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“Let’s Head to the Barn”

The first seven years of my life were spent on the farm… literally on the farm. It would not surprise me to look out the window and see the cows wandering around in the pasture with just a fence separating them from my home.

That meant that I learned to drive a tractor and I also went out and helped haul the hay on to the wagon. Admittedly, I wasn’t really much help. Still, these days of July heat do bring back memories of doing some work in the hot sun. Plus, in consective summers I somehow first got chicken pox and then the measles. I always felt that it was somehow connected to all that heat and hay.

That’s the negative part. The positive part was at the end of those hot days. My grandfather would say, “let’s head for the barn”. That meant that we were done and that we would go right for the pump, for cold water. I was so thirsty; I could hardly wait. At that moment, gold and silver meant nothing. Water was everything; I was just so hot and thirsty.

That also reminds me of the Bible story of the competitive twins. I almost typed “the story of two twins” but that’s one of those obvious statements.

In Genesis 25, the older brother (Esau), “a skillful hunter, a man of the open country”, had returned from hunting. He was absolutely famished. His younger brother twin, Jacob, was cooking, He is described as “a quiet man among the tents”. Today, the one brother would be the one always playing outside while the other one was inside probably just playing video games and baking cookies.

Esau was so hungry that he agreed to give his birthright to Jacob for some lentil stew. That was giving his special honor that he was entitled to as the older brother; the right to a double portion of his father’s inheritance.

The story almost sounds like a Lifetime movie. It includes deceit and a threat to kill. For the purposes of this blog, it is also a reminder of the power of hunger. The simple things in life that have significant value when we are without.

The basics in life sometimes come up when I am discussing a client’s losses to an adjuster. I sometimes start to believe that the adjuster forgets what loss feels like. It feels like they have no understanding of what a person is facing after getting hit.

It seems that many of them sit in their air conditioned cubicle or office and just punch numbers in a computer, to arrive at a value on the case. “I just don’t think that your client has much of a loss” or “it’s just not documented in the medical records as to why they had to miss work”.

Almost every day, I face those adjuster arguments when I am in the office. Maybe that’s why I sometimes sound harsh when descibing my interaction in negotiations.

I guess the ending to the blog is a description of what it feels like when the jury comes back with a significant verdict that recognizes a client’s losses. Come to think of it, it has some of the same feeling of joy; like I felt as a kid, when my grandfather was telling me that we were finished for the day, and that we were headed for the barn. It’s fun to travel down memory lane.

Here’s an astronaut texting pic o’ day that makes me smile:

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A Thanks for Thank You

     Monday morning, I met a lawyer for breakfast. He serves as corporate counsel for a publicly traded company. So, his work is much different than mine. When I think of merger, I am thinking  bacon, lettuce and tomato equals BLT. Now that’s a  good merger for lunch. When he said that he enjoyed merger work, I don’t think that’s what he had in mind.

     We talked about the challenges of law. This profession can be like any other job; there are good and bad days. The price of working in a field of adversity and disagreement,  is that it includes adversity and disagreement. 

     I enjoy mail. It’s a running joke at the office at how happy I am in getting my mail. Monday’s are especially rewarding because mail is already here from the weekend. Then, I get more mail for “Monday’s mail”.

     Today, I received the kind of mail that puts the difficulties of law in the rearview mirror. It was a thank you note from a client, whose case I recently settled. She sent the following:

     “When I turned sixty five, my disability income became my retirement, which is not much. Thanks for all you did for me.”

     That short note lifted my spirits. Even in tough times, she said thank you. It’s why one person said, “blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting”.  It makes me believe that gratitude creates great attitude for the giver and receiver. It also is a good reminder to me, to be mindful in saying and sending thank you. 

     For pic o’ day, a little happiness is contagious for everyone around it:

 

Good Clients!

When I first started practicing law, an old defense attorney grinned at me and said, “When the law is on your side, argue the law. When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, then you just pound the table”.

The longer I practice, the more that I see defense lawyers and insurance companies attacking my client.  I just heard an adjuster attack a client on a dog bite case.

A neighbor’s  Rottweiler mix dog snarled and barked whenever someone was near the yard. Witnesses will say that they were scared to go near the yard and would walk far around it. The facts of the case started with the client taking her little dog out to her own backyard and putting it on a leash while she was hanging up clothes. The neighbor dog broke through the fence that separated their two yards.

The neighbor dog went right for the client’s little dog and began attacking it. The client reactively ran to protect her dog and pull it out of the grasp and jaws of the Rottweiler mix. While doing that, the neighbor dog bit her in the face and caused significant tearing and ultimate facial scarring that cannot be repaired.

The insurance adjuster blamed the client for breaking up the dog attack. The adjuster felt that the client contributed to her own injuries. Thankfully, her dog was saved after some veterinary treatment.

Secondly, the adjuster argued in settlement discussions that the client would not present well because she had some facial hair and was overweight. “She already didn’t take care of herself and the jury won’t like it”.

The client doesn’t have any anger toward her neighbor, despite expressing concerns about the dog growling across the fence, before this attack.  She is mainly worried about how she will get her medical bills paid.

Another client called today to check on the status of his case. During the conversation, he told about just coming back after a week in Kentucky. He had gone down there with his church to help in a project of gift giving for kids that would otherwise receive nothing at Christmas. His thoughts were more on them than his own issues from his crash.

In both cases, I still hold out hope that the cases will settle without the necessity of trial. I also know that both clients would present well to a jury, just because they both have a good heart . They  make me proud to represent them. In both cases, all the other side can do is “pound on the table”.

With a bad dog story, I thought that pic o’ day should be of some fun Holiday Dogs!

The Size of the Farm

     Our Daily Bread had a great story  about a different point of view. It was consistent with my depositions today.

     A Texas rancher went to Germany to do some agriculture consulting. He looked over the land and asked the German farmer about the size of his farm. “About a mile square”, the German farmer replied. The German then asked the Texas rancher about the size of his property back in Texas. 

     The Texas rancher decided to put it in country terms. He explained that if you got in his pick-up truck at dawn, and drove until sunset, you would still be on his ranch. Not to be outdone,  the German  farmer replied, “I used to have an old truck like that!”

     I just finished up depositons  where I took the defendant’s deposition, and the defense attorney took my client’s deposition. It is a rear-end crash, but they still assert defenses. It’s typical for the way things are today. Unfortunately, no one ever thinks about frivolous defenses.

     At one point in the deposition, I objected to the defense counsel asking my client about when she hired me. I think that’s work product and shouldn’t be admissible. Plus, why is hiring a lawyer,  relevant to a rear-end crash.

     The defense attorney’s perspective is that he thinks it should be relevant; to try and show that my client got extra medical treatment, because of my involvement. Thus, he thinks it’s a proper question and something the jury should be allowed to consider.

     Different viewpoints, much like the farmer and the rancher.  We are looking at it from a plaintiff and defense perspective. Plus, some defense attorneys say that the case just hasn’t ripened for settlement. That means that they haven’t quite billed enough hours.

Wrong Side of the Bed

You wake up an hour before it’s time to get up and you know there is no getting back to sleep. You get out of bed and go through your morning routine. That includes going to the cupboard or pantry to find an empty cereal box and milk that a cow would paw at. When you turn the TV on, you see the guy with an unearthly colored black beard, pitching a cleaning product. Didn’t he die a year ago? Maybe now and all at once, you sit down and eat a box of Harry and David pears, just to see what it will do to your stomach.

On the way to work, you get stuck behind and beside two minivans. Sure enough, they are both on their cell phones. Jos A Bank doesn’t even have a sale today. You turn the talk radio station on and get so angry that you decide to call. Unfortunately for them, you get through and express your opinion that if they want government intrusion, then you are all for it. In fact, you advocate a military draft for ages 16-80. Well, maybe you just argue for a better paved road to work.

If you have just stumbled upon this blog and you are confused by the first two paragraphs, let me explain. No, this isn’t a recent Nelson Demille novel that is a bunch of bad one-liners, surrounded by some fiction story. I usually ramble about some event and tie it to my legal practice. In this instance, here comes the legal.

Recently I have been doing an internal self lecture. Despite the many ways that I have been blessed, I have been harboring some inner bad mood. Minor things, “bees in the bonett have been irritating me and I have felt like I just got up on the wrong side of the bed, like the first two paragraphs. That is, until I spoke to two of my clients this past week.

One, I met with to get ready for a depostion. The events of the crash have caused irreparable harm and, his wife sat in front of him and said that she didn’t know how she was able to continue going on being married to him. He listened as she described his moods, forgetfulness and violent temper. All this, more than three years after his crash, because he hit his head at the point of impact, and continues to experience head injury symptoms and headaches.

Another client worked for the same employer for 14 years. Now, because of back pain, she tried to go back to work and it is just too physical for her. She was earning a good income and, before the crash, had just had an employment review with flying colors. Her boss is a good witness of her capabilities before and after the crash. Now, she feels little self-worth.

Every now and then, I have a bad day. The two clients referenced above have bad days, every day. Sometimes the degree changes a little. What is worse is that their days impact their family, and the cause of their problems originated from the inattentiveness of another driver. Someone else caused these problems. Then, the defense attorneys defending both of these cases have made them feel like they did something wrong by not getting better.

When I start to get caught in my own negativity over some little thing, talking to a client is usually a reminder of how my “stinkin thinkin”, as Zig Ziglar puts it, has no place in my day. In fact, I am uplifted many times, by the way my clients handle their adversity.

This blog is also a look to the benefits of our freedoms from the events of Indepence Day. I’m thankful that when that Second Continental Congress signed that Declaration of Independence and sent it to the King, that those 13 colonies and ultimately this country prevailed.

My clients don’t have to seek redress from some King. They have a right to a trial by a jury of their peers and the person that caused their injuries can be held accountable. The jury can be told what their verdict will do to restore some healing for the harms that have been caused. Just writing that puts me in a good mood.

Have a Great Celebration. I will be back after a little vacation.

A Peanuts Thank You Lesson

     I started to blog on the FDA and peanut butter approval and I got sidetracked. (a blog for another day) Sidetracked over a lesson  that I found in Charles Schultz’s  comic strip “Peanuts”. A reminder of the meaning of saying  “thank you” .

     Lucy asks Charlie Brown to help her with her homework. She tells him that if he helps, “I will be eternally grateful”. “Fair enough.” Charlie says, ” I’ve never had anyone be eternally grateful before.”

     Charlie Brown looks over her assignment and tells her, “just subtract 4 from 10 to get how many apples the farmer had left”. “That’s it? That’s it? I have to be eternally grateful for that?” Lucy replies. “I was robbed! I can’t be eternally grateful for this….. it was too easy!”

     With a blank look, Charlie Brown just replies, Well, whatever you think is fair.” 

     “How about if I just say ‘thanks bro’?” Lucy suggests.

     As Charlie Brown leaves to go outside, he sees Linus, who asks, “Where have you been Charlie Brown?” “Helping Lucy with her homework”. “Did she appreciate it?” Linus asks. Charlie replies, “At greatly reduced rates”.

     Sometimes,  A thank you seems a little contrived. A business with a slogan that “Gratitude is our attitude” might mean it or they just enjoy rhyming. A spokesman at the end of a show, speed reading a thank you to all the sponsors usually feels a bit hollow.

     Last week, I had a client come in to sign her paperwork and receive her settlement check. Despite all that she had been through, she  gave me a big smile and then she said ‘thank you so much for all that you did for me”.

     My mind has gone back to that thank you several times, since then. It had an impact on me. I really felt good that I had helped her, and despite what she had been through, it was the client that made me feel that way. 

          “Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.” – Author Unknown.

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