How much is my broken-foot lawsuit worth?

Partly because I wasn’t getting any response from my Foot Lawyer, I went to the New York Public Library branch (SIB, i.e, Science, Industry and Business) that carries copies of the Jury Verdict Reporter.

The Reporter is an exorbitantly expensive legal subscription service which, in magazine and book format, publishes short-form information about jury verdicts and settlements in an olio of cases.

And I’m sure lawyers do not want their clients reading it. Or even knowing about it. It’s a volume in the legal cabala collection.

Although we non-lawyer peons can pay a lot of money for an on-line read, don’t. Your library, like mine, should carry it. I recommend that anyone contemplating a lawsuit that will be demanding compensation spend a couple of hours with the Jury Verdict Reporter. (And if you see a lawsuit that looks like yours and got resolved well for the plaintiff, scribble down the lawyers’ name and stick it in your LAWYERS file.)

I requested the latest date the library carried, January 2003. Not recent and I’m sure the Great Recession will have influenced jury decisions in personal injury cases (although I’ll bet monetary verdicts will have gone up since October 2008).

But it was an interesting read, given that for every resolved case there is a sensibly written abstract about the case—the cause(s) of the lawsuit, the claims of the opposing parties, the case number and court, the judge and the lawyers. An efficient birds’ eye view of how lawyers and judges see lawsuits.

Since I, as would any plaintiff, experienced, remembered and reported upon my misadventure honorably, as undisputed fact, I found reading the abstracts somewhat humbling, as well as instructive.

Throughout, the abstracts use the word “claim.” The “plaintiff claims” that so-and-so happened, the defendant “claims” that he was not responsible. At no point are the words “fact” or, heaven forefend, “truth” used. The abstract makes it clear that the jury is evaluating the claims of all sides. All emotion is stripped out of what must have been painful situations.

In the index for January 2003, I located only one sort of relevant personal injury case: a pedestrian tripped on uneven pavement and fell, fracturing her patella and doing something nasty to her rotator cuff, which resulted in surgery. In 1997 she sued both the City of New York and Con Ed.

On November 6, 2002 (five or so years later), she was awarded $343,300, which, based on an assessment of responsibility, was reduced to $257,400.

Obviously the pavement was the responsibility of the City, not, as in my case, a private owner (although we’ve also named the City in the lawsuit—I was not happy about suing my city but my lawyer explained why we had to, and I’ll explain in a later post), and apparently Con Ed was at least partially responsible for making the pavement uneven.

It was a good read. For one thing, I saw how juries assess responsibilities between defendants and plaintiffs—via percentages. The plaintiff might be 25% at fault, the City 25%, Con Ed 50%.

Even other non-personal-injury cases were interesting to read. So I’m planning a return library trip to look at previous months’ of lawsuits.

No, I don’t expect this kind of money. For one thing, I didn’t need surgery and broke only one bone. But I’ve never had any idea about what kind of money my metatarsal and two months on crutches and persistent aches in the metatarsal region was worth.

I’m now debating whether knowing how long this other slip and fall case took to reach a resolution, and knowing the dollar amount of the resolution, placate me somewhat about my case.

But mostly I’m still asking: Why the hell don’t lawyers return messages from their clients?


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