Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Hardest Case Ever

An old colleague I worked with last year has branched off and started his own personal injury firm. He randomly called me last week and asked if I would take on a legal research project for him regarding one of his cases. I was so thrilled that he not only thought of me but thought of me as a savvy, smart legal researcher! It definately pays to make a good impression on people you work with- and it is true that a lot of opportunities come about because of who you know.

I met with him in his office (he let me bring Jacob!) and reviewed the case with me. This case is a tough one. I'm usually pretty good about not becoming too emotionally involved in the cases I work on. That's mostly because as an intern/clerk, I rarely actually meet the clients. They all are just names on paper to me. While I wanted to be a lawyer to not just impact people's lives but to do so in a tangile, noticeably way, sometimes I like that I don't have to get too involved as a law clerk.

This case I am working on is the toughest case ever. It involves the worst thing I could ever imagine: the death of a child. It gets worse, the death was accidental but just horrifying. And the father, whom we represent, not only witnessed the death but probably feels very guilty for setting it up to happen- even if it's not his faut. I've been putting the case off, but today I finally opened my copy of the case file. I read the police reports, the witness statements and the autopsy report. I saw imagines of the equipment that caused the death. I almost broke down more than once. I can't stop feeling sick to my stomach.

I can't imagine the pain and the guilt the father is going through right now. There cannot be anything worse in the entire world than losing a child. I don't think I could be strong enough to handle something like that. I really don't.

I keep thinking about the role of the civil suit in this situation. I fluctuate between two extremes. 1) Just drop it and try to find healing. A child is gone. No amount of litigation can bring him back and no amount of money will make you whole. 2) Go after the negligent party without mercy. They must pay.

But at the end of the day, this horrible thing cannot be undone. Even the law has its limits.


Shelley said...

This is my world. I represent victims in child sex abuse / sex abuse litigation, and it gets gory. The parents feel guilty, the kids are hurt, and it usually is just a big emotional disaster. The best advice I can give you is to focus on the legal issues at hand and plow through it - you will be a much better lawyer for being able to objectively deal with emotionally devastating cases. By sympathizing with the client, you are in an amazing position to offer comfort. Saying, "It is not your fault that this happened" is very powerful for victims' families.

You also have an automatic answer for, "What was the hardest case you ever worked on, and why?" as well as the answer on "How did you deal with it?"

Googie Baba said...

Cee, that sounds just horrible. I've had a hard time in law school as a parent. I hate the cases where kids get hurt. I am not rationale at all. Everyone else wants to discuss the legal issues, and I am like "Hang the Bastards!"

PT-LawMom said...

Ugh, I do NOT envy you. I am proud of/congratulate you for taking this on. On the other hand, how difficult this must be! ((HUGS)) Since my son was born, I feel sick anytime something happens to a child (or, for that matter, to a parent). I can't stand reading about Natasha Richardson right now and thinking about her boys. :(