July 2015 Bar Bulletin
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July 2015 Bar Bulletin

In Memoriam: Steve Nourse,Bob Burke and David Ashbaugh

By Michael J. Bond


Today, I went to another funeral service. It was a gathering of friends, colleagues and partners of Steve Nourse. Steve was a partner at Carney Badley and one of our best construction lawyers. Today, I also learned that Bob Burke died about four months ago. Bob was a partner at Oles Morrison and another one of our best construction lawyers. And I was reminded that David Ashbaugh left us recently, too, another great construction lawyer. He was a partner with R. Miles Stanislaw for many years.

I've worked with and against all of them over the years. We are all about the same age and vintage, and the similarity of our pedigrees is uncanny. Like me, Steve was a Marine Corps officer; Bob served in the U.S. Army. I don't know if David served in the military; he didn't cotton to authority, so it seems unlikely. This is weighing on my soul. Maybe I should do something other than construction cases.

Bob and I worked on the Bangor Nuclear Sub Base case together, called McBride v. Pan Am. Two guys drank a bottle of Wild Turkey at a bar in Silverdale one day, and then on the way home to Poulsbo they took the wrong exit, and drove headlong at 55 mph into the bollard at the Bangor Base main gate. They never slowed down. Today, they would have been blown to smithereens before they got there; in those days, they were allowed to impale themselves on the bollard. McBride, the passenger, broke his neck up high, and he sued the Navy, Pan Am (which had the maintenance contract at Bangor), the architect for his gate design, and the electrical engineer for the lighting. I had the architect; Bob had the engineer.

Judge Rothstein denied all our motions for summary judgment even though the driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.28. Right, maybe a second bottle of Wild Turkey would have done the trick. This wasn't some dark alley; the gate was lit like a super nova.

The Wild Turkey label says it's 100 proof, strong stuff, and I put a new bottle on the exhibit list. Plaintiff made a motion in limine to bar the bottle, but Judge Rafeedi, who came up from Los Angeles to try the case, said he would deal with motions in limine on the first day of trial. I took the Wild Turkey into the courtroom on the first day and, with a flourish, I put it on the table as if to say, "set 'em up barkeep." When the judge came onto the bench, he told us to see him in chambers, and then he ordered us to go out in the hallway and settle the case.

That is what passed for mediation in those days; sorry Chris. We did as we were told, and settled this high-level quadriplegia case for $200,000, paying $50,000 each. And from there we proceeded across the street to Bob's office where we opened the Wild Turkey. As the saying goes, it was noon somewhere. I still have that bottle, exhibit label and all, having refilled it several times.

Time erased my memory of any cases with David. I recall he stole my secretary when I was at Lee Smart. At a CLE a year or three ago, I heard him say out loud, "The first question when looking at a potential case is, are the damages substantial? If not, you're wasting your time." You could not miss his voice, and I turned to confirm it was Mr. Ashbaugh.

I last saw David at the airport one morning not long - it turned out - before he passed. I didn't know he was sick. I was going to Alaska to meet on a construction case, and he was going to Palm Springs to relax. He said the practice was no fun anymore. Now I know why.

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