We recently finished up another trial this past month against the City of St. Louis. We obtained a solid result but one that felt and still feels inadequate for our client. She deserved more. But, more than that, she deserved to be treated better by the City of St. Louis’ lawyers.
I forget that people and their lawyers will say pretty much anything when you bring a claim for redress against them. I forget how viciously attorneys will attack innocent victims. Honestly, it is disheartening when you see representatives of the City take unwarranted cheap shots against one of their own citizens — all because the citizen had the courage to stand up to them when she was wronged.
I watched how the City attorneys presented a new theory on the case, one that was not the same as what was said at the scene of the crash, and one that was not disclosed at deposition. I watched how their driver suddenly “could not recall” certain things she claimed to have said before. I watched how those attorneys manipulated that poor driver’s statements. This was not a hunt for the truth; it was an all-out assault against my client. I watched how the attorneys then went on to accuse my client of using her constitutionally guaranteed rights as a lottery system.
For those of you who do not know, that line of argument is incredibly improper because it says nothing about the merits of any claim and enflames the jury to become prejudiced and disregard the facts. The City attorneys didn’t care and did it anyway.
It was a good reminder for me that nothing is off limits when you bring a case, even an extremely meritorious one. It also reminded me how difficult it is to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit. Your whole life is under a microscope, and your medical records are combed through by people who are trying to discredit you. Any minor statement in the records, whether accurate or not, is used against you as if you are conspiring to defraud everyone.
You cannot respond to the lies or defamation. You have to sit and wait your turn and hope the jury gets the truth in the face of all the lies. You have to listen when you are personally attacked. You have to place an incredible amount of trust in your own lawyers, hoping they respond appropriately and make the right decisions strategically. It is draining. It is stressful. And it isn’t fun. No one would choose to go through a lawsuit unless they had no other choice. When you are a good, honest, strong person, simply walking away because it is hard is not a choice.
We want to represent strong people who stand up for themselves, and in doing so, stand for others. In this case, our client stood tall against the City and let them know that she can do it. She did it, and in doing so, showed others they can do it as well. We were proud to represent our client.
And the jury did see through the games and personal attacks. The jury came back with a value over eight times what the City attorneys recommended.