

I have countless photos and lots of video footage of tornadoes and severe weather...only this forum and friends of mine have seen any of it. I chase for the fun. I have zero social media presence and have never even tried to make a dime off my hobby.

But I also stop at all stop signs, regardless of the situation.
 
Sep 25, 2006
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Minneapolis, MN
What ever happened to going out to SEE the storm versus going out to SHOW somebody else the storm. I think this is where chasing has lost it's focus. If everybody is after a pittance of a paycheck or even worse, followers, we're going to continue seeing things like this happen and corporations taking advantage of people's need to be recognized.

I have countless photos and lots of video footage of tornadoes and severe weather...only this forum and friends of mine have seen any of it. I chase for the fun. I have zero social media presence and have never even tried to make a dime off my hobby.

But I also stop at all stop signs, regardless of the situation.
At the same time, weather is news and people want to know about it. Despite this incident, it's still probably better to have chasers documenting severe weather than some random journalists who don't know what they're doing. If people can make money from chasing, more power to them.
 
Oct 4, 2006
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Oologah, Ok.
I have watched their show. At the time (well before the accident), I told my wife that these guys were idiots and would probably end up in trouble or dead. Then it happened. After this incident, I have backed way off on chasing, backed almost completely off any live streaming/ media sales etc.-that incident hit home, kept asking myself what if I were the one they hit, among other questions related to this subject. I digress...

I hope this is a wake up call for the media whores. Even if TWC prevails, it has cost them a ton of money in legal fees but I am betting this one gets settled out of court with a NDA. They'll want this out of sight, out of mind.

Some chasers profit and make a living at chasing and I have no qualm with that, but when they are morons rolling stop signs and driving like idiots then yeah that burns my ass. I have to qualify that with I am not perfect, have broken laws chasing as well, but as I have aged, I try to keep the adrenaline in check and pay closer attention at how I conduct myself inside the vehicle and out while chasing.
 
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Sep 7, 2013
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At the same time, weather is news and people want to know about it. Despite this incident, it's still probably better to have chasers documenting severe weather than some random journalists who don't know what they're doing. If people can make money from chasing, more power to them.
I'll agree to the point of having chasers documenting weather, but I'll disagree with the using it to make money part. That's the crux of this whole thread...if money/followers was not an option, these kind of risks would not necessarily be taken.
 

Jesse Risley

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I believe that at least some of this behavior is a manifestation of a certain facet of the hobby becoming financially competitive in order to get the best live stream shot or get the best breaking video sale before the competition does. When people are financially driven in this manner, it tends to exacerbate poor behavior such as flagrant traffic violations to get in position and get "the shot." There's nothing wrong with streaming, and I don't even see any harm in selling quality video. I've done both.

I think all of the sales aspects of chasing have to be done commensurate with the fact that we are part of a society-at-large, so getting "the shot" or earning a prestigious financial compensation for having the best shot and getting it on CNN, for example, before anyone else gets it, shouldn't take precedence over your own safety or the safety of others in or near the roadways. Of course, there are also people who drive recklessly while chasing who are not involving in streaming or selling video either. In short, it's probably competitiveness in general that is the root of some of the problem. It's not a tacit justification that blowing stop signs or driving 30 mph over the posted limit is okay; I think we have to be cognizant that competition, particularly for selling streams or videos, is contributing to what was already an ongoing problem as more people get into the hobby in the first place. I always try to be mindful of the fact that we share public right-of-ways with others, and operating an automobile is a serious endeavor that has safety implications when done improperly or recklessly.
 
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