The Case of Ichiko M.

November 20, 2012

Thanks for entering my Blog.

I hope to provide you with useful information relating to personal injury law. I also want to tell stories about my life as a personal injury lawyer.

Many trial lawyers are frustrated writers. Perhaps this is because lawyers tend to be "readers" and to love the sound of the English language, in addition to the sound of their own voices. It's fortunate for most of the trial lawyers, John Grisham being an obvious

exception, that they usually don't quit their day jobs believing they can earn a living as writers.

In that spirit, for several years I've been working on a book which reviews my life in law beginning with Harvard Law School and the several decades which have followed. In one of the chapters in the book, I discuss my first trial as a Plaintiff's lawyer, in 1977. The case involved my representation of a 78- year old woman injured in a traffic accident by a driver insured with the "good hands" of Allstate.

Ichiko M. was struck by a pick- up truck as she crossed Kapiolani Blvd. in Honolulu, during daylight hours, within a marked pedestrian cross-walk. Two lanes of traffic had stopped for her. The driver of the truck in the middle lane failed to stop before colliding with my unfortunate client.

Fortunately, it wasn't a high speed impact, or Ichiko would likely have been killed or crippled. She suffered a wrist fracture and a femur fracture, neither of which required surgery. The injuries healed within six months, with virtually no residual problems. Prior to the accident, Ichiko was an enthusiastic bus rider and shopper.

Although living in the country, she would venture to Ala Moana shopping center and other downtown venues on her daily expeditions. After being injured, she was afraid to leave her home.

Allstate insured the pick-up truck driver. It's policy limits were $50,000. Although this may seem like a small amount of coverage, in 1977 cases which would now settle for seven figures and up, such as wrongful death cases, settled for less than six figures.

Allstate offered $25,000 to settle. My demand was $30,000. Neither Allstate or I would budge. The Allstate adjuster confronted me after a settlement conference with the trial judge and said, "You know, back in Oakbrook (Allstate's Ilinois corporate headquarters) they're calling you a pinhead. Why are you taking a 78- year old woman to trial for $5000?" I replied, "I'm taking her to trial for a lot more than $5000."

The trial took two days, including jury selection. Things were a lot simpler back then. I felt we had a good jury and that they really liked my client.

My closing argument was a bit corny. I told a parable about someone attempting to trick a wise man. The last line of the story was the wise man stating to the trickster, "This precious bird is in your hands. It is up to you whether it lives or dies." My closing was not exactly up to the standards of a Clarence Darrow.

As I finished my closing argument, I walked towards the gallery. The Allstate adjuster was seated in the first row. I approached her and, with my back to the jury, blew her a kiss. I wish I had taken a photograph of the look on her face. The senior partner of my law firm, seated in row two, almost had a hernia from laughing so hard.

We broke for lunch. Normally, juries deliberate after lunch, which is provided at the State's expense. In this case, we were back in my office for about forty- five minutes when the court called to inform us that the jury had reached its verdict.

We returned to court. The foreperson announced a verdict in favor of my client for $85,000. The judgment was paid by Allstate several weeks later.

My first win for an injured client was an awesome experience. I was sky high with confidence and pride. Over the years to follow I would learn to savor this experience, as I confronted cases far more challenging than this first trial.