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What is it Worth?

Hanging on our walls in our downstairs Richmond office is various artwork, sports memorabilia and  photographs. I have a special interest in sports memorabilia and have always tried to collect in specific areas, rather than trying to cover all sports.

I suppose that my legal background draws me to sports contracts. So as  a sports fan with a legal bend, I began to collect, among other things, sports memorabilia that included sports contracts.

On our wall hangs several contracts. I took this picture,  from our office wall, of the one below. It is former major league  baseball player Reggie Jackson’s baseball  rookie contract. He signed this on April 6, 1973.  It is also signed by former Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley. It shows that he was to receive a salary of $35,000 with a deferred amount after his retirement, in the amount of $40,000.

Jackson piece




When most people walk past the contract hanging on the hallway wall, they don’t notice it. Others stop and look at it and sometimes ask  about it.

From the AP and Richmond Times-Dispatch comes a story of a recent auction that brought over $883,000 that included a lock of  Abraham Lincoln’s hair from his death bed that sold for $25,000 as well as the following items and their totals:

a clipping of linen from Lincoln’s death bed and stained with Lincoln’s blood, for $6,000.

— an1864 letter signed by Lincoln and authorizing prisoner-of-war swap involving Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s son from a Union POW camp, for $27,500.

— A display of photographs and autographs from Lincoln, Booth and Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot and killed Booth — a set nicknamed “The Martyr, The Assassin and The Avenger” — which sold for $30,000.

— a set of four oil paintings created for a carnival side show displaying the mummified remains of a man claimed to be Booth, for $30,000.

— Booth’s military arrest warrant, for $21,250.

— a framed White House Funeral Admittance Card, for $11,875.

— a letter signed by Mary Todd Lincoln on her personal mourning stationary, for $10,625.

Do you put any value on a baseball contract? When you read about these Lincon items, how does it hit you? Can you imagine people buying these? Does it seem a bit macabre. (I have always wanted to use that word!)

Here’s the analogy to the legal blog. In our jury trials, we call witnesses to testify to losses that clients have suffered. It’s easy to put a value on medical expenses because we already have totals.

It’s the losses that don’t have a direct dollar value that are hardest to be considered. What one person may put as a significant loss, may not impact the juror sitting next to them.

What is the value to a client who can no longer workout and then gains a significant amount of weight because of it? What is the value of pain and not being able to lift small kids; or the value of a scar, or no longer being able to wear high heels because of the ankle pain.

We all have heard “what’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. The legal concept of damages. In a jury trial, putting value to loss and harm is what all juries are asked to do in arriving at a verdict. What is the injury worth?

And for pic o’ day, I suppose this would be a tough jury for a dog bite case:

dog bite

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!

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