After this weeks historic 9.25 Million Dollar Record Drunk Driving Tennessee Verdict.I have had a number of lawyers ask me "how do you get a multi-million dollar verdict?" The answer is simple: with friends.
First there is my client, a wonderful young lady with poise, presence, and desire to do what was right even if it cost her time, some money, and her comfort. She had to overcome her fear of trial in order to ask a jury to "help me tell people it isn’t OK to drink and drive, and even get the drinkers’ friends, family members, and hosts to pull keys, call a cab, find a spot in a bed or on a floor, or give someone a ride home rather than let them drive." Without her desire to send a message about drunk driving the verdict would not have been possible.
Second, the jury. The jury was a conservative panel who stated, in the only way possible under the law, that you must not drink and drive. One of the decisions that they had to make was what amount would "deter others" from drinking and driving. They sent the strongest possible message.
I think with all the press surrounding the verdict that some folks will pay attention and stop drinking and driving (even if it doesn’t make the drunk happy), or stop someone from drinking and driving. In Tennessee there may be fewer EMT’s, ambulance personnel, police, fire fighters, nurses, and doctors that have to deal with the grizzly after effects of a drunk driving collision. If the verdict stops even one person from getting behind the wheel of a car drunk I know my client will say it was all worthwhile.
In my work as a lawyer on the case, I have had many lawyers over the years help me, as well as consultants. Being a lawyer is a skilled trade, and I have been very lucky to learn from, and surround myself with, superb teachers. So knowing in advance I will leave some of you out, let me thank:
Josh Karton – Who was willing to take my call – at the last hour – and in his delightful, unassuming, brilliant (why didn’t I see that!) way was able to key me into elements of my clients’ story that needed a little sunshine, a little nourishment, and a lot of polish. Thanks Josh.
Eddie Ciariamboli – Who also had a case against a drunk driver (the week before mine -settled during trial for an undisclosed amount [but knowing how hard nosed Eddie is, and his skills as a lawyer, the client must have been EXTREMELY satisfied]). Ed graciously gave me the benefit of his hard work, brains, and time.
The TAOS Group – A group of some of the finest legal minds in the country. I learn from each of you every year.
The Trial Lawyer’s College – You have helped bring my clients’ stories to life.
American Association for Justice – For all the educational programs and hard work you do on behalf of victims.
The Truck Litigation Group – American Association for Justice – Some of the finest legal minds in America are members of this group and they all keep me on my toes!
The Tennessee Association for Justice – For all the ways in which you keep the doors of justice open for the citizens’ of Tennessee, even as others try to close them.
There were many individuals who, in various cases even if not this one, have molded my efforts, my way of thinking, and my skills and thus deserve credit. These are the lawyers that also worry about thier clients at midnight… and later. They often have provided help to me in the wee hours of the morning when worry and concern about my clients’ cases sits in the brain and keeps me awake while everyone else is comfortably asleep. I am honored to be able to call on these lawyers and count them as friends. These masterful lawyers, many of whom are mentors and would likely have done a far better job at trial than I, include (in no particular order):
Gary Gober, Paul Scoptur, Phillip Miller, Steve Gursten, Joe Fried, Jen Ojeda, Rodney Jew, Michael Leizerman, Robert Collins, Ken Shigley, Tom Metier, Diane Wyzga, Richard Jensen, Eddie Davidson, Greg Cusimano, John Romano, Ira Long, Jason Studinski, Ken Levinson, Adam Malone, Tommy Malone, Richard Traulsen, Marion Munley, Jeff Burns, Larry Simon, Dan Buba, Pete Kestner, Dennis Hennen, amongst many others.
Finally, none of this is possible without my wonderful family. Thanks for your support and putting up with the hours, stress, and moods. It means the world to me.