It was a Ford-Pinto gas tank explosion case. The Pinto had been rear-ended at medium speed. When a witness ran up to the scene, he jumped over a burning seat cushion lying on the sidewalk as he tried to rescue the female driver from the inferno. He was too late. As the fire trucks arrived, the witness learned that -- it wasn't a burning seat cushion after all; it was the burned passenger lying on the sidewalk. This is a story of your average downtown law firm and what they do to stall justice for their own gain. It ain't pretty, but the purpose of this article is to expose what is going on in your particular downtown right now in what should be our respected legal community.

Two things burned in the 1970's and into the 1980's. Pinto gas tanks and polyester clothes. I worked as a lawyer for a major insurance company. We insured the garment manufacturer who made the flammable polyester clothes fashionable at the time and worn by one of these victims. My mission was to team with the inside lawyer from Ford Motor Company to settle these two wrongful death cases. What made these particular cases worth seven figures is that both of these young kids lived for some hours after the crash notwithstanding their grievous burns.

(Primer -- Insurance companies have inside lawyers like me in this story. Then we, the insurance company, hire big time, downtown law firms to defend lawsuits in court against our insureds. The inside insurance company lawyers are supposed to supervise and direct the litigation of the outside lawyers from the downtown law firms. The outside downtown law firms do the actual court work. The inside insurance company litigation managers and lawyers do not always do their job. The outside, downtown company lawyers hired by the insurance companies actually control the tune by virtue of them controlling the courtroom process. The inside lawyer should regulate the legal expense run up by the downtown lawyers, but seldom does the inside insurance company lawyer hold the downtown lawyer's feet to the fire, so to speak.) Your insurance premium rises when the inside lawyer does not do the job to control the legal expense of the downtown lawyer.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was one of these idiot pawns to our outside insurance defense law firm in Houston, Texas. Houston is where the plaintiff lawyers had filed the wrongful death lawsuit and where the Ford attorney and I arrived to settle the two cases. My company's outside downtown lawyer met me at the hotel where he wined and dined me before the settlement discussions the next day. He introduced me to port, the after-dinner drink, and I have been hooked ever since. But, I digress.

During all of the palaver with my company's hired lawyer regarding our litigation strategy, something didn't seem quite right. He was too gregarious. He was too patronizing. He just plain talked too much! And he was too aggressive being a lawyer and forgot the fine art of a negotiated settlement early in the ball game. After a day of negotiating with the plaintiff's (the decedent's) attorney, I wound up liking the plaintiff's attorney better than my company's big-hitter from downtown. The plaintiff's attorney kept trying to send me and Ford's attorney a signal about the 31 motions my company's outside attorney had filed that were mainly designed to discover how many angels dance on the head of a pin. This downtown lawyer was charging my insurance company about $500 for each one of these useless legal maneuvers. Granted it was a complicated products liability case, but 31 motions?! Eventually, I got it. My attorney had sand-papered the plaintiff's attorney with all this legal mumbo jumbo, not to resolve the case, but to generate huge fees. And just for good measure, my outside defense attorney had been a general horse's ass to the plaintiff's lawyer. If my lawyer is successful in riling the other side, then that creates the legal war-craft that only benefits the downtown law firm. That is the issue, my friends, that is the issue. Here it is. Make the other attorney mad and the case will never settle.

So, this is the Outside Downtown Attorney Gambit -- The Houston lawyer's job was to foment discord with the other side. Accordingly, the other side would not settle or was otherwise at odds with the outside attorney over these unfortunate bottom feeder tactics. Ok, let's see who benefits from the case settling early. The Plaintiff. The victims get compensation and the plaintiff's attorney gets his or her contingency fee. Let's see, who does not benefit from the case settling early? The Outside Downtown Attorney. So, what the downtown attorney does is to be rude and irascible to the other side. They paper the other side with needless legal junk to irritate them into reciprocation or other nefarious maneuvers to needlessly fan the flames of the dispute. What these bottom feeder outside insurance lawyers DON'T do is move the case forward to resolution. They move the case forward to incinerate the other side for their own gain. That is the game.

Feedback  --  So, if you have had a bottom feeder experience from a downtown law firm please let me know about it here. It must be truthful, verifiable and interesting. It is time to stop this game. It is the same game those bottom feeders played on Wall Street before the economic meltdown. It is the game of greed. It is time to stop these greedy bottom feeders now.

Posted on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 10:05AM by Registered CommenterLAUREN PAULSON | Comments1 Comment | References2 References

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