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The Universal Emergency Number

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

I have to admit that I really have not thought much about how 911 became the emergency number. Yet, I know how important it is. As a side note, I  have had parents tell me that they tried to teach their young child about the number by asking them who to call in an emergency. Many smile and say that their child has replied, “Call Joel Bieber”.

That’s a good answer too! Still, we all learn at a young age when and why to call 911. Now I know the story of 911. Rather than trying to act creative in writing about it, let me post a portion of an article from Howstuffworks.com. It’s how the number began:

Prior to 1968, there was no standard emergency number. So how did 911 become one of the most recognizable numbers in the United States? Choosing 911 as the universal emergency number was not an arbitrary selection, but it wasn’t a difficult one either. In 1967, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) met with AT&T to establish such an emergency number. They wanted a number that was short and easy to remember. More importantly, they needed a unique number, and since 911 had never been designated for an office code, area code or service code, that was the number they chose.

Soon after, the U.S. Congress agreed to support 911 as the emergency number standard for the nation and passed legislation making 911 the exclusive number for any emergency calling service. A central office was set up by the Bell System to develop the infrastructure for the system.

On February 16, 1968, Alabama Senator Rankin Fite made the first 911 call in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The Alabama Telephone Company carried the call. A week later, Nome, Alaska, implemented a 911 system. In 1973, the White House’s Office of Telecommunication issued a national statement supporting the use of 911 and pushed for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist government agencies in implementing the system.

After its initial acceptance in the late 1960s, 911 systems quickly spread across the country. By 1979, about 26 percent of the United States population had 911 service, and nine states had passed legislation for a statewide 911 system. Through the latter part of the 1970s, 911 service grew at a rate of 70 new local systems per year, according to the NENA. Approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population had 911 service by 1987. In 1999, about 93 percent of the U.S. population was covered by 911 service.

I guess if Paul Harvey was still alive and reading this story, he would finish the blog in voice with… And now you know the rest of the story.

And for pic o’ day I am attaching two in the “education genre”;

 

and 1and 2

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Deciding the Value

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

We start the Monday blog with a picture that Mom sent that needs no real introduction… if you have been living with snow:

fetch

And now a sweater story from ESPN. A reminder that something is worth what someone will pay for it.

A man walked into a Goodwill store and found an old West Point sweater that caught his attention.

lombardi 1

He took it to the front to be weighed because that’s how they determine the price. The price of the sweater was 58 cents… so the man got change from his dollar plus a sweater.  No one had looked on the inside of the sweater. Inconspicuously written on the tag at the neck area was Lombardi 46.

lombardi2

The man took the sweater home and didn’t think much about it until he was watching a documentary on the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi. On the documentary, he noticed that Lombardi was wearing the sweater that the man had bought. That’s when he pulled the sweater out and noticed the name written on the tag. It was the sweater that Lombardi wore at West Point while coaching there from 1949-1953.

He eventually decided to turn it over to Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas. This past Saturday it was auctioned and ultimately sold for a bid amount of $43,020. A sweater that had a value of what it weighed until it was determined that it had been owned by the most famous football coach of all time.

One final note. When I ask a jury to consider the damage of pain and suffering in a personal injury case, sometimes it’s difficult to put a value on pain and suffering. However, an old sweater reminds that whoever gave that sweater to Goodwill… is probably feeling a bit of pain and suffering and maybe even some mental anguish in an amount of at least $43,020

And finally, a password idea:

password pic

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Choosing the Right Path

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

While attending college, I knew that I wanted to go to law school. I expected to be a corporate lawyer. I’m not even sure why except that it seemed to be what I wanted as a career path. Then, I was in a car accident on my way to a final exam during college.

I had been rearended by a corporate truck. The experience changed my “want”. I no longer wanted to be a corporate lawyer. Instead, I wanted to represent the injured and learn personal injury law.
In law school, there are certain courses that are mandatory. Tort Law was a mandatory two semesters. It introduced me to a wide spectrum of personal injury cases. Then, I interned for two law firms during school and learned more personal injury law.
I have always been thankful for that experience in college, that changed my career choice of the kind of law that I wanted to practice. Based on that, I recently laughed when I read a satirical view of representing insurance companies by a writer who has since passed away. In my opinion, his tongue in cheek view of such legal representation pretty much sums it up:
It is an honorable calling that you have chosen. Some of you will soon be defending poor, helpless insurance companies who are constantly being sued by greedy, vicious widows and orphans trying to collect on their policies. Others will work tirelessly to protect frightened, beleaguered oil companies from being attacked by depraved consumer groups. [Buchwald Commencement address, Tulane University School of Law}

And for our pic o’ day on this Monday:

IMG_0042

 

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What is it Worth?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

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

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The Win/Loss Column

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

A while back I had a client ask me if I had ever lost a case. I guess it’s no surprise that no one advertises the cases that had a bad result. It sometimes is difficult to categorize a win or loss because the verdict might be more than the offer from the insurance company, but less than the demand for settlement. To me, that’s a loss too.

Unfortunately, I have had worse results than that. During my second year of practice, I represented a man who had got beaten up by another man. So, I filed a lawsuit for damages because of my client’s injuries… from being punched.

The defendant denied everything and claimed that my client had started the fight. Of course, there was that small matter of the obvious. The defendant was about 250 pounds and my client weighed about 90 pounds, if he was soaking wet and full of bananas. I suppose that the saying, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”, could have been argued.

The trial only took a couple of hours. The jury came back with a verdict. The piece of paper was handed to the bailiff, who handed it to the Judge. I was looking closely at the Judge’s face for any clue about the verdict.

The Judge began to read the verdict. “We the jury find for the plaintiff”. The Judge paused. Then he continued, “and award damages in the amount of… $1″.

My client was gratified that the jury believed him. He wasn’t happy that the verdict was only 1 dollar. And it didn’t matter to him that I did not charge my fee of 1/3 of the recovery… 33 cents.

I recall an attorney once telling me that losses make us better lawyers. I prefer a different method of improvement.

And for pic o’ day, this is one that you might have to think about a little bit:

dell

 

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Stories That Grab Us

Monday, December 15th, 2014

The first telephone book ever issued contained only 50 names. It was published by the New Haven District Telephone Company in 1878. When I write that, it makes me think of simple times. I can almost concoct a story of what it must have felt like to receive a phone book for the first time… with everyone’s telephone number and name who had a phone!

We all like a good story. In fact, good lawyers always remind that the most persuasive case to a jury is a story; not a bunch of legalese that starts with something like “Whereas” or “Wherefore”.

During my opening in a trial, I usually give some basics to start, and then I say, “Now let me tell you the story about this case”. I can physically see an adjustment in people. A good story. It reminds me of my grandmother reading storybook after storybook to me and me exclaiming, “read it again Grammy, read it again”.

Famous writer Ernest Hemingway would instruct writers on  telling a good story. Then, he would remind them that it didn’t need to be long or descriptive to be a good story. He then proved his point on storytelling when he managed to tell a complete and heart-wrenching story in just six words: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

The power of a story.

And for pic o’ day, some more holiday “joy”.

joy

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A Real Injury

Monday, December 1st, 2014

At lunch yesterday, I was asked whether I thought that some of my clients ever faked their injuries. My answer, and true feeling, is that the system does not reward phony claims. Just as it does not reward a phony defense. In every case that goes to trial, I believe that the jury  is asking itself, “are these real injuries”.

That table discussion reminded me of a story from a defense attorney.

In a bus case involving a man who said that he had a permanent injury to his arm, the bus company defense attorney began to cross-examine him. The defense attorney said to the plaintiff: “Would you please show us how high you can raise your arm now?” The plaintiff slowly raised his arm to shoulder level.

Thank you,” said the defense attorney.  “And now please show us high you could lift it before the accident.” The plaintiff quickly shot his arm up above his head. The jury was only out briefly before returning a defense verdict. And that is an example of the system rewarding phony claims!

 

And for pic o’ day, I decided on some motivation. If you are still feeling a little “Post Thanksgiving blues”

tubby cat

 

Then it’s time for some “Arnold motivation” for exercise!

now

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Hair Power

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Gene Keady’s hair. Spending $600 a week. The power of a comb over. Probably all of the previous statements mean nothing to you; but combined, they make quite a story about what was important to a coach. (Indianapolis Star)

I call this the power of the comb over. It also may be classified as “what’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

First, let’s travel back in time to the story of Gene Keady’s hair.

Gene 1

 

 

Gene 2

 

 

Gene Keady did not like going bald. So, he decided to fight it. As basketball coach of Purdue University, he knew he was going to be on TV. It caused him to hire a hairdresser. She dyed his hair and even added hair extensions weekly… at a weekly expense of $600.

Let’s quickly review. He thought that he looked good in the above pictures. He wrapped his dyed hair around his head as though he was wearing a turban, with hair extensions inserted.

Thankfully, there came a time that he met a lady who he ended up marrying. She talked him into getting rid of the weekly expense and scary hair. Below is a before and after… sans hair!

Before and after

 

Now, let me connect this comb over to the practice of law. It shows the significance of appearance. It’s why I put value on scarring.

When I ask a client if they are bothered by their scar, whether on a leg, arm or the face; I then relay that answer to the adjuster. To me, it’s not very persuasive when a callous adjuster tells me that the scarring is no big deal.

Some clients are impacted by no longer wearing a bathing suit or perhaps a sleeveless dress. Others make sure that they always wear specific makeup to cover up the scar.

An old British Television series was titled Keeping Up Appearances. It was centered on the life of Hyacinth Bucket, which she pronounced Bouquet because she aspired to be upper class. She did not want to appear less. Every episode reminded us of the importance of appearance to others.

So it is when a car crash causes injury and harm that truly impacts the way a person thinks about themselves. Coach Keady personally was concerned about his own appearance. Enough to spend that amazing weekly expense. He did not want to be bald for television. It doesn’t matter if someone else said that such a loss did not matter.

And for pic o’ day… the get-away:

squirrell get_away

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The Power of a Picture

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Stuart Elliot writes an advertising column for the New York Times. A while back, he wrote (article) about AT&T’s choice to air a campaign with a spokesperson fictitiously known as Lily Adams. (real name: Milana Vayntrub)

In determining the goal of the advertising campaign, they wanted someone who would appear “friendly, knowledgeable and helpful”. They wanted us to picture walking into a store to buy a phone and expect Lily Adams to be there. It’s better than an advertisement that tells us how friendly, knowledgeable and helpful that AT&T will be, if we buy phone service from them.

In 1862, Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote in Fathers and Sons that “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound”. In 1913, a company named Piqua Auto Supply House marketed tires by running a a newspaper ad that read, “One Look Is Worth A Thousand Words”.

Now we all know the expression that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, which somehow transcended from these earlier ideas. For that same reason, there are now companies who specialize in medical drawings for legal cases. In fact, they attend college to study medical illustrations.

It is important to have a doctor describe the injuries that a client has suffered. However, it is much more powerful to have a medical drawing to show the injury  to a jury, and the resulting treatment. The persuasion of the visual.

That thought led me to two recent pictures that caught my attention. The first I saw while watching football on Sunday afternoon. The second was on Twitter and I first saw it in Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback article.  In both instances, a description would not do justice.

On Sunday at the Chiefs/Bills game, the camera cut to a guy in the stands who was dressed like the coach of the Chiefs. This beats holding up a sign. Fake Any Reid on the left and Andy Reid on the right!

Fake Andy

This second resulted from a guy  who walked into a coffee shop and told the barista behind the counter, for the purpose of his order, that his name was “Marc” with a “C”. This picture shows the cup when his coffee was ready.

IMG_0049

 

I guess that is the definition of literal.

And finally, I say a special thank you for all who have served in the military. Thank you for your protection of our country and our freedom.

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Don’t Talk Like a Lawyer

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Hall-of-Fame broadcaster John Madden was known for stating the obvious. He would say such things as, “It’s 3rd and 20…They need a good play here.” or “When its raining the field gets wet, then all of a sudden everyone is running slower”.Madden

In describing one player during one of his broadcasts, he stated “There’s a lot of letters in Ladanian Tomlinson”. He just kept it simple and it served him well. In fact, his simplicity ultimately led him to great wealth from a game.

Madden knew nothing about using computers during the early 80′s, except that he would use a telestrator to show the television audience how players were moving on the field with a diagram over the play screen. In 1984, game designer Trip Hawkins set up a meeting with Madden to discuss creating a football game for computers. As a side note, the meeting took place on a train because Madden traveled on Amtrak. He had/has a great fear of flying.

Madden had once taught a class at the University of California, Berkeley called “Football for Fans” as a way to teach and test plays. So, when Madden was approached about being endorser for a computerized football simulation for computers, Madden was interested. Hence, the computerized game of Madden NFL (originally John Madden Football) was born.

To this day, Madden sees the game as an educational tool. In 2012, he was asked to describe the game and he simply stated that it is “a way for people to learn the game and participate in the game at a pretty sophisticated level”. That’s it. A game that comes out with a yearly new version generating sales of more than 4 billion in total revenue for the game… and Madden sees it as a “teaching tool”.

Not only does Madden see it simply; He also feels it financially. Even though he has retired from the franchise in doing the announcing voice for the game, he continues to loan his name and likeness to the game.  At one point, he signed a 10 year deal with the game maker for a total payout of 150 million dollars. Now that he has retired, it may be a little less… but the money machine continues to roll in the millions for him, just for his likeness.

Keeping it simple also reminds me of a childhood story. As I was helping my grandfather feed the pigs in their barn area, I was struck by how they were so aggressive for their food and how their area was so muddy. I asked my grandfather why they were acting like that over food and why their area was always so dirty. His simple response… “because they are pigs”. Yep!

Both of these illustrations serve as a lesson to us at the law firm. Regularly, I attend seminars on how to be a better lawyer. If I could boil down the advice given from some of the best speakers in the nation, it would be in one sentence… “stop acting like a lawyer”. The words like Whereas and Wherefore really don’t help anyone.

I have heard several lawyers give the advice to just tell the story and then get out of the way and let the jury decide. The worst thing I can do as a lawyer is to get in the way of the evidence. Just keep it simple.

And for pic o’ day, I’m sure this sounds familiar if you have ever been a dog owner :

alone

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