I am a proud plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer. My practice has permitted me to represent hundreds of extraordinary people who need help navigating a civil justice system to be made whole. Every client was unique. Many of them were disenfranchised; some were severely injured. Very often, my clients were hard-working folks whose injuries prevented them from working and were falling through the limited safety net.
When looking back at the “biggest” or “most significant” cases of my career, I instantly begin thinking of the case I handled for Harry, who, while watching his grandson’s soccer game on a poorly designed lawn chair, fell back on his neck and was rendered paralyzed. Harry had purchased the chair at a big box store, which had sourced it from a Mexican manufacturer that had gone bankrupt by the time of Harry’s injury. The big-box behemoth tried every which way to get out from under its responsibility as a retailer in the chain of commerce, completely uncaring about the strain on the family who had to care for Harry in his home. Of course, they tried their luck at a Summary Judgment which was denied. After we conducted a focus group to test their arguments regarding the allocation of fault between it and the bankrupted manufacturer, we were confident that their arguments were not going to get sufficient traction. At the end of the day, the result we were able to achieve provided him with sufficient funds to have a more comfortable end of life.
I also think about Antoinette, a 43-year-old woman who underwent uterine fibroid surgery, which left her in a vegetative state because of a non-attentive anesthesiologist. I never was able to speak to Antoinette. I learned about her artistic, vibrant, happy life from her mother. I saw pictures of her dressed for the holidays and her artwork in which she took such pride. I did spend hours with Antoinette’s mother who traveled to her bedside each day for the three years we worked on the matter. Of course, the doctor’s attorneys argued that while it was all terrible, it was not legally their fault and she had a limited life expectancy. That led to a rather grisly testimony of experts all focused on the year and date Antoinette was expected to expire. Years after the matter was successfully resolved, I had the bittersweet experience of reconnecting with Antoinette’s mom and her entire family at a celebration of her life. I was greeted as a part of her family and will never forget the hug I received from her mom, Virginia.
Then there was a young boy who, while holding his dad’s hand on an escalator leaving a 49ers game, had his toes ripped off because the escalator was poorly designed. Billy was 6 or 7 at the time. As a result of the incident, his foot was mangled and his parents were extremely upset. Somehow the paper got hold of the story, and when they approached the City, which maintained the ballpark, it denied that had ever happened before. Unfortunately for the City, a prior client of mine whose son had suffered the same injury on a different escalator at the ballpark reached out to Billy’s parents, and we were able to obtain a more streamlined resolution of the second case.
But then I realize that these are just a few examples among hundreds of others where I represented clients who were injured just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time; and when I think back on the cases of my career, the hundreds of clients I have had the pleasure to represent throughout my career come swirling back to mind.
Then I recall a conversation I had with a client many years ago. She had asked me a question and I ignorantly responded by saying, “Don’t worry, it’s not that big of a case.” Instantly, I saw her crestfallen eyes and realized how hurtful my retort had been. I realized to her it was the biggest and most significant case. And so is each case to each client.
The thing is, each of the folks I represented has permitted me to help them have a more fulfilling, dignified comfortable life. I have been blessed performing a job that I love. A job that rights the wrongs that can easily fall between the cracks that are all too wide. Every case is big when your client is the one who is hurt.