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Moe Levine On Loss

Do you read the blog for good advice. How about this advice??

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Now let me write a bit about a lawyer who is legendary in law circles. Moe Levine passed away in 1974, but he still lives on in his recording and writings. Many of his openings and closings have been transcribed and have lived on as examples of advocacy.

To give you an example of one of his closings, these few sentences come from a personal injury case in the 1960’s, where he was seeking damages in a double amputation trial. In expressing the everyday losses of his client, he said the following to the jury,

I need not call any army of experts and parade before you countless medical professionals to illustrate this boy’s loss. I need only tell you that I had lunch with him today, and he ate his food like a dog.”

It’s true that what he said was probably objectionable, because he was basically testifying in closing. However, it’s an example of the way that he thought, in conveying loss.

His primary discussion in discussing what a person has lost was summarized in this statement, “It’s not what the defendants have taken from the injured plaintiff, but rather what they left him or her with.” Here is how he conveyed that in a closing:

If a man with 20/20 vision has an accident and is left with 20/40 vision, you have taken his 20/20 vision from him. But you’ve left him 20/40 and he has good function with 20/40. On the other hand, if you take a man with 20/200 vision, who barely sees light and you blind him, you’ve left him with nothing.” This reframe is subtle, but powerful. In another example, Levine poses to the jury, “suppose you had a million dollars, and I took five hundred thousand dollars away. I would have taken a great deal of money from you but I would have left you with a half million dollars. As you still have a half million dollars, you are not left broke. On the other hand, suppose you had one dollar, and that dollar is taken from you. You now have nothing.

In yet another example, he compares loss to a candle, where the smallest candle makes the darkness tolerable. “You blow out the candle, and you are left with the abysmal fear of blackness: no light left. You have taken it all“.

He believed that the Old Testament was a good source of example in considering damages. He conveyed the loss of  enjoyment of life as described in the book of Ecclesiasteswhere it says that it is right and good that when a man has finished this day’s labor, he shall enjoy living.”

I enjoy looking back at the arguments of past lawyers. Most have not withstood the sands of time. But, Moe Levine’s thoughts on damages are still applicable today. In law school, my mock court professor played some old recordings from speeches that Levine made, in the 50’s and 60’s. At the time, it didn’t mean much to me. Now, as I look back, I have a great appreciation of that education. Life experiences had not yet prepared me to appreciate the discussion of loss.

 

And for pic o’ day……

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Does This Coffee Have Value?

You’ve heard the expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure“? Or… “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder“. Well, this blog is about value, even when there are differing opinions. More on that in a second.

But first, I don’t even know why I am posting this for Our Monday Blog, but it just makes me laugh. When I saw this on instagram (I would give credit but I’m not sure where I saw it), it spoke to me about misplaced good intentions. The holiday season…A lot of giving and good thoughts, but maybe not good ideas.

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(See what I mean?)

If you are in search of a tree, this might be an idea, if you have a cat. I guess it’s planning for the inevitable. (Since I’m not a cat person, I am posting this as sent to me. Makes sense.)

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I always feel that a discussion of coffee on a Monday, is timely. I’d say not to read this during breakfast, but there are people drinking this coffee during their breakfast. It’s the story of Kopi luwak.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America describes its taste as “a general consensus within the industry…it just tastes bad”. Yet, it is a very expensive “bad coffee”. Why? Well, here’s the story.

Kopi luwak is the name for any coffee beans that are collected from the excrement of civets. The beans are fed to these cat-like animals, collected, roasted, aged and then brewed. Here is the wikipedia story. It makes it easier to just attach, because I really don’t want to write more about the specifics. (Much like discussing Indianapolis Colts football. Best not to discuss!)

For the point of this blog, I do need to reference the price of this Indonesian coffee. Retail prices reach as high as $700 for 2.2 pounds. I checked on Amazon for the farmed version, and it is currently selling for about $25 for a 3.5 ounce bag and marketed as “The World’s Most Exclusive Coffee“.

To me, this story shows again that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. What is the value of something? Whatever someone is willing to pay. It probably also reminds of of the power of marketing.

I have written about this concept value in other blogs. In a jury trial, when discussing losses, it requires a juror to consider the evidence of value, not what they necessarily consider the value to be.

If someone lost their entire warehouse of Kopi luwak to a flood, it would be easy to consider that there is no value, and therefore no loss. And yet… there is value because critics admit, “It’s not that people are after that distinct flavor. They are after the rarity of the coffee”.

And finally, our pic o’ day

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Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Today we have our law firm Christmas party. What that really means is breakfast. Years ago, I used to have a dinner. Then it became lunch. For the last several years it has become breakfast. And, it seems that everyone is much happier because they have the rest of the day free. I think you get it!

One of our lawyers told me that after the breakfast he is heading to a funeral. He said it with a smile. Then, he went on to explain that it was his neighbor who had passed away… at 97.

He had attended the man’s 95th birthday. And, it was a reminder of the importance of enjoying life.

A few years ago, I attended a family member’s birthday party celebration of her 90th birthday. We all went to one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Angus Barn) I leaned over to her and whispered that I was looking forward to coming back right here to celebrate her 95th and she told me she wasn’t sure she “wanted to last that long”.

I have thought back to my conversation that night. A reminder that nothing else matters… unless you have your health.

When presenting damages to a jury, part of it includes a life expectancy table. If a person has a permanent injury, how long does permanent really mean. For instance, a person with a permanent back injury with a life expectancy of 40 years. What is that worth? In context, what would if mean if they could live the next 40 years without that same pain and restriction?

Loss of enjoyment of life is a damage that is listed by the law, to be considered by a jury. It sounds like a general undefined term, unless we show what real loss means.

For Our Blog, I am not going to keep writing about it. But if you and I were sitting down to talk about it, I would ask what you think. This loss can mean different things to different people. I have seen this loss in many of my clients, and then years later, I talk to those same clients, who are still experiencing those losses after the case is over. That is the real meaning of loss!

For pic o’ day, I always try to post something that makes me smile. After a blog that kind of feels heavy to me, it seems even more important for a good pic o’. So, because it is December 1…. this seems like a perfect time to post:

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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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The Carpenter and His Tree

Since it’s Friday, let’s just dive in… how about it!

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Not long ago, a paralegal said to me after one of our clients left, “she is always so upbeat”. She was upbeat, despite the fact that life was so difficult. I knew the hardship that she was going through. Still, she always seemed so positive. It reminds me of the story of the carpenter and his trouble tree. A good reminder.

A carpenter had just finished a rough day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work. His electric saw had broken at work. His old truck refused to start, when he tried to get home from work. So, a co-worker drove him home. The whole ride he sat in still silence.

Once they arrived at his house, he invited the co-worker in to meet his family. As he walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree; touching the tips of the branches of the tree with both hands.

When he opened the door, there was an amazing transformation of his countenance. His tanned face was filled with a smile and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss. He looked so happy.

Afterward, he walked his co-worker to the car. Again, they passed that same tree that he had touched with both hands. The co-worker couldn’t help it. He had to know the significance of that tree. Why had he touched it with both hands?

Oh, that’s my trouble tree“, he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job. But one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong at home with my wife and the children. So I just hang them upon the tree every night when I come home. Then, in the morning I pick them up again.”

“The funny thing is”, he continued, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging there from the night before.”

I think my client was saying the same thing with her positive attitude.

I hope you have a great weekend!  And for pic o’ day.

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Lessons From Pilots

I am treading on dangerous territory because I am about to discuss plane crashes. I say dangerous because I don’t like to fly; which also means that I don’t enjoy plane crash thoughts. So, you can already be assured that this is a positive blog. I promise promise!

Studies of plane crashes between 1940-1990 always showed the same statistic. 65% of the time, airplane crashes were due to pilot error. It didn’t matter what the airlines did.

They increased pilot classroom training. They implemented aviation reforms. They required specific flying hour limitations. Still, no matter what the airlines did, bad decisions in the cockpit still caused crashes 65% of the time.

Then that statistic changed! In the late 1980’s, airlines introduced realistic flight simulators. Now pilots could practice landing in a sudden downdraft thunderstorm, or with only one engine. They could learn what it was like to land a plane with landing gear problems; or fly without wing flaps.

Their experience of problems was better than training by “chalk and talk”. They were doing, even though it was by simulator. Federal Aviation representatives labeled it as “the goal is to learn from those mistakes when they don’t count; so when it matters, you can make the right decision”.

This training process was coupled with a method called CRM (Cockpit Resource Management), which made flying a team effort to include the other members of the flying team. Soon, pilot error as the cause of crashes had been reduced to 30% of all crashes, which also meant that there were far less crashes. More specifically, it now became safer to fly than drive in a car. See… positive!

I believe that same thought applies to trial work. Experience and team! No matter how many seminars you attend on trial and depositions, nothing replaces actually doing it.

What does this mean at the firm? Well, I always try to make sure that our lawyers have a second chair with them. That’s part of the team concept. Also, it’s experience in the courtroom. It doesn’t mean that we don’t keep attending seminars. That’s the chalk and talk of our work.  Unfortunately, there is no substitute for experience. Right?

And for pic o’ day, this isn’t to mean that I don’t enjoy work. Still…. he makes me laugh!

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The Statistics of Danger?

The World Health Organization tells us that every 8 seconds, someone dies from tobacco use. Cigarettes cause more than one-in-five American deaths. Yet, people continue to smoke. They don’t consult statistics to determine whether they should start smoking; and they don’t continue because of them.

Where are we going to eat tonight? On any given night, that’s said in many households. How often do you think that someone then picks up their iPad and looks up recent health inspection reports, to determine if their choice of restaurant that night is a good place to go? A restaurant health inspection typically does not go into that restaurant decision process.

It’s very easy to look at neighborhood crime statistics, to determine how safe a neighborhood might be. When did you last Google the crime statistics for your neighborhood. Or, how often does a realtor hand crime statistics for a geographical area, when showing a house to a potential buyer? It makes me wonder (as I type this) why I haven’t.

So here is another consideration on statistics. Shaina, a paralegal in our Virginia Beach office, forwarded this article from WAVY-TV, about car crashes where you live. If you knew that more crashes occur at specific intersections throughout Virginia, would it cause you to be more careful at those locations?

Educating drivers is an important part of crash prevention,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “This new feature allows Virginians to see where crashes occur most in their neighborhoods and the factors causing those crashes. With this information, you might use extra caution when traveling through a particular intersection or remind a new driver of the hazards of driving at an unsafe speed on a road near your home where speed-related crashes happen regularly”.

Obviously, the DMV Commissioner thinks that statistics and knowledge will affect our driving. According to the article, the data provided gives a breakdown of high crash locations in the state of Virginia. Of all non-interstate crashes in 2016, 7 of the 10 top locations were in the Hampton Roads area. Would that mean that someone right now is saying, “Best not drive in Hampton Roads”?… said no one anywhere!

Still…the greatest commodity is information!

And for pic o’ day, some motivation of no limitation! Or… be what you want to be?

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Value of the Heart

Many times in jury trials, I will describe my client’s losses and actually itemize the damages. That may include medical bills, loss of wages and even future loss of wages. It might also include a permanent injury.

Sometimes, I will make the argument when the evidence supports it, that loss of enjoyment of life is a greater loss than all the other mathematical damages for which there can be an exact mathematical tally. Rarely is it possible to put an actual value for emotional losses. However, over the weekend, I saw a video that does a good job in putting a value on emotions.

For the blog, I am not attaching the video, but here is a screenshot, in case you want to watch it. I saw it on Facebook.

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The host/man-in-video goes to people walking their dogs and asks if he can buy their dog. Most of the time, he offers 100k for the dog and sometimes even offers more. He even opens up his briefcase to let them see the cash. They all say no!

Why? The general consensus is that you cannot put a value on happiness that their dog brings to them. To some, that dog may just seem like property that can be easily replaced.  But the owners of those dogs think differently. The value of enjoyment of life. Quantifying the emotion of happiness. A loss that would be difficult to replace.

If you can somehow convey that loss to a jury, then it is more believable that medical bills and loss of wages actually pale in comparison to matters of the heart. To see those dog owners turn down that offer of cash was heartwarming.

And for our pic o’ day, I have to admit that I laughed… and related a little bit to this. The adventures of the grocery store!

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The Heaviness of Loneliness

We all know that obesity is a problem. Now, we’re told that just sitting and working at a desk is much like smoking for your health. But from Telegraph.com comes another “health issue”. The article is titled Loneliness is Deadlier than Obesity.

Researchers in more than 200 studies evaluated the health effects of social isolation and loneliness. The studies evaluated four million people.

Their findings connect loneliness to length of life. The primary finding: lonely people had a 50% increased risk of early death, compared to those who had relationships. As a comparison, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30%.

Lead researcher, Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Utah, advises that the study shows that people should be preparing for retirement socially, just as they prepare financially. For most, the workplace is their biggest source of companionship. I think that’s a great response to those who think that people that are injured on the job, don’t want to get back to work.

According to Holt-Lunstad, “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need—crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment. As she notedYet an increasing portion of the population now experiences isolation regularly.”

Campaign To End Loneliness states that 17 per cent of the elderly see friends, family and neighbors less than once a week, while one in 10 may see more that one month pass without seeing any loved ones.

There was a time that people would walk next door to get a cup-of sugar and spend some time on the neighbors porch. (At least you see that in the movies, right?)  Now, Facebook, email, Instagram and other methods on the Internet have become the preferred way of staying in touch. Just a thought of our reality.

Some ways in combating loneliness include making a habit of helping others and staying connected. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that “For a man to have friends, he must show himself friendly“. (Be Friendly)

Unfortunately, I see some clients who are hurting and isolated and don’t feel like connecting with others. Emotional trauma from a car crash can ultimately lead to isolation. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean loneliness. I think that loneliness really comes from not feeling valued by someone else.

On a positive ending, it’s a great feeling to feel connected!

And for pic o’ day, two great expressions that made me laugh:

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And

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A Walk and Two Pictures

I got up on Saturday morning and poured a cup of coffee (or three). Then, I was reading and checking emails. A morning of routine. Soon I went for an early morning walk. The morning breeze felt amazing.

I was walking close to the edge of the road and walking toward traffic. All of a sudden, I noticed a car  that was traveling directly toward me… directly at me. As he got closer, I hopped off the road and well into the grass. As it came up on me, I could see inside the car. The driver was a young man wearing a work shirt with a name tag. He wasn’t looking at me. Probably headed for work; probably running late.

Fortunately I was able to get out of the way. But it was a reminder of how life can change in an instant. Life is about moments.

During a recent NBA championship game, the announcer was discussing that Golden State’s coach, Steve Kerr, was fortunately back on the sideline coaching. He has been dealing with health issues related to his back. The announcer added, “If you don’t have health, you don’t have anything”.

In my years of representing clients, I have noticed that usually their injuries occur while they are just doing the routine of life. And then, in that instant, many have their lives changed.

The importance of life’s moments. “It is not a case of finding the meaning for the moments, but giving the moments meaning”. (Steven Readhead, Life is Simply a Game).

And here is some lion humor just because!

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And for our pic o’ day, this just makes me laugh!

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