Trial Lawyer Lessons from Sunny von Bulow Coma

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Posted on 13th December 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Earlier this week, we published a story about the death of Sunny von Bulow after 28 years in a coma. See previous blog. This has been a sensational story for nearly three decades, with little relevance to what we do as traumatic brain injury lawyers. However, there are two issues that are relevant, seemingly buried in this story.

The first is that the cost of caring for her. According to the story: “Her doctor testified that the cost of maintaining her was $375,000 the first year, 1981.” In any catastrophic injury case, there is always an argument about the cost of care. Her care cost $375,000, in 1981. Adjusted to today’s dollars, that would be well in excess of a million dollars.

Perhaps the most important personal injury precedent in this case, is that Sunny, despite her severe coma, lived 28 years, likely to her normal life expectancy. One thing defense lawyers try to argue in almost every case is that they should not have to pay the cost of care for a normal life expectancy because the now severely injured plaintiff won’t live very long. Such an argument should be rule unconscionable and never allowed, because no defendant should get the benefit of a reduced life expectancy, caused by its own conduct.

But what the von Bulow case shows is that if you get the best care, with evolving improving care for comatose patients, there is no reason to presume a shortened life expectancy. Perhaps the lower standard of care defense lawyers claim is all that is necessary will result in a shortened life expectancy. But for Sunny, because she got the best care, her life wasn’t shortened by the wrongdoing.

We believe that if a person’s life is shortened by wrongful conduct, at the point of death, then the actionable conduct becomes a wrongful death. Here there was no “wrongful death” just the loss of everything that “life” means other than a heartbeat

4 hurt in explosion at north Georgia law office


Posted on 17th October 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 10/17/2008 1:43 PM

DALTON, Ga. (AP) _ An explosion at a small-town law firm in northern Georgia injured at least four people Friday, and authorities were seeking someone they believe may have been involved in the attack.

Witnesses said the blast around 10 a.m. blew out the windows at McCamy, Phillips, Tuggle & Fordham in Dalton, 26 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Police Lt. Bruce Frazier said the blast was caused by some type of explosive device. Investigators were looking into a person of interest in the case, but no one had been arrested, he said. He declined to provide more details.

Bomb squads were checking for sweeping the premises for other explosives, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said.

Four people hurt in the explosion were in stable condition at Hamilton Medical Center, spokeswoman Emily Michael said. One of the four was being taken to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, spokeswoman Beth Frits said.

The eight-lawyer firm, founded in 1932, works out of a two-story, colonial-style house. Police cordoned off the block and shut down a post office near the law firm, which specializes in personal injury and wrongful death cases, according to its Web site. An elementary school across the street was locked down, though it wasn’t damaged.

State and federal investigators were assisting local authorities.


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Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.