Expectations drive human behavior. Few people outside of the legal profession have any understanding of the judicial process or the time horizon involved to enable them to form reasonable expectations about it. Instead, the public relies on the fantastical depiction of the legal system represented on television and in movies. Believe me, unlike an episode of The Good Wife, no personal injury case goes from discovery deposition to trial in a day’s time, with private investigators disclosing the key piece of evidence just before closing arguments. The law is made up of rules, after all.
In reality, a party can expect a case to take an average of three to five years to make its way through the legal system, sometimes even longer. Oftentimes, defendants bring multiple motions to dismiss the case so the most crucial part of the process, called “discovery,” does not even get under way for a couple of years.
Discovery is the investigation of the case to adduce the facts that form the evidence admissible at trial that proves the plaintiff’s case to the factfinder, either judge or jury. It can also reveal potential flaws or defenses that allow defendants to defeat a plaintiff’s claim or reduce a defendant’s liability for damages. Discovery is lengthy and painstaking.
During discovery, the plaintiff has a brief moment in the spotlight—a starring role during his or her deposition. This is also incredibly stressful. Since it is the defendant’s attorney conducting the deposition, the plaintiff does not have control of the narrative. It can be very frustrating for an injured party who views it as an opportunity to tell their story. It is my job to take the time necessary to prepare plaintiffs for this and reassure them that we ultimately will control the narrative at trial if necessary.
Then the plaintiff shifts to the background while the rest of the discovery commences, depositions of witnesses for the plaintiff and defendants, experts on both sides, document production. Over a period of years, plaintiff’s attorneys can expend hundreds of hours of diligent work to build the case to their client’s advantage, strategize and get the case in a position, ideally, to get the best settlement. Yes, settlement!
The statistics vary, but well under 10% of civil cases go to trial, more than 90% settle before trial. Settlement is the goal because it means more money in the plaintiff’s pocket (remember the plaintiff is responsible for the hefty expenses involved in the trial, i.e. expert fees, court reporting costs, demonstrative exhibits) and it provides certainty of recovery. While trials are the penultimate moment in the story arc on TV, in real life, they can end in a verdict for the defendant—a reality a good plaintiff’s lawyer must make clear to a plaintiff whose case has potential problems. The prudent plaintiff’s attorney is always preparing and is well-prepared for trial, but avidly pursuing settlement knowing in the real world of juries and courtrooms both are often a crapshoot. The savvy, experienced trial lawyer’s job is to artfully prepare his or her client’s case such that the defendants come to realize a fair and reasonable is in THEIR BEST INTERESTS. If the defendant disagrees, then it’s time to talk to those 12 people in the jury box.
Attorney Laird M. Ozmon
If someone’s death is the result of negligence or misconduct of another, the surviving family members may sue for “wrongful death.”
Laird Ozmon has a proven track record of obtaining high dollar value settlements and jury verdicts involving wrongful death cases.
Click here to Learn about the 5 things to know about wrongful death
Third party litigation funding services are trending. They have been around in some form for many years, but now they are taking on a new prominence as litigation becomes ever more prevalent, sophisticated and accessible to the masses.
Civil lawsuits are expensive. I’ve pointed out in my blog that the beauty of our system of justice in America is that plaintiff’s attorneys are willing and ethically able to bear their client’s costs and the risk of winning their case. This serves the dual purpose of discouraging attorneys from considering frivolous cases and allowing injured victims access to civil justice regardless of socio-economic status.
This model has promoted a proliferation of litigation funders who serve different purposes. Some litigation funding companies are dedicated to pushing forward a specific agenda by enabling a case to be filed and prosecuted when it might otherwise not be, due to financial considerations. Think Facebook co-founder, Peter Thiel’s funding of the lawsuits that shuttered the doors of Gawker Media.
Other litigation funding services loan money directly to the plaintiff using the lawsuit as collateral. This can be a viable option for cash-strapped litigants considering that plaintiff’s attorneys are ethically bound not to loan money to clients. However, the amount of interest and costs for these loans can be quite high and clients should be made well aware of the financial responsibilities and consequences of entering into any of these agreements.
This scenario was the subject of a recent Illinois case, and although neither the client nor attorney had to repay the loan, the plaintiff’s attorney did not get out unscathed.
In Prospect Funding Holdings, LLC v. Saulter, 2018 IL App (1st) 171277 (March 13, 2018), an attorney arranged for his client, a plaintiff in a wrongful-death suit, to borrow $25,000 from a litigation funding company under a purchase agreement governed by Minnesota law. The case settled, the money was not paid out of the proceeds and the client failed to repay the company, which then sued both client and attorney.
The case caused the Illinois court to consider an issue of first impression concerning an attorney’s liability to a business that loans a client money to be repaid, plus fees and interest, from any settlement or judgment. The Illinois court rejected the litigation funder’s arguments finding the key documents unenforceable because they violated Minnesota law prohibiting a third party from having a contingent interest in litigation. Also, the funding company could not base its claim on a violation of the Illinois Rules of Professional Responsibility governing lawyers because it is not provided by the rules. However, the court warned the plaintiff’s attorney may still suffer ethical consequences for failing to hold the settlement funds in his trust account and referred the matter to the disciplinary commission. The key takeaway here is that third party litigation funding services should be used sparingly and ethically, with all parties being fully informed of the consequences of such an arrangement.
Believe it or not, lawyers have friends. Those of us who have been in the trenches for a long time have worked with other lawyers as collaborators, adversaries or strategic partners. Unlike many professional colleagues, we often see each other in action, in court, at depositions and at the bargaining table, and sometimes even as our worthy opponents. With this experience and earned respect, we have built strong relationships and regularly refer clients within our networks.
Why does this matter to you? Because I, or one of my many friends, may become your trusted ally when you or someone you know are feeling the most vulnerable. And we will take care of you as we would each other.
So if you ever find yourself wondering whether you were wronged, or if something that happened to you, a friend or loved one, could be the subject of a lawsuit or insurance claim, you have a friend in me. I have decades of experience and success serving plaintiffs in personal injury matters, and I only get paid if we win. If you ever feel afraid to speak up or inquire about your rights, my friends are your friends. They may practice in employment or workers compensation law, family law, or estate planning, to name a few.
This means that instead of wringing your hands, suffering in silence or wasting your time wondering, you should pick up the phone and call a lawyer. If you are friendly or acquainted with an attorney, or find an attorney you like through personal recommendations or an Internet search, contact him or her. If your issue is in a different practice area, that attorney will refer you within a network of colleagues who consider it a privilege to hear your story. If you have one lawyer to turn to, you have whole brigade of advocates at your disposal.
Think of lawyers as citizen soldiers in the battle to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable. Every day we are besieged by new tales of the abuse of those rights, such as injuries in the workplace, harassment and abuse, and acts of negligence, professional or other. When it comes to raising our voice for the voiceless, or the ones who have yet to find their voice, attorneys are part of a united front, dedicated advocates, standing at the ready to fight for you. Despite the negative press and the inevitable bad apples, the legal profession stands in the doorway barring you from injustice, so please consider us your friend, not foe.
Attorney Laird M. Ozmon
Antitrypsin Deficiency, known as AATD, is an inherited condition passed from parents to their children through their genes.
The deficiency will result in serious lung disease in adults and, at times, can also cause lung disease in young adults.
AATD is commonly misdiagnosed as chronic asthma or COPD. In fact, out of the 12 million patients diagnosed with COPD in America, approximately 1 to 3 percent likely have A1AD.
Left untreated, A1AD results in progressive destruction of lung tissue resulting in severe loss of lung function and life expectancy.
Laird Ozmon of Ozmon Law in Joliet has pioneered the fight to seek fair compensation for those patients who have been misdiagnosed and have suffered such serious lung damage.
View the full article at HeraldNews.com
Learn more about Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency AATD