It's like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely maimed plaintiff.
However, if it's a long, agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably.
A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle-aged, a dead woman less than a dead man, a single adult less than one who's married, black less than white, poor less than rich.
But the perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 years old, at the height of his earning power, struck down in his prime.
And the most imperfect?
Well, in the calculus of personal injury law, a dead child is worth the least of all.
SCENE 2 IN THE COURTROOM
-A million dollars he turns down.
- One million dollars!
- I don't believe that story for a second.
- It's true.
- Come on!
- Hey, Eddie. How you doing?
- Good. Do me a favor, will you? Shut the fuck up. That's our banker over there, keeping an eye on the collateral. He doesn't know Jan turned down a million.
How's your head? Up?
How's that? OK? Are you comfortable?
Here we go.
This court is now in session.
The Honorable Constance Mullen presiding.
Would you like some water?
Carney versus Massachusetts General Hospital - case number 812725.
Attorneys, please state your appearance.
Randolph Woodside, Mass General.
Greg Monk, Massachusetts General Hospital.
Harold Peshniak, Mass General.
Jan Schlichtmann for Paul Carney.
Kevin Conway for Mr Carney, Your Honor.
Mr Schlichtmann, the Court's ready for your opening statement.
Your Honor, if it please the court, the parties involved have agreed to a settlement.
SCENE 3 AT THE RADIOSTATION
Personal injury law has a bad reputation. They call us ambulance chasers, bottom feeders, vultures who prey on the misfortunes of others. If that's true, why do I lie awake worrying about my clients? Why does their pain become my pain? I wish I could find some way not to empathize. It'd be a lot easier.
- We're speaking to Jan Schlichtmann, personal injury attorney and according to Boston magazine... have you seen this? ... one of Boston's ten most eligible bachelors. Let's go back to the phones. Woburn, you're on the air.
- Hello, Mr Schlichtmann, it's Anne Anderson.
- Hello, Anne.
- How are you?
- Very well. How are you? Sounds pretty.
- How come you never call me?
- Believe me, if I had your number, I would call you.
- You do have it.
- I do?
- You have no idea who I am?
- Is this Ricky?
- No. You see, my son died of leukemia two years ago, Mr Schlichtmann. Your firm is handling the case.
- We are?
- Uh-huh. The reason I'm calling you here is because my calls to your offices have gone unreturned for the last several weeks now.
- I'm sorry, What was your name?
- I'm writing that down as we speak. I'm gonna take care of this.
- Hey, I have an idea... Why don't you come up to Woburn one of these days and actually meet a few of those people whose pain is your pain......Jan?
SCENE 4 IN THE OFFICE
Let me try and picture how this happened. She called you, she cried. You felt sorry for her and you cried.
- And now she's mad at me. Now that makes sense.
- This is a good case.
- She's not crying now!
- An orphan, but a good one. 12 deaths over 15 years from leukemia - eight of them children.
- Is that unusual?
- Apparently, statistically. It's a very small town. This woman lost a child? They think it has something to do with the city's drinking water which they say has always tasted funny.
- What was she like before? I'd like to know that.
- Do want to hear what it's about?
- No, I don't!
- I'd... I'd like to hear about it.
- Thank you, Kathy. There's a report here from state inspectors that says that the water from two city wells is contaminated... or was before they shut them down... with something called... I can't pronounce this... trichlorethylene... ethylene, which the EPA lists as a probable carcinogen.
- No, no, no. Let me stop you right there.
- There's more.
- I don't need to hear it. From a financial standpoint, I can tell you right now, this is not a sound investment. Probable is just a euphemism for unproven. To prove something like this, you need new medical research. Is that our business we're in, the medical research business? And... and you have to ask yourself, why is this an orphan? Why has it been kicked from firm to firm before it ended up on your desk.
- Gordon's right. I can appreciate the theatrical value of several dead kids. I like that, obviously. That's good. That's all this case has going for it. That's not enough
- I'll get rid of it. I'll... just go up there and...
- And then she'll start to cry again and then you'll start to cry again and she'll be mad at me again, so I'll do it. I'll get rid of it. Give it to me. Thank you.