I write this from the veranda of my room in Costa Rica. It is Monday morning, my first full day here. I obtained a favorable jury verdict for a great family last Thursday. The trial outcome was not only very personally fulfilling, but it also confirmed my faith in God. And so, I thought, I would write about it here.
I am a follower and prayer is a huge part of my life. Before this trial, however, I had felt a bit “let down.” Last year, I represented a boy who was rendered quadriplegic and brain injured when a guardrail entered the passenger compartment of his grandmother’s mini van. The grandmother was religious, and we prayed daily together. Despite the fact that we won every witness and every day, the jury found against us. Even the judge’s staff was stunned. I felt a bit let down.
I then lost a trial against Petco involving the death of a boy from rat bite fever. Again, I felt we should have won the trial, and so I felt let down. I tried a case in Los Angeles involving Costco berries. I was actually praying at the very moment that I learned that the jury had reached a verdict. The verdict was for the defense. Again, I felt let down.
I win the vast majority of the cases I try. I never before lost three trials in a row. My faith and obedience to the word of God is greater than at any time in my life, but I began to question things. Was God punishing me? Was He forsaking me? How could he let bad outcomes affect my clients the way He was? I kept in mind the old fall back, “His plan; His time,” but still, I had doubts.
And so I began trial in Bakersfield about a month ago for Bill and Elaine Kidd. The case involved a slip and fall in an El Pollo Loco with a resulting mild traumatic brain injury. The defense denied responsibility for the fall, instead blaming it on the bottle of wine Bill split with Elaine earlier that day. They also claimed his problems were all due to a combination of pre-existing medical conditions.
The trial went well. We ended up with a jury I believed in. We crushed the defense on the evidence. The Kidds are very good people and clearly suffered harm. The defense witnesses came off very poorly. Dishonest and indifferent. Bill and Elaine are deeply religious and so we prayed together. Dana, my co-counsel’s paralegal, enlisted the help of her prayer group. I attended her church as a guest and prayed for the Kidds. I was hopeful and faithful, but still, struggled with some small measure of doubt.
After closing arguments, I was confident. Still, the case involved a slip and fall in Bakersfield, a notoriously conservative jurisdiction. Arguments took until the end of the day Wednesday and the jury began deliberations Thursday morning at 9. About 10 that morning, the Clerk called. My heart sank. Did they defense us that fast? No, it turned out, the jury had simply requested “read back” of some witnesses. The witnesses in question clearly concerned liability and so, the jury was still on liability. By the time we walked to court, however, the jury had withdrawn their request for a read back and had resumed deliberations.
That was a good sign. An even better sign was the name of the foreperson who had signed the note. He was my favorite juror and one I thought I had connected strongly with. I did not think he would let the Kidds down.
Still, the early call had me a bit spooked. As I walked back to my hotel room, I was talking to God about my doubts and fears. And so, He directed me to scripture; in particular Psalms 23, which reads:
The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
He makes me to lie down in green pastures
He leads my beside the still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I shall fear no evil
For You are with me
Your rod and Your staff
They comfort me
You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil
My cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
I read that Psalm, and repeated it and spoke it aloud. Until we received another call from the clerk about an hour later. As we walked to court, my Partner Jessica, who tried the case with me, was scared. She thought the verdict was too fast given that the jury had just been dealing with liability an hour or so earlier. I had asked for $20 million for the Kidds, and she did not think the jury had time to get there. I told her to have faith. Still, her words worried me just a little bit.
We got to court and waited for the Kidds to arrive. When they did, I gave them a big hug and sat down to hear the news of their future. Was the defendant negligent? Yes. Big sigh of relief. Was the negligence a substantial factor in causing the Kidds harm. Yes. We won! Now, how much? As the jury continued to answer questions, I felt my faith was both restored and rewarded. They awarded the Kidds a total of $16.2 million with no finding of comparative fault on Bill. The verdict exceeded even my prayers.
That outcome will change the Kidds’ lives immensely. This injury had them in a very tough place financially and otherwise. Now they will be able to heal properly and enjoy life and each other again. I am overwhelmingly happy for them and thankful to God for HIs blessings.
The experience taught me a couple things. First, it taught me to never stop fighting. I have always been a very determined, gritty person with a substantial measure of tenacity built in. Still, losing trials is tough. You give your all, spend tons of your own money, and come up empty. You feel like you let your clients down, and after a few losses in a row, you may begin to question your own abilities. Thankfully, I just kept my head down and kept doing what I do well. Eventually, the tide would turn back to normal, and I am thankful it did for the Kidds.
More importantly, the experience strengthened my absolute belief and reliance on a loving and faithful God. I have been through ups and downs in my life, but He has always been there for me and caught me just in the nick of time, time and time again. I will never again question whether to rely wholeheartedly upon Him to answer my prayers. I give Him all the glory.
Thanks for reading my story.