I hate the New England Patriots. I started rooting against them the minute they started getting good in 2001. While I hate Tom Brady as a byproduct, I have to admit that — notwithstanding maybe Bridget Moynahan — he is pretty much the epitome of what we want our great athletes to be.
Adding to my hatred of the Patriots, I’ve sued — and settled — a malpractice case against the Pats in which they took a score of ridiculous positions, including the position that the claim should be arbitrated by the CBA, a claim they first made years after the case was filed. Their arrogance over the course of the case was pretty much what you would expect. The idea of settlement was completely ridiculous until the point where it wasn’t. But I long admired their winning
and, it goes without saying, the breadth and scope of their evil.
Over the years, one theme I have revisited on my blogs is the distorted perception people have in regards to our civil justice system’s administration of personal injury cases. In my mind, there are two main distorters – maybe a word I made up – that mislead people: large jury verdicts and how the civil justice system treats famous people. Prime example: Tom Brady’s Deflategate lawsuit which I really think underscores some of these distortions.
The public has a hard time distinguishing between how these famous people lawsuits proceed and the real world of personal injury cases. The tort reformer recognizes this difficultly and exploits the inability of the public to divorce this fantasy world from the real world of our clients who have been badly hurt or lost someone they desperately loved.
Let’s Pick the Judge and Jurisdiction We Like Best
The NFL denied Brady’s appeal and immediately filed suit in New York to get the court’s approval of the arbitration rule and to keep a single judge in Minnesota who is said to be “player-friendly” from hearing the cases. The working unquestioned assumption was that they could file in Minnesota — which has absolutely no connection to the claim — and handpick the judge that would hear the case.
From this, the public concludes that I can file my typical wrongful death lawsuit anywhere in Maryland I want and — if I am a connected insider; I guess —I can pick the judge I want to hear the case.
In the real world that plaintiffs’ trial lawyers live in every day, nothing could be further from the truth. If you do not have a legitimate connection to the jurisdiction you want to be in (Baltimore City or P.G. County in 98% of my cases), you will be booted out of that jurisdiction pretty quickly.
As it turns out, they did not draw Judge David Doty; instead drew Judge Richard Kyle, who kicked the case back to New York. But that is the footnote at the end of the story. The take-home message for John Q. Public is that you pick the judge you want to hear the case.
How Fast Things Progress
My goodness, the pace of the rulings in these lawsuits is made for television. Setting aside the 7 months it took for the NFL to give a ruling, look at how fast the parties have moved and how quickly the civil justice system has processed this case. The NFL filed suit immediately. Tom Brady filed hours later in Minnesota. A judge was immediately assigned. The judge issues a ruling sending the case back to New York within just a few days. In New York, the judge is immediately assigned and issues an order on the case within days; urging the parties to work it out and stop scorching the earth.
Now let’s take a look at my world. I have to wait until the victim reaches maximum medical improvement. Then I have to finish collecting the medical records. I may need to get an expert opinion before sending out the demand package. Once the demand package is out the door – we wait for the insurance company. If we have to file suit, we have to track down the defendant and get him served, and then wait 30-60 days for an answer. The wheels of justice move slowly.
In fairness, this is not necessarily the court just catering to the rich and famous. This is not a personal injury case. This is an injunctive aspect of this case. Brady needs immediate relief from the suspension or his claim will be extinguished. But the public is not seeing this nuance. Instead, they see a plaintiff who can choose whatever forum and judge he wants and can get justice in the near blink of an eye. From this, they conclude that we need to bend the arc towards defendants with caps on damages, the rigid statute of limitations (with a Bill Cosby exception, of course, because that is the only statute of limitations injustice in human history), and other legislation to frustrate a victim’s ability to go before a jury and get a fair verdict if an injustice has been done to him.
In summary, I will say that we now have another reason to hate Tom Brady; besides having the wife, the looks, and the being the best quarterback of his generation.