By Paul F. Leavis, Esq.

      When I was thirteen years old, my mother fell down the cellar steps in our home on Christmas Day.  The fall shattered her right arm, resulting in thirteen separate fractures.  I have a distinct memory of standing at the head of the stairs holding my new football, while the Woburn police and emergency personnel prepared my mother for transport to the hospital.  Her arm was repaired with screws, plates and a rod that ran from her elbow to her wrist.  The doctors told her she would never regain full use of her limb.

      With five kids and a stubborn Irish temperament, my mother hung laundry and scrubbed floors as her physical therapy.  Over time, and defying predictions, my mother pretty much regained full use of her arm.

      Years later, surgeons removed the rod because it was “backing out” and threatening to protrude through the skin above my mother’s elbow.  The rod was fashioned with a small hook at one end that acted as a handle in facilitating its removal.  Ever practical, my mom kept the stainless steel rod and used it in ensuing years as a knitting hook. 

      Because of my age, much of my mother’s experience arising from this accident more or less washed over my conscious existence.  Only at a subconscious level did what I see apparently take hold.

      When I was seventeen, my father underwent reconstructive surgery to repair a chronically damaged shoulder that resulted in recurrent dislocations.  Prior to the operation, my dad worked two jobs in order to meet the needs of his family.  The surgery proved to be a disaster.  He awoke with a right arm that did not work.  Worse, the slightest breeze or the touch of clothes made his arm feel as if it was on fire.  Today, his condition would probably be called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.   I’m not sure it had a name back then.  I only remember that because of his injured arm, my dad did not work for a long time; was in agony for much of the time; and it created financial nightmares for both of my parents for the next several years.  Again, though I was not mature enough at the time to fully appreciate what my parents went through as a consequence of these events, I have two lasting memories:

      The first is probably a testimony to how self-absorbed I was as a teenager.  It is of the time when my father told me that I couldn’t expect any help from them with the cost of college.  The second memory, somewhat less specific, is of coming home one fall afternoon from a weekly touch football game to witness my parents sitting at the kitchen table, moving bills from pile to pile trying to figure out which to pay and which to defer.

      I did not become a trial lawyer because of my parents’ experiences or my memories of their consequences.  When my parents were hurt, the thought of litigation was a foreign concept to me.  Besides, my mother was hurt falling down the stairs in her own home.  That I became a trial lawyer was more the result of chance, good fortune and the largesse of others.  Whatever the reasons, I became a trial lawyer; and doing so, I became an advocate for people injured and suffering through the negligence of others.

      The importance of our role as advocates for those in need cannot be overshadowed by political posturing and public misconception.  Recently, I watched Karl Rove interviewed on “Meet the Press” (some might say that I need a hobby).  In response to a question about Iraq and WMD’s, Rove somehow worked into his answer a comment that a major problem in this country is that there are too many frivolous lawsuits brought by trial lawyers.  While admiring Rove’s facile agility of avoiding straightforward questions, I was nonetheless roiled at the sloganistic reference to our legal system and my apparent role within it.

      Are there frivolous lawsuits?  I would perhaps be naïve to suggest that no such thing exists.  But, here is my point.  Every day people’s lives are turned upside down because of the actions of others.  They didn’t ask for it, they certainly didn’t want it; and in most cases, they are ill-prepared to deal with it.   At the same time they are confronted by intractable insurers intent on denying or minimalizing their claims.  Frequently, the members of MATA are all that stand between our clients and financial ruin.

      I am proud to be a trial attorney.   I am proud that in the course of my daily activities I strive to un-due some small part of the financial, physical and emotional devastation that all too often results when people are injured.  Not all injuries are compensable.  My parents’ experiences are evidence of that fact.  The consequences of these injuries are all too real however.   As Members of MATA we should not be shy of what we do.  Our clients need us.  We need constantly and vigorously to stand up for our clients and what is right.  If we don’t who will?  That my friends, is hardly frivolous.









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