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Archive for Trip and Fall

A Different Legal Standard

Monday, October 20th, 2014

On Monday, IBM stock shares fell $13.06 per share after posting weak earnings results. Because Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owned 70.2 million shares, that meant a paper loss of almost a billion dollars. All that before even making it to lunch.

That is definitely the world of the 1%. Where such a loss would evoke the kind of response that he probably uttered, “it’s not a loss until you sell”. Of course, there’s also the saying, “bulls and bears make money while greedy pigs get slaughtered”.  All of it stands for the premise of different standards. He is on the rich side of the tracks.

I was also reminded of that when I read that Facebook is now suing four law firms. The lawsuit stems from the four law firms having represented claimant Paul Ceglia in 2010.

Ceglia had founded previous internet companies and was now claiming an ownership of 84% of Facebook. According to Ceglia, (Wiki) he and Mark Zuckerberg had made an agreement relating to the formation of the website that gave him gradual ownership of the company. He even presented evidence of such an agreement.

Later, it was determined that Ceglia had fabricated the information. That was only the beginning of his legal troubles which also included being arrested for possession of Psilocybin. Basically, “he was doing mushrooms”.

Now, Zuckerberg has filed suit against those four law firms who brought the original lawsuit on behalf of Ceglia’s fabricated interest.

Here’s the rub for me. No one is saying that there should be a damage cap for Zuckerberg’s lawsuit. No one is claiming that he is filing a frivolous lawsuit. No one is complaining that he is clogging up the court system and that he should be perfectly satisfied with the money that he has.

That’s the double standard. If this had involved a fact pattern of being rear-ended by another car while sitting still at a red light, Somehow it should have limits or would be considered frivolous by some. The different legal standard… it can get me riled up!

And for pic o’ day, speaking of being riled up:


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Just Count to 10

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

I just saw a list of lies on the Internet. It was a list compiled on a message board. So, I copied them down as a starter for this blog:

1.  “I did not bet on baseball”.
2.  “There are no soldiers inside of that giant wooden horse.”
3.  “Your money is safe with Bernie Madoff.”
4.  “I’m searching for the real killers.”
5.  “At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
6.  “It’s not you, it’s me.”
7.  “I.  Did. Not. Have. Sexual. Relations. With. That. Woman.”
8.  “There are Weapons of Mass Distruction in Iraq.”
9.  “Welcome aboard the Titanic. Yes, this boat is unsinkable.”
10. “We requested from law enforcement any and all information about the incident, including the video from inside the elevator. That video was not made available to us and no one in our office has seen it until today.”

I had to look some of those up. For instance, #5 didn’t even sound familiar until I googled to learn that the Uruguay soccer player in the World Cup decided that his excuse sounded better than admitting to deliberately sinking his teeth into an opponent.

This list is almost like a trivia game. I guess it could also have included “I am not a crook”. It does remind us of lies that are told. I wonder if #4 is the original lie of O.J. Simpson. I remember a comedian saying that he obviously was doing a good job “looking for the real killer” on every golf course in California.

This came to mind when I heard about a recorded statement that was taken of an insured, following a crash that she had caused. Her statement to her own adjuster admitted that she started the car, put it into reverse with her gear shift, and then counted to 10 before backing up. She never looked behind her because “that’s how she had been taught”. That sounds like truth even though it seems a bit unbelievable.

That brings it into my world. What do you think of a defense lawyer who files an answer to the lawsuit that admits no fault, despite being told differently by his client?  Or, Is that just providing a good defense?

When I asked that very question to a defense lawyer after filing an answer like that, he just admitted that he did such filing; because,  if he failed to plead that in an answer, it would be lost if the evidence came out differently. Things that make you go Hmmmm.

Does this make you remember that story of George Washington that might have been part truth or part myth… but all good story? That he supposedly said, “I cannot tell a lie… I did cut down the cherry tree.”

The opposite of that thinking was German propaganda monster Joseph Goebbels, who believed that no matter how big the lie, people will believe it if you repeat it enough. Sad.

And for pic o’ day:





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The Beetle Monument

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Yesterday’s stock market was almost like a Grisham fiction novel. The night before, there had been a reported ebola virus diagnosis in the United States, with the possibility of another. All of sudden this virus wasn’t in another country; It was here.

Tekmira Pharmaceutical Company is the leading manufacturer of medication for the ebola virus. It immediately gained 6 dollars a share for its stock price. Can you see why I say that it sounded like a fiction novel? One reported case… a 21 dollar stock moves to 27 dollars. Some shareholders reaped huge profits.

Wednesday’s stock market was down across the board. For some, panic set in. For others, it was a buying opportunity. The “Haves” and the “Have-nots” on opposite sides. An opportunity for some to turn a negative into a positive, if you believe that the market will rebound.

That reminded me of the beetle monument in Enterprise, Alabama. They call it something more formal: The Boll Weevil Monument.monument

It’s a tribute to the beetle that was erected by the town’s citizens, in 1919. It stands as the only monument that was built to honor an agricultural pest.

The story behind it is what happens when a negative becomes a positive. In 1915, beetles appeared from Mexico into the fields of Alabama and began destroying the cotton crops. By 1918, farmers were losing entire crops. They were in financial ruin.

One farmer saw it as an opportunity to switch to peanut farming and convinced other farmers to do the same. It was a switch to success. Soon, the catalyst for change was recognized and honored as reflected in the statute inscription which states,  “In profound appreciation of the Boll Weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity…”.

In my law practice, I have seen this same catalyst occur. Some clients have taken their settlement proceeds to effectuate change or bring attention to some product defect. Others have told me that after fighting through their hardship to get better, it made them truly appreciate good health. As Albert Einstein put it, “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.

DID YOU KNOW that one out of every four “animals” on earth is a beetle?

And from our pic o’ day comes wisdom… or something like that:

on the computer

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Asked and Answered

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

As a young lawyer, I would get very frustrated when a witness would not answer the question. It was not unusual for me to continue to ask the question until the opposing lawyer would stand with the objection, “asked and answered”.

(Warning: you are going to think that I am getting paid by the word. I just really enjoy this topic! Feel free to wander)

That’s usually where I would make another rookie mistake. I would look to the judge for help in making the witness fully answer the question the way I wanted it answered. I can still hear the judge’s response, “Move on Mr. Bieber”.

Since those days, I have been taught a lot about juries as well as voters because  asking and answering plays a big role in law and politics. This even goes back to my days of being involved while working in the middle of political campaigns. So, what do I think that I have learned? Well besides “not enough”… here’s my 2 cents worth.

As to juries, I have learned that they get it. For those who attack the jury system and want to go to a more controlled environment of forced arbitrations… they don’t give enough credit to those sitting on a jury.

I now believe that juries get it when a witness constantly dodges an answer. I’ve also seen them greatly discount defense experts who are professional witnesses for the defense versus the testimony of treating doctors. Plus, it’s better for me to let the jury be bothered or angry at a witness, rather than me trying to beat up on that witness. Since the jury has the ultimate final say in the case… they will take care of it.snack

(Just to break my rambling up, I thought I’d better throw in a random pic o’)

I’ve also learned that people don’t necessarily answer what they truly believe. When a waiter walks up and ask, How is everything?”, many people say it was fine. Never mind the fact that they were just complaining about the taste of the food or the terrible service. We just don’t want to get into it.

When a prospective juror is point blank asked, “Can you be fair in this case?”, rarely will a person answer that they cannot be fair.  In fact, we really have a hard time admitting that we can’t be fair. Instead, the juror might answer that this might not be the case for them because of some reason. Or, they might admit that something is going on in their lives that makes it difficult to fully sit through the case and be attentive.  That might come out with some kind of response to someone being sued or whether there are too many lawsuits.

We all carry some form of bias or prejudice. Just sometimes, it’s hard to admit it.

That brings me to the political process and voting. When Eric Cantor was running for his re-election  nomination against a same-party opponent, his pollsters advised that he was leading by approximately 34 point (National Journal), leading up to election day. Then, he was crushed for the nomination, by 10 points.

Now why were the polling numbers so wrong? Well, the article does give some possible explanations. I think that people are tired of pollsters. Plus, they might just give a wrong answer… just because.

That leads me to the final poll thought. Jim Gaines (Reuters) has discussed in this attachment, a recent poll that shows that one in four Americans wants their state to secede from the U.S. That’s what people truly said. That they want their state to be independent and leave the U.S. Do you believe that they really mean it? Once again, I think that they are answering in the affirmative… just because. Asking might bring an answer; just not the real answer.

And for our pic o’ day, here’s a cow asking:

cow asking

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Making Choices

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I still can’t decide whether I want the new iPhone. One of our lawyers handed her new phone to me and it just confused me more. Maybe if I understood the features, it would entice me to choose to upgrade.


See, I think the features even confuse me more! Plus, it seems too big and now I’m told that people are having trouble with the phone bending. Which brings me to the blog topic of choices.

Sometimes we call it, “If only I had (insert choice)”. That thought takes me back to one of my law school choices.

I was becoming acutely aware that I was losing hair. I even started the “mirror thing” by constantly checking with a hand-held mirror, to see if I had lost more hair. That’s when my haircutter suggested that I lighten my hair. Supposedly that would make my hair look less fine, which was code for balding. That, and people start making jokes about your hair like, “I guess you have summer hair… Some are here and some are gone”. Now, the Internet is the new joke place, right?

Internet crying

Anyway, that was my motivation for my color choice. So I gave the “go-ahead” for the lightening of the hair. Soon the hair dyeing commenced. When it was done, my hair color had moved from my brown God-given to  some kind of unidentified, never before seen red. The lady said not to worry; that the red would wash out and it would turn more to blond.

Six weeks later… they were still calling me “Orange head”. It had lightened to an out of this world color. My bad choice.

Looking back, I still shake my head at the memory. As you read this, do you blame me or the hair person? You’ll notice that this story is told from my point of view.

In auto accident cases, psychologists say that you should always tell the story from the point of view of the person at fault. Jurors more easily place blame on that person. That means that if you tell the story of the case from your client’s perspective of getting hit, jurors may put blame on your client. They should have been more careful; or gotten out of the way; or not travelled down that road that day. Blame falls on their choices rather than the person who caused the crash.

So as I sit here typing today, perhaps I should have told my hair story a little differently.

So the hairdresser said, “you really should change your hair color”. I started to shake my head no…

And for our pic o’ day, some perspective:


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The Real Vision

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

I usually start out my opening statement in a trial by telling the jury that a driver has a duty to see what is to be seen. The safe vision of a good driver. Using this standard doesn’t always work in real life. For instance, the profile of Coach Lane Kiffin recently demonstrated the power of hacking as well as what happens when an opposing college football fan base is angry at a coach:

Kiffin profile


Something tells me that Alabama did not list his profile as Position: Coaching Idiot. Or Experience: Losing. I guess it is true, you can’t always believe what you see on the Internet.

That brings me to the story of seeing what is to be seen on an injury case. A Geico adjuster recently sent us pictures of a car that my client had been traveling in, when she was a passenger in the crash. The driver was the person at fault in the crash.

The pictures showed no damage, which led us to believe that either it was a very low impact or maybe the adjuster was mistaken about the car being involved in the crash. Do you know where this story is headed?

Because we had gotten involved in the case a year after the crash, we were relying on evidence that was already collected. That included the other insurance company, Alpha Insurance. We also requested their pictures and statements. Soon, the same picture of the car that previously  sent by Geico was also sent by the Alpha adjuster.

One small difference. The Alpha photograph had arrows drawn on the picture, pointing at specific areas on the car. We called the Alpha adjuster to find out why she had drawn “high-tech” arrows on the photograph of the car. She replied, “Oh, that’s where the car was repaired after the accident”. Hmmm…to see what is to be seen!

DID YOU KNOW that our eyes are always the same size from birth? Our nose and ears never stop growing.

And for pic o’ day, I guess this is a cookie’s greatest fear:

cookie fear

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The Neighborhood

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

      I am at the Virginia Beach office today. That partially explains this shorty blog.

      I also admit that this is a backwards blog. I posted the pic o’ day and then the thought came to me. We have several claims involving neighbors. Usually, that involves a dog bite or some kind of dangerous condition that was created. All said, none of them are funny… except this one!


neighbor cat


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“Better Call Saul” Advertising

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Does the name “James M. McGill” sound familiar? Well, unless you are a huge  TV fan of the show Breaking Bad, it probably means nothing to you. In fact, even if you are a fan, that would be a Jeopardy-like trivia memory to recall that name. Here’s where it gets fun.

Currently there is a billboard in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that is advertising the legal services of James M. McGill. It features a picture of actor Bob Odenkirk, who played lawyer Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. During one of the series’ episodes, the character of Goodman mentioned that he had changed his name from Jimmy McGill.

The billboard appears to be an ad/publicity stunt for the new Breaking Bad spinoff called Better Call Saul, which will premiere in 2015. The billboard also features phone number 505-842-5662.

In fact, the phone number is a working number. If you call it, a voice that has a bit of an English accent says the following message, “Hello! You’ve reached the law offices of James M. McGill Esquire, a lawyer you can trust. Kindly leave your information at the tone and Mr. McGill will phone you promptly.” Then, you hear the usual message beep with an opportunity to leave a message. A pretty creative ad campaign!

DID YOU KNOW that Harvard professor, Michael Norton, has studied money and happiness and concluded that money can buy happiness… when spent on others?

And pic o’ day

Tennis balls

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Overcoming the Emotion of Revenge

Monday, June 23rd, 2014


Strength for the Journey pointed me to the story of DeForest Soaries who faced great adversity growing up. At one point, a gang of five took him to a vacant lot, dragged him out of the car, and put a gun to the back of his head. It was going to be a  drug-related shooting. Just as they were about to shoot him, one of the gang saw a police car.

Concerned that the policeman would hear the gun shot, they dragged him back to the car. Nearly five hours later, their “gang boss” told them to let him go. The five threatened that they would come back later to get him.

Years past by, but DeForest never forgot that day and his brush with death. Fortunately, he went to college and also made room for God in his life. He did not allow the emotion of revenge to set him back. He did not worry about the five returning.

The story of DeForest Soaries continued as he got a bachelor degree, Masters and a Doctor of Divinity. In fact he has also received five honorary Doctorate degrees from other institutions. He has served as Secretary of State in New Jersey. He is now the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens.

In the story of his life, he says that a time came when he saw the man that had held the gun to his head. He saw him after finishing up a speaking engagement. Instead of running, he went up to the man and hugged him. He had no revenge in his heart.

Recently, I was discussing a client’s damages from a crash. At one point, he interrupted me when we talked about the concept of mental anguish. He told me that he did experience emotional ups and downs but that he did not hold any anger against the driver that had caused his injuries. When I heard the story of Soaries, I was reminded of that client. He was not going to be held prisoner to the emotion of revenge. Instead, he was focused on getting better and moving on.

Josh Billings said that “there is no revenge so complete as forgiveness”. Douglas Horton reminds us that “while seeking revenge, dig two graves…one of them for you”.

DID YOU KNOW that Cinderella’s slippers were originally made out of fur until the story was changed in the 1600′s by a translator? I guess that’s where the expression comes from, “I love your fur slippers.” Wait… I’ve never heard that expression.

And for pic o’ day, a timely one on Facebook:


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Comparing the Years

Monday, June 16th, 2014

I have written a few blogs about age. That included the discussion of introducing evidence to a jury to consider a client’s life expectancy. Some even told me that they went to Virginia Code Section 8.01-419  just to see how long  Virginia law says that they are supposed to live.

That brings me to an interesting website called You’re getting old. It requires you to put your birthday in a box and then… it gives you all kinds of information to make you feel old. This despite the fact that it also says that the average person going to the website is 33. Yep… not much to say about that. So, for a Monday blog, I figured this might be fun discovery if you click on it.

DID YOU KNOW that the first huddle in football was formed because one team had a deaf player who used sign language, and his teammates did not want the opposing team to see the signals that he used so they formed a huddle around him?

And for pic o’ day, a bit of home security:

home security

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