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An Expert or an “Opinionater”

I know it is hard to believe, but I am truly starting the blog with a picture that is related to the subject matter. I know… that is some crazy blogging!

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Please fight through the blog today because there really is a purpose. I mean it!

This is probably more of a sports blog… because I wanted to write about the upcoming NFL draft. But, I am writing it in the context of law.

(Here we go…talking some legal) To be qualified as an expert in a jury trial, you have to be qualified to give an opinion that is beyond common knowledge. The Virginia jury instruction tells jurors:

In considering the weight to be given to the testimony of an expert witness, you should
consider the basis for the opinion and the manner by which the expert arrived at it and the
underlying facts and data relied upon.

Which leads me to the the concept of “experts” as it pertains to NFL football drafting.  (And yes, I do enjoy using the “emphasis quotes” which is probably as irritating as seeing someone using “air quotes” when they talk) Football fans know that it’s almost time for the NFL draft. My email in-box is being targeted with all kinds of offers to buy draft information, and sports sites are filled with updates and predictions on who will be drafted in the first round. These “experts” all have their opinions.

So let’s travel back to 1998. It’s the draft and the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock with the first pick. Do they pick Peyton Manning or do they pick Ryan Leaf. Well, here is Vic Carucci’s thoughts on who to pick:

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Carucci’s opinion that the Colts should select Leaf is actually laughable now. The reason I post this scouting report is to show that experts can be absolutely wrong. He missed it here.

Recently I watched an ESPN 30 for 30 episode about the 1993 NFL draft. The year that John Elway was drafted first. During that ESPN documentary, we are reminded of their draft expert, Paul Zimmerman, who proudly proclaimed that it was a mistake for the Miami Dolphins to draft Dan Marino. “I don’t understand it”

He went on to say that no one was there to coach him and that it was a mistake for the Dolphins to draft him. They had other needs. That was his draft expert opinion.

I close with the thought that I have seen more expert opinion that should really be more”Opinionater” than expert. In trial, I see defense experts making the proclamation that someone needs no more treatment and has no permanent injury… after only seeing medical records and not even seeing the person.

I had one defense expert tell me under oath that he felt more qualified to give an opinion after not seeing my client, because this made sure that he was not impacted by any bias. Solely basing his opinion on the records. Of course, he smirked when I asked him if he refused to see patients in his office… because meeting them would cause a bias of his treatment. Boom! That is no expert opinion. That is silliness.

And for pic o’ day… I think this qualifies as good expert advice!

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Fries, Hair and Flying Food Tips

I know that when you read Our Blog, you expect something helpful. Now here is some real life stuff:

If you are really honest with yourself, it is hard not to eat McDonald’s fries. You know that they are terrible for you. You know that they probably have no potato content; and you even have a memory that maybe some ingredient involved in their frying has to do with meat. Or something like that?

Well, it’s my job in the blog to give you a reason to be able to lean over and take 3 fries from someone who is eating them nearby. Blog legal reasoning! And I think they meant “hai” as in hair 

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Or maybe they really meant hai. I cannot say that it will do this… because even blog literary license has its limits.

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But let’s stay on theme today and discuss airplane food and drink. Did you know that your taste buds operate differently on a plane?

Food tastes differently when you are 30,000 feet in the air. Scientists say that at a high altitude, your ability to pick up a sweet taste drops by 15 to 20 percent. Conversely, your perception of saltiness increases by 20-30 percent. So I guess it means to really enjoy the pretzels?

How about some food airplane tactical eating? The pilot and co-pilot are fed different meals. It’s to make sure that they both don’t get food poisoning from a specific food. I felt better about flying after I read that requirement…not!

And finally, here’s something to consider. The next time the flight attendant offers you something to drink like coffee or tea, it’s probably not so safe to drink either of those on a flight. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency found that one in eight U.S. airplanes did not meet required standards for safe drinking water.

The water on a plane is stored in, and comes from a tank that is not cleaned very often. So there should be no surprise that it could be dirty and stale. And the testing of the tap water on airplanes supplied from those tanks? Get ready…12% of the time the water has tested positive for fecal bacteria. Just say no thanks to the coffee and tea!

And finally, it’s our pic o’ day….

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Are They listening? Should I Be Concerned?

Sometimes when I start typing Our Monday Blog, I suspect that you wonder if I am getting paid by the word. I start one place and find myself easily headed down another rabbit hole. (Couldn’t help but throw in an Easter metaphor… right?)

It feels like every week brings us news of another store or company who have suffered a data breach. And a lot of people have their personal information exposed. So that leads me to ask the question, “Are we inviting hackers into our homes because of our purchased equipment. Which now leads me to write about Facebook and Amazon… and what patents they are seeking. A question of privacy.

But honestly, I feel a little like this in discussing some of this technology:

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When it comes to technology in the future, I just like to keep it simple. Much like this watch!

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Practically speaking, at the start of their season, Michigan and Villanova had a plan to win it all. But there is no way that they could have been certain that they were headed for the NCAA Championship game tonight. To give them a chance.

But technology companies think a little differently. Nothing about just a chance.

For instance, Facebook would have us believe that their future plans are here for Us. Here is their privacy statement:

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Something tells me that “my control” would be better described as “what they control of me”. As to Facebook’s new products, here’s what we know. Facebook already has new home products in their arsenal to introduce, that would compete with Alexa and Echo.

But, they have delayed introducing these products and hardware because they are concerned that it would play into the public’s perception of Facebook invading our privacy and using it against us; or having some third party or country use it against us. This delay occurred after it was reported that 50 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by that creepy company Cambridge Analytica.

Which also leads me to the discussion of their filed patent applications. A view to the future of products.

A recent Gallop Poll reports that 22% of Americans use devices in their homes like Echo or Google Home. (A NY Times article that also discusses the eerie laugh that Echo was strangely making) Which is why we are concerned about companies eavesdropping on us, even though they all insist otherwise.

Amazon and Google assure us that their devices only react to certain trigger words and then shut off. They assure us that unless the green light is on, there is nothing happening. Never mind what happened last fall when Google distributed its Home Minis to journalist… and the equipment never stopped recording. (AndroidPolice.com)

And yet… all these advancements are for our benefit.  But we all agree that voice data from this technology is evolving and here’s where these companies apparently see the future.

For one patent application, Amazon describes a “voice sniffer algorithm”  for home and mobile devices, to analyze audio almost in real time and to react when it hears words like “love,” bought” or “dislike. ”Here’s what they are working on as indicated in a NY Times article titled,  Hey, Alexa, What Can You Hear? And What Will You Do With It?

And here is how they can use such triggers under the patent, “for our benefit”. You could be talking on the phone to a friend… and then get an offer for travel or a sale on pants. The patent describes a diagram where “to your benefit” might mean that you then see an ad for a Wine of the Month Club membership.(Here is the rest of the story)

Google’s patent applications would “benefit you” through their home by providing smart product advertisements that are generated from your audio and visual signals.

So should we be concerned about the applications and just consider them as advancements in technology? No so fast! So says Jamie Court of Consumer Watchdog, which is a California non-profit organization that recently published a study of some of these futuristic applications for patents in an article titled, Home Assistant Adopter Beware: Google, Amazon Digital Assistant Patents Reveal Plans for Mass Snooping (Here)

As I started writing this blog, I got myself crazy researching. If you are still with me this far… maybe you are shaking your head too!

One final thought on this. Google has said that it will generally not provide audio recordings of users to third parties, but may send transcriptions of your voice and your information. It’s listed (Here under their privacy category of “Does Google Home share my information with anyone)

And…. no surprise, Amazon may give app developers this same information as well. (Here) Hmmm!

And for pic o’ day let’s go far away from technology. I guess this is what they call airline humor and it makes me laugh!

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The Starfish Reminder

I love what Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy!

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The power of human connection!

And this story from livelifehappy.com sums up what keeps me going!

An old man walked across the beach until he came across a young boy throwing something into the breaking waves. Upon closer inspection, the old man could see that the boy was tossing stranded starfish from the sandy beach, back into the ocean.

“What are you doing, young man?” He asked.
“If the starfish are still on the beach when the sun rises, they will die,” the boy answered.
“That is ridiculous. There are thousands of miles of beach and millions of starfish. It doesn’t matter how many you throw in; you can’t make a difference.”

“It matters to this one,” the boy said as he threw another starfish into the waves. “And it matters to this one.”

Recently I have been interviewing attorneys for our offices. In fact, I have hired 2 attorneys and am close to hiring a few more. Why? Well, this story summarizes it, just like the question that I am regularly asked in my attorney interviews:

When do you plan to retire?

I actually have a physical reaction to that question. The longer I practice law, the more irritated I get with the way that insurance companies treat people. It’s what drives me…puts a chip on my shoulder! It’s why I have no plans to retire and don’t even react well to that question.

What motivates me? Maybe we won’t change how insurance companies treat people. But for our client on this case…it matters to this one!

As that website says, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”.

And for pic o’ day…this one always makes me laugh:

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Happy Too!

I always like to start Our Monday Blog with some positivity. This pic o’ qualifies as reaching goals. Right?

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While driving down the road recently, I saw a billboard advertisement for a grocery store chain that simply said, “Groceries Delivered“. That seems to meet a need, but it also is becoming more popular. Perhaps the aggressiveness of Amazon is causing everyone to step up their game in the grocery business.

I remember being one of the first law firms to advertise “We will come to you“. I had noticed a trend of several new potential clients failing to show up for their appointments at the office. I learned that once someone had crashed their car, it made it very difficult to come to our office. Missing the appointment made total sense. I had to come up with a solution… going to their home on their time.

Which brings me to the thought of how to step up our service now? What message or new service could I advertise.

I love the positivity of my father-in-law. When someone asks him for help, he regularly responds with, “Happy Too“. Be willing and ready to help! If I could convey that in all of our ads… then I have maintained our true hopeful message. If someone needs our help… I hope that they feel our response of “Happy Too”!

 

And finally, for our pic o’ day, I think many of us relate to this as we sit in that chair!

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Spaghetti and Positivity

Let’s just keep it going. Valentine’s Day again. Can you feel the love? Not so much? Come on! All right… on with the show. But I hope you can still feel the love!

I am going to tell you one of my weaknesses… it’s spaghetti.

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There are some things that I can avoid eating, but I find myself yielding to the temptation of spaghetti and casting aside all concerns of weight gain. And that’s where I found myself last weekend… on a spaghetti mission!

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And not just any mission. My wife and I were headed to Joe’s Inn for their spaghetti. As we walked in the door, we found several people standing and seated. All waiting for a table. The hostess/waiter walked up to us and asked “how many in your party?”. Then she said “A few tables are about to leave and it should only be a few minutes”.

I noticed that she said the same thing to a few more people that came in, right after us. No one left the restaurant. We waited a bit and no one left. All because we were greeted positively and given “hope”.

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I know I am getting carried away with the spaghetti pictures, but it was a reminder to me about the importance of attitude, even in this restaurant stop.

Years ago, attorney John Morgan in Florida told me that his most important employee at his law firm was his receptionist. What do people think when they call the firm. Just like walking in to a restaurant. The difference between waiting and walking out the door.

Yesterday, I spoke to a lawyer at our firm who told me about a case that he is working on right now. The lady had previously been represented by another local law firm on a prior injury case. Now, she has another injury, but this one is tremendously significant with high medical bills and a multi-million dollar insurance policy. That’s code for… it is a big big case.

Why did she call us? Well, she thought about going back to the firm that represented her on her first case. At the same time, she just happened to see our commercial. Couple that with the fact that she was not exactly thrilled with her last case.

Thankfully, our intake was friendly. Then, she spoke to a lawyer here that was helpful. She decided to hire us. As John Morgan said, you can always find lawyers, but it’s hard to find people who care. And that’s the importance of Team at the firm. It makes me want to say thank you every day, to those who work here at the firm. No different than… a table will be ready shortly. Instead of not caring and just saying, “there will be a 30 minute wait”.

And yes, for pic o’ day, one more pasta mention. Is it wrong to have spaghetti for breakfast? How about if it’s just a side?

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Hammer Meets Nail!

How about a Christmas picture to get Our Blog week started?

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When I received that… I laughed!

Here’s what we know on a Monday. No one wants to hear how someone’s fantasy football team did over the weekend, and no one wants to hear about how much money someone made in bitcoin. Right?  (Yes, I know. That was just random)

We want useful!!! Something that effects us. Thus, I will be a bit random now to get to our ending point.

So let me mention my weight loss idea. On Friday I decided to punish myself for gaining a couple of pounds. I know it sounds crazy, but stick with me.

Recently, I ordered some custom shirts from a men’s shirt company that is located in India. I sent them my sizes. When the shirts arrived, they all felt tight. I was stuck. Send them back and spend almost as much in shipping as I spent on the shirts? Give them away? Or, torture myself. I went with the torture weight loss program of shirt tightness.

With a sport coat on, you probably wouldn’t notice. Me? I felt the tightness all day. One piece of lettuce felt like too much food. I knew I needed to lose at least 3 pounds! It’s the little things. Like not just digging into the Christmas cookies that show up at our office. Which brings me to some poetry for the blog to make us wicked smart!

One of my favorite poems is For The Want of a Nail.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

 I connect that thought to the court system. The 2017 statistics are not out yet but; in 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court issued opinions on 15 injury case appeals. This included death cases and malpractice verdicts.

In those 15 cases, the injured party only won twice. In the sports world, that is a 2-13 record. That is part of a continuing trend in Virginia. Over the last several years, the defense is winning at the appellate level of the Virginia Supreme Court by historic margins.

What do these statistics mean? Stay with me on my stream of consciousness.

Following Tuesday’s election, democrats were celebrating the victory of a an elected Democrat in Alabama. In Congress, it means that Republicans hold a slim 51-49 Senatorial advantage. It makes it difficult to push legislation through unless everyone votes along party lines. Similar to getting judges approved.

There is a similarity in Virginia. Selection of Virginia state court judges occurs through legislative election. Virginia is one of only two states that use this method in choosing judges. The other state is South Carolina.

It’s why  there are court challenges regarding this past November’s elections to determine whether Republicans or Democrats will control the Virginia House of Delegates. Right now, the difference stands at a Republican majority of 51-49, with a possibility of that still flipping.

That impacts laws. That impacts appointments. Which means… that could impact how a Supreme Court justice might apply laws during appeals. That’s not to say that any of the above opinions would have changed. But, in the federal system, it’s not unusual to see a ruling by a 5-4 decision.

Elections can impact judicial appointments. Appointments could potentially impact appellate decisions. It’s why every vote does count. It’s the little things.

And I decided to close with a pic o’ day that is not holiday related. But is is a blog tip…or something!

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Part of a Tribe

Is it possible to have a police dog testify in court?

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Just wondering!

We all have a feeling of wanting to belong. Psychologists call it wanting to be a member of a tribe. Restrepo and Korengal were two documentary movies based on platoons of American soldiers, who survived in war because of their desire to belong in their “tribe”.  So even war depends on belonging.

A group of lions is known as a “pride”, and a group of hogs is a “herd”. Geese in collection are a “gaggle,” and when in the air they are a “skein”. A gathering of foxes is referred to as a “skulk”, a gathering of quail is a “covey.” How about that? They all belong.

In Virginia, a civil jury consists of 7 people and and criminal jury consists of 12. In most states, juries are made up of 12 people. States such as Florida and Connecticut have experimented with 6 and 9 person juries.

No wording in the Constitution requires that a jury contain a specific number, to be considered a jury. Mathematicians have come up with formulas to figure out what is an acceptable amount of people on a jury, to make sure that there is justice. I have always speculated that the psychological principle of belonging can also impact the mathematics of what makes a fair amount of jurors. Just my speculation.

I guess that is why some states do not require a unanimous finding of all jurors, to determine a conviction. As a final note, there is a lot less at stake when considering what makes a quail belong to a covey!  Right?

This is one of those blogs that I could have written for a long time. Instead… just something to think about.

And for pic o’ day, this would give me no flying confidence!

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All About The Stats

They call it analytics. defined as The systematic computational analysis of data and statistics. (I promise, I won’t mention analytics again. I will do better! I promise) I feel like I am putting you through suffering by starting out like this.

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So here’s the turn. I always enjoy writing about the Indianapolis Colts in a legal blog. It’s true fandom. It’s why I can write about them, even though they lost 36-22. Not good!

Looking at their nationally televised Monday night football game, they received notification that the officiating crew was Walt Anderson’s crew. His crew averages 5 penalties per quarter, which is the second highest rate in the league.

The Colts coach could choose to ignore the crew assigned by simply saying “We are going to play Colts football and keep chopping wood“, or he could incorporate that into preparation.  (Here’s an article where the Steelers Coach did ) These Walt Anderson officials call it tight, so it means that your defense cannot be as physical and your linemen have to be careful in blocking and not holding.

How does that apply to our law practice? Usually, when we first discuss a case with a new client, they ask “How long will this take?” and “How much is my case worth?”. My guess? Probably the two most asked questions.

In handling a case, the worth is really related to the injury and treatment of the client, as well as the facts and liability of the person at fault. If a lawsuit has to be filed, then worth takes on additional components. The systematic computational analysis. (See, I didn’t use the A word) Where the case filed, and who is assigned as the judge are additional factors.

If I have an upcoming jury trial that has a judge assigned that I do not know, I usually ask around to find other lawyers that have been in that courtroom. A recent case with an unknown judge gave me the scouting report that she let’s you try your case. For another case this past month, I was told that the judge gets very involved , and he likes to be in charge of his courtroom, which is code for being an active interrupting judge.

In both instances, you tailor your trial strategy. I don’t just say let’s do what we do and go in there and just keep chopping wood. Can you tell that I am hopeful for a new Indianapolis Colts coach? More fandom!

And now our pic o’ day…. (thankfully I don’t feel this way, but it makes me laugh)

 

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An A or B

Completely unrelated, but it makes me laugh! I guess some dogs are just wicked smart!

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I think you can make statistics prove anything that you want to prove. For instance, the year that the Golden State Warriors broke the NBA’s single season win total; their guard, Klay Thompson, autographed a toaster for a fan. Thereafter, they went on to a 31-2 record. Does that speak to the power of toasters?

It just means that sometimes statistics don’t explain reality. Meyer Friedman was a cardiologist who for decades ran a busy medical office in San Francisco. In the late 1950s, he and his partner, Dr. Ray Rosenman, began noticing similarities in their patients with heart disease. It wasn’t simply what their patients ate, or their genes inherited, or family history that affected their susceptibility to heart attacks; it was also how they lived their lives.

These patients“, Friedman noted, “demonstrated: a particular complex of personality traits, including excessive competition drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency. Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless, and often fruitless struggle—with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time, sometimes with life itself.

These people were significantly more likely to develop heart disease than other patients—even those who shared similar physical attributes, exercise regimens, diets, and family histories. Looking for a convenient and memorable way to explain this insight to their medical colleagues and the wider world, Friedman and Rosenman found inspiration in the alphabet.”

They classified this behavior as “Type A.” Now we all know that term.

Contrary to Type A behavior was Type B behavior. Unlike the hurry-up, horn-honking behavior; people displaying Type B behavior were rarely in a hurry and didn’t feel stressed by life’s demands.

In their research, the doctors found that Type B people were just as intelligent and  ambitious, as Type A’s. But, displayed their ambition differently. In writing about Type B , the cardiologists explained, “He may also have a considerable amount of ‘drive,’ but its character is such that it seems to steady him, give confidence and security to him, rather than to goad, irritate, and infuriate, as with the Type A man.” One key to reducing heart disease and death was to help Type A’s learn to become a little more like Type B’s.

These classifications and findings of these heart doctors are interesting to me, because they also are linking stress to health. With our clients, I always believe that their most significant damage is related to stress and emotional trauma. And these doctors would probably agree.

As a side note, Dr Friedman died at the age of 90. Maybe he taught himself to slow it down! Although, sometimes I think that some of the stress that Type A feels… is stress from the actions (and lateness) of Type B.

And for pic o’ day, I always say that I want people to pay me the compliment that I am having a bad hair day! Just sayin’!

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