Wednesday, 20 August 2014 18:15

Story, Relationship, Theme

Written by Law Offices Of Gary Green

The following article was written by Gary Green and published in Vol. 6, Issue 2 of JUSTLAW: The Binding Word of the Southern Trial Lawyers Association.

On April 9, 2014, Law Offices of Gary Green, in the case of Graciano vs. Francis Renee Montgomery, received a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $6,378,120.68, the largest medical negligence verdict ever awarded in Independence County. 

I. BASKETBALL

1968. First day of high school basketball practice. One teammate was late getting dressed out. Once all of us finally were on the court getting warmed up, the coach walked to the center of the court and without any explanation ordered us to the far end of the court where we started our sprints to the opposite end. We sprinted back and forth until nobody needed anymore warming up. Then we ran “the lines.” To the free throw line; to the half court line; to the far free throw line; to the far out of bounds line. Then we ran the lines some more. Next we ran laps around the court. Too many. We were tired. Next we ran “the stands.” Up and down, up and down, two elliptics on one side of the stands; then down the stands and across the court to the other side for two elliptics there. We ran the stands until we were holding our sides, afraid to stop but stopping, heaving to breathe. The coach walked back to the center of the court and summoned us all there. “Gentlemen, there are two lessons you must learn before we start practice. When one of you lets down the team, the whole team suffers. And it’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.”

 

II. TRIAL

Fetal monitoring strips. Variable decels. HIE. Not too many years ago it all would have been Greek to me. But we were representing a child. A severely injured child. A child whose parents couldn’t speak English. We lawyers had to understand the medicine, and then find a way to teach the medicine to the jury. And we had to do what we could to have the jury receptive to helping someone who did not speak English.

The baby was born by C-section at 3:40 p.m.

All experts agreed that had she been delivered 30 to 40 minutes earlier, there would have been no injury.

The doctor had visited the mom, a multiparous patient, at the hospital at 9:30 that morning, and hadn’t seen her again until she was called over for the STAT delivery.

All agreed that the second stage of labor began no later than noon. The doctor did not lay hands on the multip for more than three hours after the second stage of labor.

On the Friday afternoon of the second week of trial, Tara, Randy, Thomas and I found ourselves at the local pizzeria, going over the trial and the tribulations presented. Randy said we needed a good team analogy. The doctor and the nurse were supposed to be working together as a team. They testified they always had worked as a team in the past; that they respected each other. But they hadn’t worked together this time; they hadn’t communicated well. According to the doctor, the nurse hadn’t communicated at all; according to the nurse, the doctor hadn’t listened.

 

III. THEME

Long before the start of the trial I knew I was going to use the “better to be an hour early than a minute late,” but until Randy asked for the team analogy I hadn’t thought to include the story about the teammate who was late for practice. As I told them the story at the pizzeria, we all knew it made for a good theme.

Our theme was only spoken once, in closing rebuttal. It was never mentioned before then. No chance was given to the defense to attack or cross-theme. There was no hint to the defense that they should stress their testimony even more that the nurse is the eyes and ears of the doctor, that the doctor shouldn’t be required to be at the hospital until the baby’s ears were sticking out. There was no telegraphing our complete reliance of our own OBGYN expert that the doctor had an independent duty…

In rebuttal the jury was reminded of the doctor’s independent duty to find out what was taking so long to deliver the child; of the parents’ tried and true duty and promise to take care of their child for the rest of their lives; of the jurors’ duty to follow the law; and of the duty of the attorney to represent this child, a duty I was then taking off my shoulders and placing onto the shoulders of the jury, reminding them, “You’re the coach now. Teach the doctor it’s better to be an hour early than a minute late.”

 

IV. VERDICT

On day one of trial, during voir dire, I had asked the panel to complete the missing word from “red, yellow, black and _____.” When three or four jurors answered “white” at the same time, I knew we would have a good jury, that the jury members would know from their days of Sunday school that the law must be colorblind.

On the penultimate day of trial, closing arguments ended in the early afternoon. The jury deliberated until 5:00 p.m. and then asked to be excused until the following morning. Each day trial had begun at 8:30 a.m. The main courthouse doors remained locked until 8:00 a.m., but a basement door could be accessed earlier. That final morning I stopped for breakfast and checked emails. I knew I had to be early again, and I was. (Forty-five years later and I’m still more likely to be early than late. Somehow I can’t help it!) I strode up to the main door of the courthouse to find it still locked. As I turned to head for the basement door, I couldn’t help but notice four jurors sitting in their parked cars, almost an hour early, waiting for the courthouse doors to open. I knew it was going to be a good day!

On August 9, 2014, Gary Green gave the following speech to attendees of MADD’s (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) first annual Accolades Luncheon in Little Rock, Arkansas, to recognize community members for their outstanding service. 

Please think about that question today. Please remember it. If I stray with too many stories, or just talk too long about my support of MADD, please just take away (and role-play with me) the rhetorical question, “What reasonable person is in favor of drunk driving?”

Patricia, my wife of 18 years, is with me today. I could spend all my time extolling her virtues, but suffice it to say she is the love of my life and I am a better person because of her.

When Patricia and I married we each had two children from previous marriages, and we worked hard to meld our 2 + 2 family into our family.

We were lucky because our children were preteens back then! We did stuff altogether. We played games together.

One day while we were playing paper dolls one of the kids pulled out the Monopoly money and wanted to pretend we were in business. Patricia and I looked at each other and smiled and realized at the same time this was a lagniappe teaching experience, at a time when our kids would listen. So, we taught them how to count back change, and we taught them that a business must have and keep a good name.

I asked them how a business keeps its good reputation. They didn’t know, so I told them, “It’s very easy: if you say you’re gonna do something, you do it.” They nodded. “What’s a good name for our business?”

Alexia and Meggie conspiratorially blurted out, “Alexia and Meggie’s!”

“That is a good name, but an even better name would tell the world what the business does.”

Before long we settled on Alexia and Meggie’s Paper Doll Boutique.

 

I’m curious to know how many people in this room are familiar with an organization by the name of AAJ. The full name is American Association for Justice. If you know what the organization is and what it does, please raise your hand.

For those of you who didn’t raise your hands, I’ll tell you a little about AAJ.

AAJ was formed almost 70 years ago and was known until 2006 as the American Association of Trial Lawyers. It does a good job of supporting trial lawyers who represent consumers.

But the American Trial Lawyers Association lost its good name. How? It lost its good name because of an all-out war against it by that part of big business that trial lawyers sued often. Big business doesn’t like to pay out money. Some businesses will change countries just to reduce taxes! They particularly don’t like paying lawsuit claims.

Big business hired spin doctors and strategists and for years and years spent millions and millions of dollars to reduce law suit costs by convincing the general public that all lawsuits are frivolous lawsuits, brought by greedy trial lawyers. If we leave it to big business, claims for redress for injury in a car wreck will be decided by the same folks at the state office who issue our vehicle registration tags! Big business says to leave the lawyers out of it and evaluate all claims by a one-size-fits-all chart. If you’ve ever bought a one-size-fits-all piece of clothing, you know one size fits no one.

We’ve seen it for years, e.g., the Stella Award for the guy driving his RV down the freeway, who gets up from the steering wheel and walks back to the galley to fix a sandwich, wrecks the RV; and then sues the RV manufacturer for manufacturing a dangerous product! Did that really happen? Of course not. (And if you think perhaps it did, check it out on Snopes.com, and realize we’ve been lied to in order to advance a big business agenda.)

To further illustrate how bad it is, when I walk into a courthouse in any county of this state to deselect a jury, one of my first questions to the venire panel, before they know anything about the facts of the case, is, “Does anyone feel this is a frivolous lawsuit?” Sadly, more than one will raise their hands. (By the way, they just got deselected no matter what they say next.) But I then say, “Would it matter to you that my client is paralyzed, is in such bad shape that she’s in the hospital today rather than in court and that she was run down by a DWI driver who was over-served at a gentleman’s club?”

Those two or three potential jurors now start to crawfish and say they can be fair and impartial. I share this with you so you can see how devastating a public relations attack against an organization can be.

 

MADD

MADD is an ingenious name! It tells what the organization stands for (against drunk driving); the acronym, MADD, very well explains the feeling we get any time some innocent person is hurt by a drunk driver, and it has a great reputation – not even MADD’s detractors will say MADD people don’t mean well. (“They’re just crazy zealots!”)

Is MADD under attack the way ATLA has been? Yes, I see it. It’s a campaign of disinformation that describes everyone associated with MADD as a crazy zealot. MADD volunteers have become the greedy trial lawyers. The allegation that MADD is against drinking, per se, has become the frivolous lawsuit.

How does MADD keep its good name? It won’t be easy. Our detractors are in for the long haul. Special interests never stop. They will say we’re against all drinking, and we’ll have to remind them to read our name – that we’re against drunk driving! We’ll have to remind them that the issue of Prohibition was decided almost 100 years ago! They’ll call us zealots, and we’ll have to reply, calmly, with the rhetorical question, “What reasonable person is in favor of drunk driving?”

You liquor store owners and bar owners should be on our side. All you’ve got to do is tell that 18-year-old boy to come back in three years, and you’ll sell to him then. And tell that overly intoxicated person to come back tomorrow. The hospitality industry should be insisting on strict enforcement for the safety of its patrons. It should insist on responsibility; that its members carry insurance and lose their liquor license for multiple infractions.

 

LAW OFFICES OF GARY GREEN

If someone calls me and asks for representation in a DWI defense, I won’t take the case. Such is my devotion to MADD.

Law Offices of Gary Green has 3 slogans: We’re a people’s practice. We make house calls. And the one I’m most proud of, Law Offices of Gary Green makes a contribution to MADD in honor of every victim we represent against a drunk driver. We’ve made the contributions for more than 20 years, and I can tell you they will continue as long as I am around.

I’ve worked with some great MADD directors. The first, Theresa Belew, shepherded ignition interlock through the Arkansas Legislature (when the Arkansas Legislature was concentrating on tort reform and AAJ was scrambling to change its name)! Currently, I work with Pam Sell, who like all the directors in the past and current staff are consummate professionals. Whenever I represent someone affected by a drunk driver, I suggest they call MADD and hope they talk to Erin Blome, whom I know to be the type of person who can counsel or sympathize. I suspect some of you have cried on her shoulder, and suspect that late at night, when no one can see, she sheds tears for some of those she has tried to help.

If you have ever been to Washington, D.C., you might have seen the Robert Kennedy Memorial, where some of his quotations are cut into stone.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against an injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

- Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968, American Attorney General, Senator)

Drunk driving statistically is down. Is that coincidental? No. It’s because of these ripples of hope we’re all helping to spread.

When Jan Withers (National President of MADD) threw her rock, it went kersplash! It inspired us and gave us hope. (But it also called our detractors to arms.) Jan Withers called for ignition interlock laws to be further encouraged in all 50 states, with federal legislation that would limit funding to states that fail to comply with the law, Alisa’s Law, named in honor of Jan Withers’ daughter who was killed by a drunk driver. I earnestly support the endeavor and know, someday, ignition interlocks will be standard equipment on all vehicles! Why? Because, really, what reasonable person favors drunk driving?

I am proud to be a husband and father.

I am proud to be a trial lawyer.

I am proud to be a MADD advocate.

We are in for a long fight in defense of our good name, and I’m proud to fight alongside you MADD volunteers.

The Arkansas chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is hosting its First Annual “MADD-colades” Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon to honor volunteers and community supporters for their contributions to MADD. Jan Withers, MADD National President, will give the keynote address and will also be available for media interviews and a meet-and-greet.

Gary and Patricia Green will be in attendance to recognize the community’s outstanding contributions and meet with victims and survivors of drunk driving. Law Offices of Gary Green has been a corporate sponsor of MADD for twenty years and is proudly sponsoring this event. Law Offices of Gary Green makes a contribution to MADD in honor of every victim it represents against a drunk driver and to date has contributed more than $80,000 to MADD.

And there’s more progress to celebrate: Four states – Alabama, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Delaware – have passed offender ignition interlock laws this year! Ignition interlock laws are an essential component of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. These laws require convicted drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks to prove their sobriety before they can start their vehicles. Since their implementation, these measures have been proven to save lives and reduce instances of drunk driving.

Bravo to all the volunteers, sponsors, and community members behind MADD’s lifesaving campaigns. Law Offices of Gary Green is honored to be a part of MADD Arkansas.

A quick reminder on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving this holiday weekend:

On average, 191 men, women and children die every Fourth of July holiday because of drunk driving. And it’s usually worse when the Fourth is next to a weekend, like this year.  MADD urges you to show your support by making a generous, tax-deductible gift to help prevent these senseless deaths. Law Offices of Gary Green is a proud supporter of MADD; we make a donation on behalf of every victim we represent against a drunk driver.

From everyone at Law Offices of Gary Green, we wish you a happy – and safe – holiday weekend.

Independence Day is special for all of us. It’s a good time to spend with family and friends and a good time to be thankful for our Bill of Rights. As a lawyer who represents injured citizens I am particularly appreciative of the Seventh Amendment.

I’m also very appreciative of those who call on Law Offices of Gary Green as clients. Good laws, bricks and mortar, top-shelf staff, resources, education and experience mean little if there are no good clients to serve. I personally thank you for calling on us.

Truly,

Gary Green

More than 20 million recalls.

13 deaths.

54 crashes.

At least 80 lawsuits, and more to come.

$2 billion in recall-related charges.

The numbers are in, and so far it’s been a rough year for General Motors.  The auto maker is under fire for a faulty ignition switch, and product liability lawsuits are already under way. Still, the number of lawsuits filed pales in comparison to the total number of recalls. Forced to finally take the recalls seriously, GM is no longer laughing all the way to the bank.

So, who cares? People who buy stock. People who file lawsuits. People who drive GM vehicles. And people want to know what their recourse is for driving a car with a recalled part.

The truth is I can’t afford to represent a client who hasn’t been catastrophically injured, or a client who isn’t the representative of an estate. A product liability lawsuit against General Motors could cost me a million dollars. It certainly would run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Product liability cases are won with expert witnesses. Expensive engineer experts who charge me while they sleep if they’re attending a deposition, hearing, or trial away from home.

GM won’t be hearing from me over any defects that don’t cause serious physical injury or death. And GM knows that. They know you won’t be lawyering up over a repair; they’re not going to pay for your inconvenience or consequential damages of having to deal with the recall. They’ll pay for the switch, and you might get a courtesy ride, but don’t expect anything else for your trouble.

So what’s GM going to do? It’ll fight like hell all the product cases – even the most righteous. It’ll deny, delay, and defend every one until one day there develops a pattern. Then its president will tell the GM attorneys to settle the worthy ones.

But some brave souls are going to have to set the pattern. They’ll have to stare down their claim being called frivolous and their personal life being aired for all to see. They’ll have to survive the modern-day trial by ordeal, the adversarial process. It is no small task to take on General Motors. For those who have to, we wish them well and thank them for being leaders.

 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 16:25

The Dangers of Driver Fatigue

Written by Law Offices Of Gary Green

The recent fatal collision in New Jersey involving comedians Tracy Morgan and James McNair (and several others), whose vehicle was hit by a fatigued truck driver, reminds me of a case we tried in Arkansas several years ago.

The defendant truck driver, who worked for an interstate company, left his home in Mississippi, traveled to California and then was returning to Mississippi – without sleeping. He made it as far as Arkansas – three days after he had started – before literally running over my client’s car. Adding insult to serious injury, he didn’t stop there, but plowed on for another mile before crashing into another vehicle that stopped him. When the state trooper arrived at the final resting place of the truck, he turned off the windshield wipers that had worn down to the metal. It was a blue-sky day.

At the deposition, the defendant driver testified that he “smoked [meth], snorted it and even put it into my Mountain Dew. I did everything but shoot it.”

The moral of the story? Drive defensively. Report erratic driving and sue to send a message that fatigued driving will not be tolerated.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a truck driving accident, contact Law Offices of Gary Green to discuss your legal options without obligation. Email us at gGreen@gGreen.com or call toll-free at 1-888-4GARYGREEN.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014 16:25

Recalls Up; System Under Fire

Written by Law Offices Of Gary Green

Today there are currently more than 3.5 million cars listed for sale online that have open recalls, in addition to nearly 36 million already on the road that have unfixed recalls.

So far, 2014 has seen much higher recall rates than previous years, and some analysts say it’s due to heightened safety concerns following GM’s disastrous recall earlier this year.

The recall system has certainly faced scrutiny over the years, but it drew especially harsh criticism following the recall of GM’s faulty ignition switches that caused 13 deaths and 47 crashes. GM is under fire for taking more than 10 years to issue the recall, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is facing criticism for not realizing the problem sooner and forcing a recall of the defective switches.

The NHTSA maintains a list of several hundred complaints from owners, as well as a database of all vehicle recalls.

Sources: New York Times, Detroit Free Press

On April 9, 2014, Law Offices of Gary Green, in the case of Graciano vs. Frances Renee Montgomery, received a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $6,378,120.68, the largest medical negligence verdict ever awarded in Independence County.

The jurors assigned 60 percent of the blame to Dr. Montgomery and 40 percent of the blame to a nurse and the hospital. The lawsuit was filed following complications during the birth of Mrs. Maria Graciano’s daughter in May 2005.

Dr. Montgomery was Mrs. Graciano’s treating physician during the birth, and the lawsuit filed against her states the doctor was negligent in her medical duties. The document also states that Dr. Montgomery examined Mrs. Graciano only once during 27 hours of delivery, despite several calls from staff that aid was necessary.

The child suffered permanent brain damage and blindness as a result, among other permanent injuries.

On behalf of the Gracianos, Gary Green sought compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, economic loss, in-home assistance for the child, and punitive damages for the gross negligence of Dr. Montgomery and the hospital staff.

The $6 million verdict is thought to be the largest civil verdict ever awarded in the county.

Nurse Making Notes During Home Visit With Senior Couple

When your health is compromised, even the smallest tasks and decisions can zap your energy and leave you feeling lost. That’s why it’s so important to have someone at your side – and on your side – to navigate the red tape of the healthcare system and look out for your best interests. Relying on an advocate during this already stressful time will ensure that your wishes are being honored and will help promote accountability among those providing care.

An advocate may be your spouse, child, another member of your family, or a close friend; or, you may choose to employ a professional advocate, such as a Patient Representative via your hospital, a social worker, nurse, or chaplain. The key to finding your ideal advocate is making sure you choose someone you can trust and with whom you can effectively communicate, and someone who can in turn effectively communicate with others on your behalf.

The following information is from the National Patient Safety Foundation. (Learn more about NPSF at their website.) They highlight several factors to consider when choosing an advocate:

  • Select a person you can communicate with and that you can trust. It’s important to pick someone who is assertive and who has good communication skills. Make sure that the person you select is willing and able to be the type of advocate that you need.
  • Let your physician and those caring for you know who your advocate is and how you want them involved in your care.
  • Decide what you want help with and what you want to handle on your own. For example, you may want help with: clarifying your options for hospitals, doctors, diagnostic tests and procedures or treatment choices; getting information or asking specific questions; writing down information that you receive from your caregivers, as well as any questions that you may have; and assuring that your wishes are carried out when you may not be able to do that by yourself.
  • Arrange for your designated advocate to be the spokesperson for the rest of your family and make sure your other family members know this. This will provide a consistent communication link for your caregivers and can help to minimize confusion and misunderstandings within your family.