2 clients of ours were visiting at another couple’s home one evening. As the discussions turned to firearms, the homeowner invited them out to his garage to see his Glock .40 caliber handgun.
As the Homeowner demonstrated the safe handling of this weapon, it discharged. The gun, fortunately was pointed downward at the floor when it fired.
However, this caliber is preferred by many police departments for its “knock-down power.” (For those unfamiliar with such things, caliber is usually measured in inches, so this .40 caliber cartridge is just under 1/2 inch wide).
The unintended firing launched the bullet into the concrete floor at a speed of about 1200 feet per second (f.p.s.).
The exploding concrete shattered pelting all in the room, including both homeowners, their child, and my clients, Barry and Marcia. Fragments of concrete had buried themselves in the occupants legs, and arms. Tragically, a piece of concrete flew directly into her eye socket.
As the homeowner checked to see if everyone was okay, it became clear that she was not, in fact, okay.
She had multiple surgeries to try and save her eyesight, and then just her eye. Eventually, she lost her eye and had to be fitted with a artificial eye, commonly referred to as a “glass eye.” Interestingly, a glass eye is not round as is commonly thought of, rather, it is flat on the back. Further, I learned that there are some very talented professionals out there who actually hand paint the tiny veins and colors on the prosthesis.
Marcia was the nice lady that I always spoke to when dropping off my dry cleaning. She worked behind the counter and was an attractive 43 year old lady.
I received a call from her about this shooting accident. Apparently, she knew I was a personal injury trial attorney and a Christian, which was important to her. She made clear from the start her desire that she not sue her friends. However, understandably, she needed compensation to help restore the incalculable losses in her life.
As we lived through her surgeries with her, she became the sweetheart of our office staff. She had a great attitude and was obviously a survivor. Nevertheless, the damages she suffered were life-changing.
For instance, since she lost her vision on one side totally, she has no peripheral vision to help her drive. To help me understand this, I closed my left eye as I drove through intersections and so forth. I was physically unable to keep that eye shut out of fear that I would get blind-sided or hit a child, etc.
She said that people stared at the glass eye, even though it was hard to tell the difference, people could. One of the things a glass eye does not always do well is “track”, or move in concert with the other eye. This made her increasingly self-conscious. She spent her workdays facing new people every few minutes, with each reminding her of her new disfigurement.
Also, the eye would lay open sometimes when she slept, which took her husband a while to get used to. She felt much less attractive generally, and certainly she felt He would not want to be with her in her new state.
And, without stereoscopic vision, one looses almost all depth perception. For instance, hanging clothes on a free standing hook would almost always prove frustrating for her, though she did it hundreds of times a day. She eventually learned to just grab the hook with one hand and bring her hands together to hang the clothes.
She also had to clean this “glass eye” and have a new one made every so often. This is a particularly gruesome task, as her eye socket is empty during the cleaning.
As a solo practitioner doing personal injury cases, I had handled premises liability cases before. But this one was different and the damages were so meaningful and personal. I really needed a way to convey this to the insurance company and try settling this case. As I said, my client had said court is only a last resort, so I had to try the case in settlement negotiations.
I discovered that the homeowners had a million dollar umbrella policy. But, I was not buoyed by the fact that this was a case against Allstate.
Recalling my training under the near-legendary Jim Lockard of Lockard, Bingham & Kaplan in Memphis (former TTLA President) I knew I had to “tell her story” effectively. He had used “Day in the Life Films” successfully for years.
So, I looked into having a professional videographer do a demand tape in the same manner. However, this injury had a “raw” sense to it, and I really wanted that to come across. I did not want it to be overly clean and polished.
Finally, I decided to just use a video camera and interview Barry and Marcia and see how it went. All I can tell you is that there was not a dry eye in the room. I asked open questions as I do in trial, and she and Barry told their story.
How it affected their companionship. How she feels in public. What it is like to greet people daily who stare. How scary it is to start driving again without peripheral vision. How frustrating it is not be able to hang clothes on a hook on the first three tries.
He also had an additional claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. So he spoke of that along with the loss of consortium.
I then asked her to remove her glass eye and demonstrate the cleaning she had to do to it, and what she looked like without it.
It was all there…all that I hoped would come across.
In the end, I had less than $200.00 in expenses in the case. Of that, there were a few two-dollar copies of the videotaped demand. We had settled and disbursed two days short of the statute of limitations, without ever filing suit against the Allstate-insured homeowners.
And, they settled their cases for $850,000.00.
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