One of the great things about living in America, is we have something called “the rule of law.”
So, just what is that?
Well, in the U.S., instead of having a king sitting on a throne, we believe “the law is king.” That means that we believe we are ruled by laws, not other men and women. “The rule of law.” It’s precious stuff, friends.
So, what does any of that have to do with lawsuits.
Well, it turns out, that people just living their daily lives, are going to have problems that come up in dealing with other people.
There’s two ways to solve problems having to do with money, property or your person, what we call “civil” problems.
One is something called “self help.” In other words, if your neighbor built a high fence and you don’t like it, self help is taking a saw and cutting it down without permission.
Only we learned a long time ago that self help causes all kinds of problems. If you don’t believe me, try cutting down your neighbor’s fence and report back to me what happens. No, just kidding. Don’t do that. Self-help isn’t really all that helpful.
The other way to solve civil problems is something called a civil justice system.
When someone wants to solve a problem using the civil justice system, they file papers asking for some kind of relief. That’s basically what a lawsuit is. Pretty simple, huh?
Now, there is plenty of debate these days about whether there are too many lawsuits, or too few, and all that kind of stuff that I know you hear about all the time.
But, the truth is, when you have a civil problem, it become real important to you that someone can help you solve that problem in the fairest, least expensive and quickest way.
Now, I’m not here to give you legal advice and there are differences in how courts work in each state and in the federal system. Still, spend a little time with me and I think I can tell you some things that you didn’t know before and, hopefully, will help you with whatever problem you need to fix.
I was in Fresno County on a case and picked up The Selma Enterprise to read during breakfast. Fine little paper!
Anyhow, a column titled “You and the Law” caught my eye and I thought, “Wow, this is good stuff!”
The columnist is Bakersfield attorney Dennis Beaver (661/323-7911 or Lagombeaver1@gmail.com) who it turns out writes a regular column.
Mr. Beaver graciously gave me permission to reprint his column, so here you go:
You and the Law
But the Phone Book Ad Said, ‘No Recovery Fee’!
By David Beaver, Esq.
It is impossible to turn on TV, open the phone book to the attorneys section or surf the Web and not find ads for personal injury lawyers, which generally all sound pretty much the same and stress, “No recovery, no fee.”
Sounds like a great way of hiring a lawyer, doesn’t it? The ads want you to think, “The lawyer who takes my case puts in all the time and gets paid only if we get paid. For me, it’s a no-brainer, a free ride, I can’t lose. Sure, I’ll sign!”
So you phone the “800” number flashed on your screen and wind up hiring the “No recovery, no fee” lawyer, who then loses your case after years of litigation. Are you on the hook for anything?
Well, you could easily get a letter from the attorney which reads, “I am sorry that we lost your case. Now we need to talk about how you are going to pay us for …”
“Pay us? What part of the no-fee stuff means that I have to pay anything at all?” you might be thinking. And, in fact, one of the most frequent complaints to state bar associations from unhappy clients deals precisely with the meaning of the words “no fee” and the resulting confusion. So, what does “no fee” really mean?
No fee does not mean free
Ron Jones specializes in business and real estate law in Hanford and sees the public confusion as a result of two factors.
“When most people think of hiring a lawyer — let’s say, in a divorce or contract dispute — they usually are concerned with the amount that lawyer will bill for time spent on the case. If it is a personal injury matter, fees are often on a percentage basis — for example, one-fourth to sometimes half of the amounts recovered, plus costs.
“There is generally more to most cases than just the lawyer’s time,” Jones points out. “The written retainer agreement lawyer and client sign must set out clearly what out-of-pocket expenses incurred the client will be expected to pay. There is a difference between attorney fees — what a lawyer charges for time, document preparation and advice — and costs, which are other expenses incurred for the client’s benefit.”
Some example of costs
Costs can include any and all of the following, and again, we are not talking attorney time, rather, the out-of-pocket expenses which clients can be responsible for:
• Postage and shipping costs
• Photocopy and binding expense
• Travel expense, including mileage, train and airplane
• Lodging and meal expense
• Deposition and court reporter charges
• Video conferencing/long-distance telephone charges
• Expert witness fees, such as forensic accountants in divorce cases
• Private investigators
• Computerized research if the law firm is charged by the provider
• Possibly secretarial and paralegal time
• Court filing fees.
“Who pays what, under what circumstances and when, should be clearly set out in writing,” Jones observes. He describes three basic types of retainer agreements:
1) The client pays attorney fees and all related costs and expenses, such as hiring a private investigator, an accident reconstruction expert, accountant, etc.
2) The law firm covers everything and the client reimburses the law firm out of the recovery, only if there is one.
3) The client pays no attorney fees unless the case is successful, but does pay the out-of-pocket costs.
“Fee agreements where the lawyer covers all expenses related to the case are typical in personal injury cases where it is likely there is going to be a recovery. You will not normally find this in cases which have a limited chance of success or which have a low dollar value,” he notes.
“It is important for the public to understand that law is a business with a bottom line. Reasonable lawyers try to not accept cases which appear as doubtful or which have a minimal chance for success. With most personal injury cases — where the lawyer is paid a contingent fee — an experienced attorney who is good at selecting cases will only take those which will likely provide a desirable result.”
How not to be surprised
“Always read the retainer (fee agreement) very carefully,” Jones stresses. “If you do not understand the fee agreement, but are inclined to hire the lawyer, it is a good idea to take that retainer to another attorney and pay for a consultation in which it can be clearly explained to you. Also, it’s a good idea to set out in writing, that before your lawyer incurs any costs which might exceed, say, $1,000, that your approval is required.”
“Finally,” the Hanford lawyer underscores, “when you do not have a working history with that attorney and fees are expected to exceed $1,000, California law requires a written, signed agreement.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to him at 661-323-7911 or emailed to him at email@example.com.
“[W]hen a contractor completes work that is accepted by the owner, the contractor is not liable to third parties injured as a result of the condition of the work, even if the contractor was negligent in performing the contract, unless the defect in the work was latent or concealed. [Citation.] The rationale for this doctrine is that an owner has a duty to inspect the work and ascertain its safety, and thus the owner’s acceptance of the work shifts liability for its safety to the owner, provided that a reasonable inspection would disclose the defect. [Citation.]” (Jones v. P.S. Development Co., Inc. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 707, 712 [Jones ], disapproved on another ground in Reid v. Google, Inc. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 512, 532, fn. 7; Sanchez v. Swinerton & Walberg Co. (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 1461, 1466–1471 [Sanchez ].) Stated another way, “when the owner has accepted a structure from the contractor, the owner’s failure to attempt to remedy an obviously dangerous defect is an intervening cause for which the contractor is not liable.” (Sanchez, supra, 47 Cal.App.4th at p. 1467.) The doctrine applies to patent defects, but not latent defects. “If an owner, fulfilling the duty of inspection, cannot discover the defect, then the owner cannot effectively represent to the world that the construction is sufficient; he lacks adequate information to do so.” (Sanchez, supra, 47 Cal.App.4th at p. 1467.)
Neiman v. Leo A. Daly Co. (Cal. Ct. App., Oct. 30, 2012, B234537) 2012 WL 5333416
Letter to the editor of Wall Street Journal:
Regarding your editorial “The Tort Bar Burns On” (July 23), I am a trial lawyer in Encino, California. I offer the following observation:
Your writer misses the point in discussing gasoline can litigation. A serious gasoline burn injury can easily result in multiple millions of dollars in medical expenses. Five to ten million in total costs are not unusual for younger victims with normal lifespans and catastrophic injuries.
So it comes down to, who pays for this, the manufacturer who profits from a product causing injury — in your article Blitz USA —or the public through increased taxes?
An internet search shows Blitz USA reports annual sales in the 20m-50m range. Using the upper limit, and assuming profit margins at a generous twenty percent, then Blitz’ annual profit would equal the real damages in about one serious burn case. Few can pay such costs on their own, so the taxpayers are generally on the hook.
Seen in this light, your article argues for higher taxes to subsidize private industry. Personally, I believe that strategy is a loser.
A case in Florida is a classic example of protecting the powerful from regular people.
In Roberts v. Angelfish Swim School, Inc., the defendant, the interim secretary of state is arguing that to take part in a class action lawsuit, a potential class member must prove that he or she can individually fund the entire litigation for the entire class.
In our wage and hour class actions, we regularly represent common working folks who have been shorted on their pay. We invest ten of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in hard costs for experts, document copying, etc., plus attorney and staff time that can easily run into the millions. When we prevail, large groups of employees receive back pay or other compensation and we earn a fair fee. A working class plaintiff, for that matter, anyone outside of the moneyed class, simply can’t shoulder the burden. It’s hard enough for us lawyers, not too many of us can take on the risk of these cases.
Prosecuting a Defamation Case – (con’t) – privileges barring recovery for defamation and practice pitfalls.
D. Privileges Barring Recovery for Defamation
1. The Conditional Privilege
Civil Code section 47 is a haven for defamation defendants in California. Because powerful economic interests find themselves gravely affected by media publication, the statute has been recently amended several times.
On one side of the equation, Hollywood celebrities who find intimate details of their personal lives falsely portrayed in tabloid publications have lobbied the legislature to criminalize defamation. They contend that First Amendment protection and the capability of media enterprises to factor civil liability into the cost of doing business makes the civil remedy inadequate. On the other side of the equation, the media giants have successfully prevented a return to criminal defamation. They may have done the celebrities a favor, because if defamation were to be criminalized, one might expect defamation defendants to avoid discovery in civil actions by simply invoking Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Discovery in defamation actions is difficult enough with the “newsman’s privilege,” a shield that designed to save journalists from having to reveal either news sources or unpublished materials during court proceedings. The privilege applies to all news reporters, be they Los Angeles Times staff writers or tabloid gossip columnists. See, Cal. Const. Art. 1, § 2; Evid. C. § 1070.
2. The Qualified Privilege
Civil Code section 47(c) provides a qualified privilege for communications, without malice, to a person interested in a certain topic by another interested person.
This doctrine provides sanctuary to a broad range of potential defamation defendants. Civil Code section 47(c) provides privilege to a communicationmade, “. . . without malice, to a person interested therein by one who is also interested, [or] by one who stands in such a relation to the person interested as to afford a reasonable ground for supposing the motive for the communication to be innocent, or who is requested by the person interested to give the information.”
The typical example of circumstances creating this privilege is the job reference scenario. When a prospective employer calls a previous employer for a job reference, if the previous employer’s statement to the prospective employer is made without malice, it is privileged.
Even so, the Supreme Court unanimously held in Brown that the qualified privilege of California Civil Code section 47(3) (now section 47(c)), does not immunize the news media from defamation liability to private individuals, even if the subject communications pertain to matters of public interest.
It is important for the plaintiff’s counsel to be aware that the vast majority of people looking for a lawyer to represent them in a defamation action present factual circumstances to which the “common interest” privilege will apply. For example, a businessperson who loses a license or an important segment of business because of an allegedly defamatory complaint to a governmental authority. When deciding whether or not to take on a case, consult Civil Code section 47 and its annotations.
3. The Judicial Privilege
In Shahvar v. Superior Court, 25 Cal.App.4th 653, 30 Cal.Rptr.2d 597 (1994), the court of appeal held that the transmission of a facsimile copy of a complaint was not privileged under Civil Code section 47(b). The attorney defendant in Shahvar had faxed a copy of a complaint to the news media the day before he filed it. The Court correctly held that such conduct fell outside of the qualified judicial privilege. But the decision caused an uproar in the media, and the legislature amended the section by adding subparagraph (d) which extends the privilege to a “. . . fair and true report in, or a communication to, a public journal, of (A) a judicial, (B) legislative, or (C) other public official proceeding, or (D) of anything said in the course thereof . . . .”
This amendment provides a troubling expansion of the privilege, giving attorneys, politicians and the media free reign to immunize themselves by simply filing (even subsequent to the defamation) an “official proceeding” which restates the defamatory statement.
In effect, the privilege provides a legal means to end run the common law principle that “one who republishes a defamatory statement is deemed . . . to have adopted it and so may be held liable, together with the person who originated the statement, for resulting injury to the reputation of the defamation victim.” Khawar, 19 Cal.4th at 268, 79 Cal.Rptr.2d 178.
III. Practice Pitfalls
A. Civil Code section 48a Requires a Retraction Demand or Damages are Limited.
Where the libel is published in a newspaper or a slander broadcast by radio or television, Civil Code section 48a limits a defamation action to “no more than special damages unless a correction be demanded . . . within twenty days after knowledge of the publication or broadcast . . . .”
The retraction request should be personally served or sent by some means allowing the practitioner to verify service within the specified time limit. If the media outlet declines to publish a retraction three weeks of service, then the plaintiff is free to seek “general, special and exemplary damages” in a civil action.
B. Summary Judgment
Where First Amendment interests are implicated (arguably, this occurs in every defamation case), summary judgment is considered to be an “approved” procedure for disposition. Wasser v. San Diego Union, 191 Cal.App.3d 1455, 1461, 236 Cal.Rptr. 772 (1987). This description is to be distinguished from the typical characterization of summary judgment proceedings as a “drastic remedy.” Defendants invariably rely upon Wasser and related cases to represent that summary judgment is a “favored remedy,” but this is not a correct statement of the law.
Bill Daniels regularly publishes a variety of articles and videos to keep you abreast of legal developments and case law that affect our society.
More proof the founding fathers were right including our right to civil jury trial in the constitution
More proof the founding fathers were right about civil jury trials and why special interest justice tampering is bad for America.
A detailed analysis of 14,000 arbitration cases from the New York Stock Exchange and National Association of Securities Dealers from 1995 to 2004 concluded that individual investors who bring claims against brokers can expect to recover only a small percentage of the damages they claimed and the percentage has been steadily declining in recent years. Los Angeles Daily Journal, June 14, 2007, p. 1, Study Faults Mandatory Securities Arbitration as Anti-Investor.
The study was released by securities arbitration attorney Daniel R. Solin and consultant Edward S. O’Neal.
What I believe is, the study confirms what the founding fathers knew back in the 1700’s. When you give a privileged few the ultimate power to decide who is right and who is wrong in a dispute, they can’t be impartial. It goes against human nature. That’s why we have a right to civil jury trial in the constitution.
The report highlights the true dangers of pre-dispute, mandatory arbitration. Arbitrators are usually a select few, generally part of the industry they are supposed to help regulate and beholden to the institutional interests who can give them repeat business.
“We live in a very litigious society,” securities attorney Perrie Weiner of DLA Piper in Los Angeles is quoted as saying in the Daily Journal story. “Arbitration is a necessary step to enable brokerage houses to do business with investors of every financial background. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to function.”
That’s the standard rationale for mandatory arbitration. But, if the system isn’t fair and just, then what we really have is a de facto subsidy of businesses who are aggressive about cheating as a way of boosting their profits.
Alexander Hamilton would not approve.
Labor Code Section 203 provides a waiting time penalty that is consistent with constitutional due process.
State Farm v. Campbell (2003) 538 U.S. 408 concerns constitutional due process limits on punitive damages, not civil penalties. As the Supreme Court notes, one prong of its test in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (1996) 517 U.S. 559 (which refused to sustain a $2 million punitive damages award accompanying $4,000 in compensatory damages) is “the difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.” The evil Campbell sought to remedy was the risk of an excessive punitive award imposed by a lay jury. “We have admonished that ‘[p]unitive damages pose an acute danger of arbitrary deprivation of property. Jury instructions typically leave the jury with wide discretion in choosing amounts, and the presentation of evidence of a defendant’s net worth creates the potential that juries will use their verdicts to express biases against big businesses, particularly those without strong local presences.”
The law does not view wage penalties as implicating property rights, which puts the 203 penalty outside of Campbell right at the start.
“A statute entitled ‘An act to provide for the protection of servants and employees of railroads,’ relating to the payment of unpaid wages without abatement or deduction on discharge of an employe[e], does not amount to deprivation of property, as the act is purely prospective in its operation. It does not interfere with vested rights, existing contracts, or destroy, or sensibly encroach upon, the right to contract, although it imposes a duty in reference to the payment of wages actually earned, which restricts future contracts in the particular named.” [Citation omitted.]
Moore v. Indian Spring Channel Gold Mining Co. (1918) 37 Cal.App. 370, 378 (quoting St. Louis, etc., R.R. Co. v. Paul, 173 U.S. 409).
When the section 203 penalty scheme withstood a constitutional due process challenge early in the last century in Moore v. Indian Sprint Channel Gold Mining Co. (1918) 37 Cal.App. 370, the remedial purpose of the penalty was highlighted in the decision. After a penal statute imposing misdemeanor liability and a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars was ruled unconstitutional (Matter of Crane, 26 Cal.App. 22), the legislature changed the law to impose a penalty based on wages with a thirty day limit.
Appellant expresses difficulty in discovering any material distinction between the two acts. In the act of 1911, continues the brief, the penalty is nothing more nor less than a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars; while in the amendment of 1915 the penalty is in effect a fine not exceeding thirty times the servant’s daily wage.” It seems to us that the distinction is obvious in this: The act of 1911 declares that a violation of its provisions is a crime for which the violator is answerable to the state, while by the amendment he must compensate the wage-earner by way of penalty.”
Moore at 373-374. The court of appeal compared the penalty to other statutes, such as Code of Civil Procedure sections 732, 733 and 735 which impose treble damages on tenants who commit waste, cut down trees or forcibly detain property. “The constitutionality of these sections is not questioned. They are held not to be penal, but remedial.” Id. at 375.
The Court of Appeal distinguished between remedial civil penalties and punitive damages in Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Superior Court (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 261, and held that a government entity is not immune from civil penalties imposed by the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civil Code section 52 et seq.) under Government Code section 818, which bars imposing punitive damages against public entities. “[A] number of courts have concluded that to be condemned as punitive, a penalty, generally speaking, must simply and solely serve that purpose.” Id. at 272 “It is apparent from this legislative history that section 52 has at least two important non-punitive purposes. The first is simply to provide increased compensation to the plaintiff. The second purpose, and perhaps the most important one, is to encourage private parties to seek redress through the civil justice system by making it more economically attractive for them to sue. . . . If not for the civil penalty, many such litigants would neither have the economic incentive nor the means to retain counsel to pursue perpetrators under the statute.” Id. at 271-272.
Moore notes that the 203 penalty has a similar purpose. “There has been a pronounced tendency in state and national legislation for many years, not only to ameliorate the working conditions of the wage earner, but to safeguard him in his relations to his employer in respect of hours of labor and the compensation to be paid for his labor. . . the public safety and welfare demand . . . laws which are designed to secure [for labor] a reasonable wage, [and] to provid, where practicable, for the enforcement of payment by way of liens on the product of his labor . . . The intention of the penalty imposed by the act in question is to make it to the interest of the employer to keep faith with [its] employees and thus avoid injury to them and possible injury to the public at large.” Id. at 381-382.
Note: Moore repeatedly refers to the wage and labor laws under discussion as applicable to a class, e.g., “The act refers to all wage-earners, designated as employees, as the class referred to, and it unquestionably applies equally to all of the class.” Id. at 379.
1. Class Actions Help Address Common Problems.
Class actions are a way for groups of people with common problems to seek a solution in a convenient format.
Class actions typically seek to solve simple questions that impact large number of people. Whether all of an insurance company’s claims personnel are entitled to overtime or whether all of the bank’s credit card customers were overcharged because of a single, unfair, interest calculation are good examples of problems that class actions best address.
2. Class Actions are a Unique Class of Case.
For purposes of news reporting, it is important to remember that a class action is a process that is unique unto itself. For example, a class action is different than a “mass tort,” which tends to involve problems such as when a large number of people are injured in different ways by a single type of defective drug or product. Mass tort cases might involve one common element – generally a single defective product – that affects each affected individual in a unique manner.
Cases involving products like Vioxx or asbestos fall under the mass tort label. These cases are not generally prosecuted as class actions because, even though they involve a common product, the injuries each consumer suffers are individual to them. So, mass torts are generally litigated in systems such as the federal Multi-District Litigation system – where a single judge will preside over hundreds or thousands of individual cases coordinated for administrative purposes. While these systems allow large numbers of people with one common problem to have their claims resolved in an efficient fashion, they are not the same as class actions and make different demands on the reporter.
The point is, when reporting on a large action involving numerous individuals, always make sure that you know whether it is a class action, or some other legal mechanism that serves a similar, but different purpose. Then approach the story accordingly.
3. Understanding Class Action Procedure is Important in Covering the Story.
Class actions tend to be driven by legal procedure. Understanding the procedural steps is key to accurately capturing breaking class action stories.
Class actions can be brought in either state of federal court. State courts remain an important forum for class action litigation. Even so, recent federal legislation known as the “Class Action Fairness Act” has tended to make Class actions more of a federal area than it has ever been before.
The legislation was passed after years of effort by business interests and was intended to shrink the number of class actions filed across the country. Early reports indicate that during the first six months of the new legislation, there has been a “precipitous decline” in class action activity. Even so, class actions continue to make up an important part of legal landscape.
Unlike covering trials, class actions tend to take place mostly on paper. This can be both a blessing and a curse. It is blessing because, if a reporter is able to obtain a copy of an interesting case complaint or pleading at the time it is filed, it becomes relatively simple to write a story. On the other hand, trying to follow day-to-day activity in a class action can be quite difficult since legal filing generally take place at the clerk’s counter without notice or fanfare. Still, there are some constants in covering class action stories.
Class actions start with the filing of a complaint. Generally, the complaint will have specifics about what it is that the class actions seek to address and what kind of remedies the plaintiff class is looking for. The class plaintiffs named in the complaint seek to be representatives for the entire class, which may in turn total multiple thousands of people.
The fact that a class action complaint has been filed can in and of itself be a news event. Even so, a reporter needs to remember that the allegations and complaint are just that: they are the plaintiff’s counsel’s view of the best facts supporting their side of the argument and there are always two sides to every story.
After the complaint is filed, there will generally be some sort of paper work filed with the court attacking the complaint as deficient and asking the court to either knock the complaint out completely or require that it be amended. These pleadings are called demurrers and motions to strike in state court and motions to dismiss in federal court.
If the judge rules that the complaint is dismissed, then that could be a new story. On the other hand, if the judge says the complaint is sufficient, that fact might be of interest to a reporter following the story but may not prove newsworthy.
A motion for class certification is one of the defining events in a class action, because simply filing a complaint does not by itself a class action make. In the class action process, the judge acts as a gatekeeper for the case being formally designated as a vehicle to resolve problems applying to an entire class, and counsel for the plaintiff must bring a motion asking that the class be certified as such.
The ruling on class certification is generally a newsworthy event where there is interest in the underlying case. Obtaining class certification is considered to a major victory in the process for the plaintiff’s side. Conversely, denial of certification is generally seen as a major victory for the defense.
Either before or after class certification, a summary judgment/adjudication motion is likely. These motions ask the court to decide important parts of the case in favor of one side or the other.
For example, the plaintiff may ask the court rule that the defense is liable as a matter of law and that the only thing in dispute is damages. Or, the defense may ask the court to rule that the plaintiffs have no case as a matter of law and the thing should be thrown out in its entirety. Either way, rulings on summary judgment can generate news.
Just as important, the papers in support and in opposition to both summary judgment motions and certification motions can provide reporters with invaluable background information as they prepare their stories. Since the papers are part of the court file which is a public record, a reporter has a valuable resource available if there is time to review it.
4. Reporter Resources for Class Action Reporting.
More and more court systems are making court filings available on the internet. Since class actions are so paper intensive, subscribing to such a service can save quite a bit of leg work. Even so, it may be days before a key filing is scanned into the court system and available for downloading. So, it is a good idea to contact the lawyers in the case early on and ask if they are willing to provide tips on when key filings will make their way into the public record.
As always, where a reporter is following a story regarding a class action, it is critical to develop outside sources that can help explain the details behind each step of the process. While attorneys on both plaintiff and defense side can be valuable sources, developing relationships with law school professors or experts in the area can give the reporter an important edge.
Organizations such as the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles or the Association of Trial Lawyers of America have resources both over the telephone and on the internet. Also a Google search on the subject matter of the class action will often turn up leads for sources that are familiar with the case subject matter. As always, the internet is a powerful research tool.
William A. Daniels is a Trial Attorney with BILL DANIELS | LAW OFFICES, APC, in Encino, CA. His practice focuses on class actions, employment and serious personal injury. A graduate of Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, he is a member of the Consumer Attorney Association of Los Angeles Board of governors and a founding member of the Civil Justice Program and the 21st Century Trial School at Loyola. For several consecutive years he has been names a “Super Lawyer” Los Angeles Magazine in Southern California.
He can be reached at William.Daniels@BillDanielsLaw.com; www.BillDanielsLaw.com
If you’ve followed my writings over the years, you know I believe that civil trial lawyers are an important part of the liberty protections our founders incorporated in American constitutional democracy.
I found a blog note on the Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP (they are Austin, Texas lawyers) website that is brief and to the point and I quote it verbatim here:
“For the last decade, trial lawyers have been the victims of one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever. Those of us that choose to represent victims of others’ carelessness have been portrayed as sharks, snakes, or worse. It seems that “trial lawyer” is now close to a cuss word.
“But trial lawyers do an amazing amount of good for the Country. Today’s National Law Journal has just such a story, describing how twenty Minn. law firms are banding together to provide pro bono representation to many of the victims of the 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse. One firm (ironically a firm representing the defendants in one suit I have) has agreed to pay $1 million to an engineering firm to help investigate the collapse. All for free.
“And this conduct isn’t unique. Following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the American Trial Lawyer’s Association (now AAJ) founded Trial Lawyers Care, a non-profit designed to provide free legal services to the victims of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. The project, which was the largest pro bono project in the history of American jurisprudence, has expanded to other issues, such as trying to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“But the good work goes on even at the local level. I think I’m fairly representative of the trial lawyers in Austin. Not only does my firm engage in significant pro bono efforts, but I serve on the boards of local non-profits, am an alumnus of Leadership Austin (class of 2006 — Best Class Ever), volunteer at an elementary school in East Austin, coach my kids’ youth sports teams, and am active in my church. And I’m not unique. You can find various trial lawyers in leadership positions all over Austin helping make this town better for all of us.
“So the next time you hear someone throw out the phrase “trial lawyer” as an intended insult, I hope you’ll at least take a minute to appreciate that we do good work too.”
Now, okay, I don’t expect to a few good thoughts to change everyone’s thinking on whether trial lawyers are angels or devils. But if deeds are more important than words, shouldn’t we be focusing more on what trial lawyers actually do versus what people say about them?