A few years back, I represented a man named Bill Kransky. He lived in Miles City, Montana with his wife Sheryl. I represented him because he had an artificial hip. And the artificial hip, manufactured by Johnson and Johnson, was defective. It was metal, the parts rubbed together, and metal leaked into his tissue and blood. Johnson and Johnson recalled the hips, Bill had his removed, and along with thousands of others, we brought suit.
I honestly didn’t know much about Bill or his case until I got a call from Dean Goetz, my co-counsel and great friend one day. I was in trial in Riverside when he called. He told me that Bill was dying of cancer. He had six months to live. That meant we had to get his case to trial. We filed a preference motion, which was granted. Our San Francisco judge sent us to Los Angeles. This was a big deal. There were close to 10,000 cases pending nationally and no case had yet gone to trial. Typically in a “mass tort” case like this one, the first cases to go to trial are called “bellwethers.” The plaintiffs typically pick the very best cases to go first. The defense picks the worst.
This time God chose Bill. Lawyers nationally were not too excited by that. Bill had all kinds of unrelated health problems that would make proving causation difficult. But I knew that I could count on my California friends to help me. My great friend Michael Kelly was leading up the California litigation of these cases. He, like many, didn’t think chances were good. But I called him, asked him to help, and he immediately pledged his whole team of lawyers. Once we got sent down to Los Angeles, I called the king, Brian Panish. A legendary trial lawyer, he also immediately jumped on board.
Mike and Brian are two of the best lawyers in the country but they had not worked together before. Once we started trial preparation, they worked together seamlessly. A great group of national lawyers also pitched in with experts, information and assistance. Bill, Sheryl and their daughters Jennifer and Jessica all flew out to Los Angeles. I spent huge amounts of time with them preparing them to testify. With Bill, I focused on getting him healthy, happy and motivated. I didn’t want the jury to perceive him as a dying man. I was part lawyer, part physical therapist, and part motivational coach. When Bill walked to the stand to testify, he stood tall, walked steadily, and credibly told his compelling story. We won the trial and obtained an $8.5 million verdict for Bill and his family. That result led to a nationwide settlement for thousands of other people like him.
“We won the trial and obtained an $8.5 million verdict for Bill and his family. That result led to a nationwide settlement for thousands of other people like him.”
With appeal pending, Bill finally passed away. He outlived all predictions, but eventually the cancer was too much. After we won the appeal, we finally were able to provide Sheryl the money that she was entitled to. All Bill wanted to do was to provide for his family and help others. He had done all that.
Our case got a lot of attention by lawyers and others. The Consumer Attorneys of California nominated us for the Consumer Attorney of the Year award. And then, among many nominated, we were named finalists. We all came to San Francisco to attend the Convention and award dinner. I brought many from the law firm. The Kransky lawyers were together again. The dinner showed videos from the 6 finalists. They were all great stories and all great results, but in my heart, I wanted to win. I thought our story was unique. California lawyers all coming together to help a dying man. One case affecting thousands. A win against all odds. The President of the group took the stage. He opened the envelope and … it wasn’t us.
I wasn’t surprised. I never expect to win. But I always hope. And so, for just a moment I was sad and disappointed. And maybe still am just a little bit. But something cool happened. My great friend and Of Counsel to our firm Martin Buchanan won instead! I LOVE Martin and I was happier for him than I was sad for myself. He won it along with a guy I really like and respect too, David Lira. They both are hardworking, humble, decent and kind. And so, the night had a happy ending after all.
Writing this the “morning after” reminds me that we were “winners” after all. Because of our advocacy, Bill provided for his family and helped others. Sheryl today lives in a peaceful mountain home of her dreams. A place she and Bill always dreamed of living in. Thousands of people like them obtained justice. Mike Kelly and Brian Panish are now the very best of friends. To this day, I can call the Kransky lawyers for any single thing I need. Sure, last night we were “second place.” Heck, we may have been sixth place as far as I know. But I don’t need a plaque or press release to feel good about the work we did for Bill. God chose him to go first and blessed me with the opportunity to help him. I’m very grateful.