In this episode, Scott speaks with Grant Lawson, a personal injury attorney from Casper, Wyoming. Mr. Lawson shares the story of a wrongful death case that helped him realize his life-long goal of helping people.
Transcript for Trial Lawyer Talk, Episode 28, with Grant Lawson
Scott Glovsky: Welcome to Trial Lawyer Talk. I’m Scott Glovsky and I’m your host for this podcast where we speak with some of the best trial lawyers in the United States. This is a storytelling podcast so we have great lawyers tell great stories from cases that had a profound impact on them so let’s get started.
Very happy to be sitting with a phenomenal trial lawyer, Grant Lawson, who practices in Casper, Wyoming, but has tried cases all over the country and handles very serious personal injury cases of all kinds. Grant, thanks so much for being with us.
Grant Lawson: Thank you, Scott. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Scott Glovsky: Can you share with us a story that had a profound impact on you?
Grant Lawson: When I was probably a couple years into my practice, I had the absolute fortune of representing a great family in Wyoming who lost their son who was in his mid-20’s who also left behind a two-year old boy in the oil field, he was out working and lost his life on a drilling rig. I became exceptionally close with that family and it became the first time in my career where the case was more than just a case. The case was so deep in meaning to me and I was so attached and so committed to these people that it really made me realize what I wanted to do with the rest of my career and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and that was help people, help people that had been wronged and try to make things right for others out there who have suffered injustice.
Scott Glovsky: How did you become close with the family?
Grant Lawson: I spent a lot of time with them. I went to their house. I went to their home and became their family. I became family with them. I became someone who went and had dinner with them, went and had breakfast with them, went and walked … Went to the cemetery and talked to their dead son with them. I did things that I had never done before. I just became a friend and I became real with these people. It wasn’t just, “Hey, let’s show up. I got to prep you for your deposition.” It was, “I want to know about your life. Where did you come from? How did you get to where you are today? Who are you inside?” When you take that time with your clients and the people that you represent, it’s magical what you discover and it’s magical how that translates to real true emotion and feeling in front of a jury.
Scott Glovsky: Well, you’re there in a cemetery. Tell us that story of that day.
Grant Lawson: Boy, that was tough. I’d never done something like that before and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we showed up there and they introduced me to him. They introduced me to Alan was his name. I gave that family a chance to just talk with their son. I was just a witness to how the pain, the just raw pain of the loss of this loved one and their life. I was just amazed by what I learned about this man who was dead, this young man, what I learned through the family because we just took the time to care and just took the time to listen and just took the time to cut through the BS.
When I left that place, I felt like, wow, this is a whole new level that I’ve just discovered in terms of how to connect with my clients and how to get real with my clients and how to help tell their story.
Scott Glovsky: What did you learn about this family?
Grant Lawson: I learned that they were hardworking, great, great Wyoming folks who deeply loved the … The family connection was deep and they loved each other. It just embodied the relationship … That family relationship embodies everything that we stand for as Americans, you know? Love and commitment and forgiveness and all of those key ingredients that you have to have in a family. I just know that that family made me almost a little sad, jealous to the extent that I didn’t have as close of a relationship with my own family, with my parents, with my siblings as they did.
It made me admire them even more because it made me want to aspire to be that type of family. At the time I wasn’t married yet, I didn’t have a child. I’ve taken that now with me, what I’ve learned from that family and how they loved each other and how they were committed to each other and how they believed in each other and had forgiveness when they’d make mistakes. All of those things that I never really had or learned with my own family I now have incorporated into my life with my wife and my children or my child, I should say.
Boy, it’s just … That family really, really opened my eyes to a whole different world. In turn, I was able to tell their story better than they could because I got to see all angles and all perspectives of it and, really, it was amazing.
Scott Glovsky: Tell us a story … You sought out to discover the story.
Grant Lawson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Glovsky: What did you do to discover the story?
Grant Lawson: Wow. One of the things I did was I asked them to send me pictures of this young man’s entire childhood and when I saw that this young man was a wrestler at age four and five years old, I actually got with the father and learned about how passionate this young man was about wrestling. When I went to the home, I got to see his trophies. I got to see his singlet. They keep wrestling singlets that are still in his bedroom today, that they’re still there. I got to discover what this young man loved and he loved wrestling. He loved his golden retriever. He loved his dog. He loved his family. Of course, the family loved him and I got to learn who he was, who he is.
All through that, I also got to learn who the family was. The father, this tough, gruff man from Wyoming with forearms like Popeye. Just a deep voice and just a very strong personality and character, but boy, you melt through that and he was as soft as a marshmallow and as loving and tender as anyone can be about his son and that loss … The loss to him was so profound and so great that it destroyed him in many ways. It destroyed his spirit and I spent a lot of time discovering how bad that hurt him and how bad that affected his life and how he could go forward, how he could move forward from that point. The mother as well. The mother, of course, was devastated as well, but she had her own story as well. So did the sister.
As I spent more time with the family, the more trips I went to their home or the more time that we went and had coffee, I learned more and more about this family and about who they were and in turn, I was able to really step inside of their stories and tell their stories.
Scott Glovsky: Please continue. What happened in working up their story?
Grant Lawson: What happened … One of the most incredible things is that I was in the process of the discovery of this case and why this young man died and I took the deposition of a man who was responsible for part of this drilling operation and I did something I had never done before and that was I forced myself to try some of these things that we preach and we teach at the trial lawyers college and I really utilized setting the scene and first person techniques and then stepping inside of the hide of this man. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced where this man lost track of time and space and was honest about how he made a huge fatal error that cost this man’s life.
Scott Glovsky: Can you give us a piece of that?
Grant Lawson: I went back to the rig and we were there in that room that day, but we were really on the drilling rig platform. We set that scene in the deposition with all of the machinery, with the pipes, and the … What are called tongs would grab the pipe.
Scott Glovsky: Can you take us back in the depo and for our listeners out there that really don’t have a sense and give us a piece of how you took him there?
Grant Lawson: I asked him to stop and think for a minute. I said, “Sir, if you could, please, I want you to just stop and for a minute let’s not talk. Just think about that day. Think about what the weather was like and what the temperature was like, what the smells … What smells do we smell here. Who was there? What were you wearing? How did you feel?” I asked him to really get into that place at that time. After I asked him to do that, he looked at me and was a little bit perplexed, but he did what I asked.
He was kind enough to go along with what I asked him to do and it really helped because he remembered it was a brutally cold day. It was absolutely frigid. It was below zero and the wind was blowing. It was a cloudy, dismal day. It fit the mood obviously for what happened that day, but the smells of the oil, the petroleum, the diesel from the engines. You could taste it because it was so thick and it was right there. Then how loud it was, this equipment, just the grinding and the high pressure hoses that were running from the generators. Boy, it was just amazing because we were there. He set that scene for us and we were on that drilling rig platform working like a bunch of roughnecks and [inaudible 00:12:35] and drillers. We were there.
That technique really, really did … It brought us back to that moment in time and we lived it. We lived through that moment in time and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced.
Scott Glovsky: What happened next?
Grant Lawson: What happened next was I asked him … I had him go through exactly the motions that he went through on that day before this young man was killed. He didn’t have an opportunity to think about anything other than the truth. He only had the opportunity because he was in the moment to be real. He only had the opportunity to tell the truth and the truth that he knew. Boy, it was, thankfully, damning to him and for the family because after we got through it, it was like a light bulb went off and I go like, “God, what just happened? Oh, I better go back and try to change things now,” but the damage was done. The story was real. It was out and we learned that he did not properly set up this equipment and he did not warn these guys about the dangers of the equipment and because of that, it killed this man. I saw it in his eyes and he realized it too. It was very powerful. One of the most powerful … Still to this day I’ll take that with me forever.
Scott Glovsky: What’s next in the story of the case?
Grant Lawson: What’s next was we fought the fight, we fought the battle for as long as we had to and we took on the corporation, this big oil company that this guy was working for and found out how they just didn’t give a shit about safety and how everything was just an absolute lie. They put out these policies and procedure, safety requirements. Well, not only were they not teaching their employees that, but nobody even gave a shit. It was drill, baby, drill and let’s go get that money. Let’s go get that black gold. That really helped us going forward with getting that case resolved and I still think about the lessons from that case and how I apply those to all the oil and gas cases, all the drilling cases that I do these days.
Scott Glovsky: Where was Grant Lawson’s connection to your story? To your client?
Grant Lawson: Right. My connection to Alan … He was only a couple years younger than me when he died. He was a Wyoming boy. He grew up in Wyoming. He was a quintessential Wyoming boy. He had a golden retriever. I had a golden retriever. He hunted. He fished. I hunted. I fished. I saw myself in him because I used to be a wild land firefighter. I used to know what it was like to work. I was out there in treacherous conditions just like this young man was on his drilling rig. I just saw him. I saw him in me. I saw me in him. However you want to say it.
I shared in that emotion with the family and I think that that’s why they came to trust in me too because they know they could see that I was so deeply connected to that man and I still get pretty emotional about it these days because it could’ve been me or a lot of my friends who made that decision to go out in life and go work in the oil field because that’s what you did in Wyoming. You’d go out and be tough and go make that great paycheck and a lot of my friends did that too. Boy, I almost went that route as well and I could relate. I could relate and so that’s how I connected.
I connected with the love that that family had for each other and how I had family members as well that I was close to, but I also had other family members that I wasn’t. It just brought me back to my childhood with my family and just how precious time and life was in those days, but you didn’t know it. Now looking back how you cherish those moments.
I had a great experience with that case and I take it with me every day. I still think about it.
Scott Glovsky: I see your tears. If you tears could talk, what would they say?
Grant Lawson: You know, you always get so involved in these cases, you always get so wrapped … Oops, sorry. You always get so wrapped up, you always get so involved in these cases when you care about your clients that you always hope that you do the best job you can for them and hopefully there’s no regrets. Hopefully there’s no lasting feelings of did I make the right decision for this family? Did I help them? Did I work hard enough for them? Did I counsel them? Did I advise them properly? Did I do all these things? I think I did, but I still always wonder. I wonder that with every case that I do with these clients that I get close with. If I’m doing as much as I can for them and making the best out of the time that I have on this earth to help them.
Scott Glovsky: Do you ever feel like maybe I’m not good enough?
Grant Lawson: Always. There’s always a better lawyer out there. There’s always going to be a whatever. There’s always going to be tough breaks and good breaks, depending on what happens, but I’m always fearful that I’m not good enough and I’m not doing enough and I can’t be good enough or do good enough or work hard enough. It’s tough. I struggle with it a lot. I have to remind myself that I can only do the job that I can do. I can only do my best and my best can’t always be compared to other people. It just has to be my best and so, yeah, I struggle. I struggle with that a lot.
Scott Glovsky: I know you mentioned that you’re a firefighter. What did you learn fighting fires in treacherous conditions that has impacted your lawyering?
Grant Lawson: You know, those days were incredible. I developed bonds with men and women out on the fire line that is hard to compare to anything else in terms of being out there in dangerous conditions for days on end and hours on end and you’ve got to depend on everybody around you just like they are depending on you. What I guess it really prepared me for which I didn’t know at the time, is that I was going to become somebody that people really depended upon and really trusted in and really believed in and I didn’t know that at the time, but it helped prepare me for that. It helped prepare me for being a leader and to have people trust in me and to gain that trust and to take that trust very, very serious and be on top of it because we have been given the blessing of helping people or protecting people. Boy, we got to just make sure that we always always keep that in the forefront of our mind that it is blessing.
Scott Glovsky: At your funeral, what do you want your son to say about you? I don’t mean publicly.
Grant Lawson: Scott, yeah, you asked a real tearjerker there, right? As you can tell. I love my son more than anything in the world and I just hope that when I die, my son will look back through all the years and say, “He was the best dad he could be and I love him.” I think that’s all I could ask for.
Scott Glovsky: Grant, I’m so thankful for you spending time with us today because you are an incredibly powerful lawyer, an incredibly powerful person and you’re a role model for all of us. I’m so appreciative on behalf of your clients and I really want a hundred years from now for your son to listen to this episode because you’ve not only given us a gift, but you’ve given him a gift. Thank you very much for sharing your wisdom with us.
Grant Lawson: Hey, thank you, Scott. This is just such an great opportunity and I absolutely appreciate you giving me a chance to talk with you today. This is great so thank you.
Scott Glovsky: Thank you.