Sunday, October 24, 2004

My Day(s) in Court

It's taken me a few days to come up with this post, mostly because I wanted to tread carefully, recounting the story while still making everything anonymous enough that there would be almost no way the parties involved could possibly run across this post on a Google search. However, it was an interesting (if personally expensive) experience, and I wanted to tell the tale here because I haven't been able to tell a lot of people in person yet. I won't attempt to make this an exhaustive narrative; rather, I'll just recount everything as a series of interesting points:
  • The trial itself was a civil case stemming from injuries in a low-speed parking lot auto accident. A lady in an SUV backed into a couple in a Lexus; it appeared from the testimony given that neither party saw the other prior to the accident.

  • The thing that added intrigue to this was the fact that the husband of the couple was a Shaolin kung fu master, with the cool hair and beard appropriate to the trade, though they also owned other businesses.

  • The couple was trying to get the lady to pay all their medical bills since the accident, though most of their conditions were pre-existing at the time.

  • During the course of the trial, the couple's entire lives were recounted; there's no doubt these poor people would be contenders for the designation of "unluckiest couple alive" (they'd also experienced business failures, being swindled out of their retirement savings, some unfortunate run-ins with the police, etc.). But the underlying thought in my mind the whole time was that very little of what had happened to them had anything to do with this specific accident.

  • The plaintiffs' attorney was brand-new; he'd just recently become a lawyer, and even though he seemed like the nicest guy, he was totally in over his head here. The defense attorney, on the other hand, was a pit bull--with 20 years in the business, he was cold, calculating and efficient. You might not invite him to your next party, but you'd sure want him on your side if someone sued you for something like this.

  • This didn't necessarily sink to the level of a frivolous lawsuit like the kind you would imagine being filed by those personal-injury attorneys who advertise on daytime TV. Several other suits filed by this couple had never made it to trial, so at least they had "their day in court" to air everything out. However, it still seemed to us that very little of what had gone wrong in their lives was connected to the accident in question.

  • I enjoyed being with the other members of the jury; everyone was quite amiable, and when we finally got to talk about the case during deliberations, we rendered our decision fairly quickly. It was also interesting that the panel seemed to be packed with teachers (at least a third of us fit that description). Someone suggested that the reason for that is that teachers are good at mediating disputes and weighing both sides of an issue.

  • The long and short of the case was if we didn't find either party to be negligent (as defined by the court), we couldn't award any money to anyone. From the evidence and testimony, it just looked like an accident, plain and simple: she looked back in all directions but didn't see them before backing out; they drove carefully and slowly in the parking lot but didn't see her backing unfortunate occurrence, but an accident nonetheless. That was how our verdict went.

It was interesting to see our legal system in action; it may not be perfect all the time, but it's sure better than anything else. This point was driven home by some German law students who were sitting in the gallery observing the trial; they pointed out to us that their courts have no juries, only a panel of three (appointed, not elected) judges. I think I'd take our system any day over something like that. It is indeed costly to someone in a business like mine (I got paid--or will, in 4 to 6 weeks--a grand total of $18 for my three days of service, while losing around $400 in missed lesson revenue), but I'm not sure what the answer is to that either; with any luck, it'll be another two or three years before my name comes up again.

The trial also spawned a few QUOTES OF THE DAY, which I'll share now, in chronological order:

"Is that a standard or a stick?"--Plaintiffs' lawyer to defendant, asking about her SUV. It was pretty funny watching him ask her all these technical questions about the engine and so on and seeing her response.

"OK, if you guys just turn your heads for a minute, I'll go through here in my underwear."--A lady on Wednesday morning who kept setting off the metal detector even after shedding jewelry, shoes, and nearly everything else. (That's one thing that's gotten tighter since 9/11; while courthouse security isn't quite as intense as the airport--my shoes passed muster, for one thing--they're definitely being more thorough now.)

"Well guys, it's been a lot of fun..."--Jury foreman, upon the rendering of our verdict.
"...and I hope we don't do it again for a long time."--My interjection.

Guys' guide to shopping: Phil Dokas, the artist formerly known as Stereoboy, is back after a short hiatus, and he's come up with a guide to buying stuff at the mall that any guy can appreciate.

Comin' home: I went to Homecoming at UNT last night with Halfling and Angie; I had such a good time last year that I definitely wanted to go again. We got there a bit late and missed most of the tailgating activities, but the game was good. Freshman running back Jamario Thomas added to his amazing year by rushing for 258 yards, including a 77-yarder late in the game to seal the 36-26 victory over New Mexico State (oddly enough, another maroon-and-white squad of Aggies). Nick Bazaldua also kicked a 51-yard field goal to pad the lead earlier in the game. All in all, a great time, followed of course by the traditional postgame trip to the Tomato. Another game happens next week, where we hope to catch more tailgating.

And speaking of sports: GO SOX! I'm off to watch Game 2 now...

1 comment:

G. Travis said...

3 things:
- HA! (not-so)Psycho Lady at metal detector!
- You made a wise choice by going to the game. The pig roast sucked.
- In reference to the Guy's Guide For Shopping... if you don't look at the kiosk people, some of them will stalk you around the mall. (<-- happened 3 times this year)