Lawyers in Hollywood
Why Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore Attorneys are Like Paul Newman & Tom Cruise
The ABA Journal recently published an issue covering “100 Years of Law at the Movies,” exploring Why Hollywood Loves Lawyers. It concluded that “[t]he literature of law values the object lesson over the cheap thrill. Audiences crave universal truths, and by the time the closing credits roll, movies about the law have left behind wisdom to live by.” We agree with that sentiment. Whether it’s Henry Fonda corralling his fellow jurors in 12 Angry Men, or Tom Cruise cornering “you want me on that wall” Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, lawyer movies can and usually do pack a mighty moral wallop. It’s no surprise that Atticus Finch found himself at the top of an American Film Institute list of famous heroes of the last 100 years. As the Institute rightly notes, “Heroism that acquits the falsely accused will hold its own against any nonstop action flick.”
We don’t practice criminal law at Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, but we feel that our quest for justice is no less rigorous and duty bound than that of Mr. Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird or of Matthew McConaughey in the gripping tale A Time to Kill. We, too, strive daily to see that wrongs are righted. Fortunately, Hollywood agrees that civil practice can be just as compelling – and just as filled with white-hat lawyers making society better and more just, one client at a time.
Below is a short list of some of the great lawyer movies dealing with civil lawyers and our fight to improve the lives of our clients. We not only love these movies; we are proud of these civil justice-fighters, real and fictional.
Erin Brokovitch: “Not personal? That is my work! My sweat! My time away from my kids! If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.”
Who doesn’t know of Erin’s true-life story fighting against a massive power company to get justice for hundreds of residents injured by contaminated water? What began as a personal quest for employment culminated in a life-changing verdict for the townspeople poisoned by Pacific Gas & Electric’s dangerous disposal practices. Though she wasn’t a lawyer herself, she and attorney Ed Masry certainly earned their badges as civil law heroes.
A Civil Action: “Now the single greatest liability a lawyer can have is pride. Pride… Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.”
Like Erin Brokovitch, A Civil Action is based on a true story of a lawyer who took on a large company responsible for damaging the health of the nearby townsfolk, this time causing terminal leukemia in several children. The story is a wonderful portrayal of a team of attorneys who quite literally risk everything to win justice against all odds.
The Insider: “You are important to a lot of people, Jeffrey. You think about that, and you think about them. I’m all out of heroes, man. Guys like you are in short supply.”
Big Tobacco went to war when a single courageous whistleblower, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (played by Russell Crowe), agreed to a 60 Minutes interview to expose the dangers of smoking. The Insider tells the tale of the legal battle that followed as Big Tobacco pulled out all the stops to suppress the interview.
Rainmaker: “Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross… it just happens… And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothin’ but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water.”
A fictional story steeped in legal ethics, Rainmaker tells the tale of a medical malpractice case against an unscrupulous insurance giant. Not every medical malpractice case we take rises to the level of a Hollywood blockbuster – but we never forget that every single case we accept is of enormous importance to the health and life of that individual client.
The Verdict: “I came here to take your money. I brought snapshots to show you so I could get your money. I can’t do it; I can’t take it. ‘Cause if I take the money I’m lost. I’ll just be a… rich ambulance chaser. I can’t do it. I can’t take it.”
Another medical malpractice story starring the fabulous Paul Newman, The Verdict features a once-ostracized lawyer who resists enormous personal and industry pressure to accept a large settlement for his client – because he believes, when no one else does, that his client deserves even more than that. This great movie dramatically illustrates why real-life potential clients should not be unduly “wowed” when lawyers advertise their “big-dollar” settlements – because you never know if that settlement, though large, was really as fair for the client as it was for the lawyer.
At Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we work hard every day to emulate the commitment and heroism of the lawyers – real life and fictional – who stand up for the rights of their clients despite the strength of the opposition and against the pressure to settle too early, when doing so is not in our clients’ best interests. If you live near Tampa, Florida, and need a personal injury, medical malpractice, whistleblower, or wrongful termination attorney, contact us today for a free consultation. We may not have Paul Newman’s blue eyes or Tom Cruise’s boyish good looks – but we guarantee that our attorneys will work on your case with the same passion for justice that you see in their movies.
(Movie quotes from IMDb)
Good Samaritans are usually the stuff that fuels stories of heroes. These are the ordinary citizens or the off-duty doctors and nurses who spring to the aid of someone who has been injured. They often save lives with their quick thinking and help end emergencies with better outcomes than might otherwise have occurred. Anyone can try to become a Good Samaritan, whether they have medical training or not, and Florida Statutes section 768.13 – the Good Samaritan Act – seems to offer them a certain amount of protection from civil liability for their actions… at least, when all goes well.
But what if you’ve been injured in a traffic accident or other accident and the would-be Good Samaritan who comes to your rescue actually makes things worse? What if you would have been better off if he’d left you alone? What if she was so incompetent, it seemed like she was actively trying to hurt you? What if he was trying his best, but his negligence caused you serious injury?
Whether you’ve been involved in a Good Samaritan situation as the injured victim or whether you wonder if it’s a good idea to become a Good Samaritan yourself someday, it can be helpful to keep the following points in mind:
A Good Samaritan is only protected if he provides medical care, treatment, or advice in an actual emergency situation. If there is no emergency, there is no Good Samaritan protection. Keep in mind, however, that even emergencies do not provide blanket protection to someone who does harm under the guise of a Good Samaritan.
Good Samaritans provide their services for free and act in good faith. Someone who is trying to get something for herself by “helping” you won’t qualify, and someone who neglects to show proper care won’t be fully protected.
Consent of the Injured
An injured person can refuse the help of a Good Samaritan. If that injured person is able to make decisions on their own, the Good Samaritan cannot force the person to accept any medical treatment. If the injured person says to stop, the Good Samaritan likely will not be protected.
Ordinary Reasonably Prudent
Good Samaritans offering assistance have to act in the same way that an “ordinary reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.” The definition of how “ordinary reasonably prudent” people act in a given circumstance, however, can be hard to define for every situation. Not every action of a Good Samaritan is prudent, and many injuries caused by would-be Good Samaritans are actionable by the victims. Thus, this qualification must be examined on a case-by-case basis, with a full understanding of the law and legal precedents.
If you’ve been involved in an accident and you believe that the actions of a would-be Good Samaritan on the scene made your injuries worse, it is best to consult with a qualified attorney – both about your accident and about the possibly negative actions of your “rescuer.” At the Tampa, Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore, we have been representing injured plaintiffs since 1967, and we have the experience to help you through all aspects of your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Most of us agree that qualified doctors fill an important place in our society. They take care of us when we’re sick, they may save our lives when we are at death’s door, and they help minor and major injuries heal so that we can resume our normal lives.
Because doctors are so essential to our modern society, they have been given a sort of hero status, and many patients who have been injured by a doctor’s negligence are reluctant to pursue litigation. This mindset is compounded by several myths and exaggerations, put forth by the medical profession itself, that lead patients to believe that medical malpractice suits can tear down the medical profession and should be avoided.
Fortunately for all of us, the medical profession is largely stable. Here are several important truths that combat the prevalent myths about medical malpractice suits:
Medical Malpractice Awards Do Not Bankrupt Doctors
It is a commonly-expressed fear among medical professionals that a single medical malpractice suit could wipe out their personal savings. The truth is that most medical malpractice suits are resolved for an amount that is lower than the policy limits on the doctor’s malpractice insurance. Even the cases that end up going to a jury trial rarely result in awards greater than the policy limits.
Medical Malpractice Litigation Does Not Unduly Increase the Cost of Malpractice Insurance
News reporters are after an exciting story, and unusually high jury verdicts in medical malpractice claims are tantalizing fodder. The truth is that these huge verdicts are rare enough to attract attention as a unique news story precisely because they are not the norm. Many cases are settled out of court and, even when an above-average verdict is handed down, many of them are reduced by the courts. There has been little to no actual evidence to support the claim that doctors cannot afford malpractice insurance because of malpractice litigation.
Doctors Don’t Flock to States with Damage Caps
Some people fear that, if their state doesn’t cap recovery amounts for medical malpractice claims, then doctors will become scarce in their state. The truth is that states with damage caps have, on average, merely three to seven percent more doctors per capita than states without damage caps, and those states without damage caps have seen no significant shortage in doctor availability.
Medical Malpractice Results are Not Decided by Chance
Again, the most interesting news stories involve either the mildly injured patient who received millions or the severely injured patient who received nothing. While these results might seem to suggest that claims are decided by a roll of the dice, that is not true. Across the board, the severity of injury does have a strong effect on the ultimate amount of the award. Claimants with permanent injuries receive, on average, a greater award than those with temporary injuries.
Tort Reform Won’t Significantly Lower Health Spending
Proponents of tort reform measures such as damage caps argue that lowering doctors’ liability risks will translate into doctors spending less not only on liability insurance but on the superfluous tests they now feel they have to order in an excess of caution. Studies have shown that capping medical malpractice liability has no significant effect on medical spending — leading to the conclusion that doctors are ordering the tests they think are needed, and they won’t change that practice even if their liability is reduced.
The medical malpractice system is not perfect. As with most systems, there are problems that deserve attention. But improving the system can come only when the discussion is based on truths, not premised on fear or myth.
The Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore has the experience you need to guide you through your medical malpractice claim – and we have decades of experience not only settling but aggressively litigating medical malpractice cases as well . Email us today for a free consultation.
Consult with Tampa’s medical malpractice attorneys about your case TODAY!
Some of the most horrific stories you’ll hear about are related to medical malpractice. The wrong leg is amputated, instruments are left inside patients after surgery, misdiagnosed diseases result in completely unnecessary treatments, and the list goes on. Though doctors and other medical professionals are among the most trusted professionals in society, when they make mistakes on the job, those mistakes can cost not only money, but lives.
The horror stories make it seem like medical malpractice cases are obvious and easy to prove, but that’s not always true. Patients don’t have to lose a limb or suffer severe pain to have a claim against their doctor for medical malpractice.
Ultimately, what a medical malpractice patient is required to prove in court is that:
1. The doctor failed to uphold the prevailing standard of care. This basically means that most competent doctors in your area would have diagnosed and treated you more successfully.
2. The doctor’s malpractice resulted in injury or damage to you. This can be small or large, but whether you had to pay for $1,000 of useless medication or whether you lost the use of your leg because of medical malpractice, you simply have to prove that your loss would not have happened if your doctor had done her job reasonably prudently.
Once you determine that you have suffered damage because of medical malpractice, you still need to decide whether you can prove it. It will help to have records of doctor’s bills and medications, your notes from what the doctor told you at each treatment or consultation session, and witnesses who can help prove that the damage did not exist before the treatment. It is often necessary in medical malpractice cases for another doctor or other medical expert to testify as to what the standard of care is for your area, and how your doctor’s medical malpractice caused your damage.
If you feel that you have suffered needlessly because of medical malpractice, it is best to immediately consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Such an attorney can help you decide what your damages are, what you’ll be able to prove, and what you can expect to recover in court.
If you are in need of a legal malpractice, personal injury, medical malpractice, accident, or whistleblower lawyer in Tampa, Florida, the Tampa Bay attorneys of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore would be pleased to speak with you. We fight aggressively to protect the rights of our clients. Click here or call us today at (813) 225-4000 to schedule a free consultation.