Think Before You Jump
Over 30 years of practicing law, I have represented plaintiffs and defendants in all sorts of litigation. Much of it has been commercial litigation (involving businesses and their disputes) and much of it has involved clients that were injured.
The Rules of Professional Responsibility, which lawyers must follow, require that the lawyer help the client understand the likely ramifications of their actions and the process to expect. This is a great rule intended to protect the client. All too often I have seen cases brought by other lawyers where the end result to the client financially and/or emotionally was not in my opinion worth it.
As our office has gotten more and more involved in the tragedy around the sexual misconduct of Dr. George Reardon, I have had an opportunity to sit with clients and discuss their rights and the ramifications of acting on those rights. It is beyond this article and my expertise to discuss the cause of repressed memory or the specific effects of reliving past experiences.
I have watched clients in this context, and in others before these cases where a client has suffered a deep emotional injury, recall more and more detail that they indicated they had forgotten. I have watched clients talk about things that although they had remembered, they had not discussed it with anyone before. I have watched and heard from some of these clients details of both the liberating effect of recalling more information or voicing the truth as well as for some the pain of reliving earlier nightmares. Clients have described the strength they feel when demanding justice and speaking out, especially to help to change the system. Money is no substitute for the hurt but it often helps with related or unrelated expenses. More importantly, for some of our clients, paying damage awards do force those who might act irresponsibly to consider their future actions and to face the consequences of their past actions.
In the end, the decision to pursue a claim is a decision the injured party, my client, must make. It is a decision that I encourage people to make with the assistance of their loved ones and if appropriate a trained therapist. Will the depositions which inevitably come result in a sense of liberation and a feeling of the control that comes with fighting back for justice and to change future conduct? Will those same depositions result in further unnecessary pain? As a lawyer I can only pose the questions it is the client that makes that decision. The vast majority of cases settle before trial; but if the case does not settle, will telling the truth at trial in front of a jury of ones peers – of the pain and describing the conduct of the defendant be liberating or an unnecessary burden?
The justice system is intended to shift some hurt to the one who is to blame for that hurt. The justice system is available so that those who want to fight back can, but it should be an informed decision to pursue cases such as these. Those who want to simply move on can do so. Fighting back as an individual not only results in a hurt to the other side – they pay damages – but it also serves a valid public purpose of encouraging those that had an opportunity to control those who commit bad acts to be vigilant so that this conduct is not repeated by others in the future.
In the end the decision is that of the individual. Before jumping in consider whether this will be a cleansing experience and expect your lawyer to help you by providing details of what you might expect in the process. Take the time to decide.