Behind the Case

On Wednesday, November 9th I sat in a mediation with my client as we gave the defense one last opportunity to settle his claim at their request. They had previously ignored a policy-limit demand in pre-litigation, and ignored a 998 offer of settlement after being given more than enough time to conduct their discovery. My client had been suffering greatly. He had severe nerve pain down his arm and required neck fusion surgery.

A neck fusion surgery is a serious and severe medical procedure. It involves the removal of disk material – the spongy “suspension” between our vertebrae – and replacing it with something artificial so that nerves will not be rubbed or pinched. A fusion surgery is usually only something you do as a last-resort; after all other conservative procedures have been exhausted.

The bright spot in this scenario is that the doctor that I was able to procure for my client is an amazing surgeon. He holds 20 patents for surgical procedures and has invented a new way to perform these procedures with fewer side effects and far better results. He is one of the finest surgeons in the country, and he is willing to accept my signature on a lien guaranteeing payment when this case resolves.

This case had been difficult because opening a policy is a very tricky process. Being able to say with confidence that the defendant’s insurance company can be held responsible for a verdict, in excess of the policy that their insured is contracted for, is a difficult position to take. Fortunately, I have been able to learn from the best attorneys who have opened up these legal avenues to recovery. In this case, I was confident in our position.

During a mediation there is typically a lot of “down time” where the mediator is working with the other side.  So I had a good chance to talk to my client. He has an amazing story. He came to the country as an immigrant, on a boat, escaping his home nation. He recalls vividly hiding in the bottom of a fishing boat while it was being inspected by soldiers, staying silent as he could see their feet walking through the gaps in the floor slats above him. The boat became lost at sea and started to drift. He told me the story of how all the migrants on the boat prayed and eventually found another country to harbor them before they made their way to America.

When I am working for a client, I take their problems on as my own. During this mediation I already knew we had a really good chance at a large verdict in trial. I knew my client would be liked by the jury.  And I knew that we had no holes to overcome. I was, quite frankly, chomping at the bit to see this case go before a jury. But during the mediation, while listening to my client’s story, the wind was being taken out of my sails. As I listened to how grateful he was to be free from pain, and how grateful he was to just live in this country, I joked with him.  I told him he was really weakening my resolve with all of this compassion – “I’m really trying to bury my humanity here, and you are making this difficult,” I said. We laughed and kept talking.

Being that it was the day after the presidential election, I asked him what he thought of all the controversy surrounding the election. He told me he just did not understand how anyone could be hateful over the election. He said that any nation that has candidates who are competing to lead it by winning their peoples’ vote is a blessed nation. He talked about how blessed he felt to just be able to feed his family. I deliberately let my mind wander to things that would not make my eyes water…

In the end, we settled the case for a multiple of the original policy limit without having to actually conduct the trial. We obtained a certain award deep in to six figures. And I was left with a truly humbling perspective on what it means to be an American in “today’s political climate” versus what it means to be a grateful American in any political climate.

I am pretty blessed in my profession. I get to help people with serious problems and do things for my clients they cannot do for themselves. Hearing their stories helps me frame their case so I can better present their pain and struggles in a court of law. But sometimes I am taught things from these stories about life that I can apply to myself. It was a truly humbling experience to represent this man, and I am happy that he is able to move on from his severe injury with happiness and peace.