Welcome to Trial Lawyer Talk. In this episode, we talk with the great Houston trial lawyer Michael Callahan. Michael discusses a fascinating trial in which he brought his client’s story to
Michael Callahan is a trial lawyer based in Houston, Texas. He and his law firm focus on representing individuals and families in catastrophic injury cases including those involving truck accidents, auto accidents, workplace accidents and defective products. Michael has been licensed to practice law for over 20 years and is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He can found at www.TheCallahanLawFirm.com.
Transcript for Trial Lawyer Talk, Episode 1, with Michael Callahan
Scott Glovsky: Welcome to trial lawyer talk. I’m Scott Glovsky and I’m your host for this podcast. We’re going to talk to some of the best trial lawyers in United States. We’re going to talk to civil lawyers, criminal lawyer, jury consultants, and others that I think will have some interesting stories, that are both entertaining and insightful.
My goal here, is to give you a view inside the hearts, and the minds, and the souls of great trial lawyers. We’re not going to talk about the law, but I guarantee you that you’ll learn a lot about trial from the stories you’re going to hear from our great guests. So I hope you enjoy the podcast, let’s get started.
Welcome to trial lawyer talk. I’m very, very that today we have a phenomenal trial lawyer as our guest. Michael Callahan, from Houston, TX, who is one of the most genuine, authentic, and caring people I know. Michael has had tremendous success in very, very difficult jurisdictions in Texas. Getting justice for people, who have been severely injured, in all kinds of personal injury cases. Michael, thank you very much for being with us today.
Michael Callahan: Scott, thank you for having me. I’m honored to be here, and quite frankly flattered by those very kind words that you just said.
Scott Glovsky: Michael, can you tell me about a case that profoundly changed you as a lawyer, or as a person?
Michael Callahan: There are a number of cases that come to mind. But I think the one that stands out the most is the Lumpkin’s case. Brief facts about the case, I was honored to represent a 27-year-old woman, who while on the job was driving a 15-passenger van. I think she had about seven elderly disabled patients in her van.
She’s traveling on one of the freeways in Houston, and has a blowout of one of her tires. While trying to get off the road, she was steering towards one of the exits, a fully loaded cement truck came over an overpass, and the driver wasn’t paying attention, and crashed through the back of the van at about 55-65 mph. Essentially crushed it in half and sent it about 100 yards down the freeway before it finally came to a stop.
All her passengers were killed. Aries, who was a single mother at the time, 27 years old, it shattered certain levels in her spine, and she’s now a paraplegic. There was a lot of challenging issues in the case. The deck was very much stacked against her for a number of reason. It was a fight. It was a slough for about…. I was hired and we worked at the case, within two years we went to trial on the case, and got a verdict on it.
Scott Glovsky: Michael, you said the deck was really stacked against her.
Michael Callahan: Right, the deck was very much stacked against her.
Scott Glovsky: Tell me about that.
Michael Callahan: Oh gosh, where do I start? First of all, the company she was working for had a lot of problems. Her boyfriend actually owned the company. He had a couple of vans that were in less than stellar condition; they weren’t maintained properly. The van she was driving that day…
What she would do, she would drive around to the homes where these people lived, these elderly disabled folks. Pick them up, and then take them out to a daycare facility, where they would undergo rehabilitation, psychological counseling, and that kind of thing.
She would stay with them throughout the day, and at the end of the day she would transport them back to their respective homes. There was a housekeeper there, in the sense that someone that would make them meals and take care of these folks. Assisted living homes is what they were.
So Aries’ boyfriend has a couple of vans. He hired her to drive one of the vans. The vans were in just horrible condition. I think the van she was in that day, we’re in Texas, it had Virginia license plates on it, that’s not such a bad thing in and of itself. But the license plates expired, the registration sticker, about three years past, expired inspection sticker.
Tape over the taillights, I think it was missing the rear view mirror, it was just in terrible condition and really should not have been on the road. But she was a single mother and doing the best she could. This was the job she had, and that was the equipment she was given to do the work; so she did the best she could.
Scott Glovsky: What other challenges in her case, besides the fact that the van was not in let’s just say ideal condition.
Michael Callahan: Also the tires were essentially bald, and one of the tires blew out. Just before this crash happened, one of the tires went flat. She took it to a small mom and pop shop, maybe 30 minutes before this crash happened, where they supposedly changed out her tire and put another tire on it that was not in the best condition. That was the tire that ended up blowing out.
On top of that, the vehicle that hit her was a fully loaded cement truck, owned by a company called Cemex. It was at that time, and I think it still is the largest cement company in North America, and one of the largest in the world. It’s based out of Mexico. Cemex has a very big presence in Houston, TX.
Quite frankly, they do a lot for the community, especially in my view the policing community. I’ve got a very good relationship with the local police force there. So after this crash, the police come out to the scene within a few minutes. Cemex supervisors, including their risk manager, were out at the scene as well. Cemex brought one of its experts, and acted a reconstruction at the scene. They’re taking pictures; they’re taking measurements.
It’s not just the impression I got. I think what very much happened is Cemex and the local police force, they very much circled the wagons around Cemex. The conclusion by the investigating officer was that Aries was 100% at fault for this crash.
They went out and talking to witnesses. In my view coerced, it’s a hard word to say, and it’s a hard accusation to make. I think they very much coerced about five or six witnesses into saying things, and then signing statements that turned out not to be 100% accurate.
Scott Glovsky: I understand that your client may have had some other issues that made her not quite sympathetic, let’s say.
Michael Callahan: Yeah, the main one is this, her back is broken, and they take her to the local hospital. They’re running all sorts of tests on her. One of the test they run, of course, is a urinalysis. The hard truth is, the urinalysis results came back, and she tested positive for what’s called benzoyl, which is component of cocaine. When a person ingests cocaine, the body breaks it down, and benzoylecgonine is one of those residual components. She tested positive for it.
So we had that in the case, that she had ingested cocaine at some time before the crash. Of course, Cemex and their lawyers wanted to say she was under the influence at the time. But the urinalysis did not indicate that she was under the influence, it’s just that she had within 72 hours or so, before the crash on this Monday morning; that she had ingested cocaine.
Scott Glovsky: So tell me the story of how this case changed you. In other words, what you did to work up this case, and what impact it had on you.
Michael Callahan: Oh goodness. Where to start? I remember when I first got called up to the hospital by the family. Went up, went into the ICU, and Aries was in and out of consciousness. Then I talked to her, and it was just hard to see her there that first time. I mean, just a beautiful young lady, African American young lady, and just gorgeous. If she could stand up, I think she was 5’10-5’11.
She was from southern California, that’s where she grew up. In high school, she ran track, she was on the cheerleading squad, just really a physically beautiful person, and also a beautiful soul. Very soft spoken, lovely, and delicate, in many ways my heart went out to her, and just fell in love with her and who she was at that moment.
At that point, she knew she couldn’t feel her legs. But I’m not sure if she knew that the ultimate diagnosis was, even though I was told what it was. Then I met her son, she had an 8-year-old son. It broke my heart. It was just a very sad story. She was a single mother, so it was just the two of them.
Then we started investigating at the police report, and saw that the officers… This lead officer, he heads up the action at the reconstruction division at HPD, the Houston Police Department, at the time. He had been involved in a number of high profile accident investigations and reconstructions.
One of which was, a female dentist down in Clear Lake, TX, who caught her husband cheating one time. So she decided to run him over, and ended up running him over multiple times, I shouldn’t make light of it, and ended up killing him. She went to trial, and he was the key witness that put her behind bars. He was involved in a number of other high profile accident reconstructions. He was a formidable witness, and he was against us.
Really the first six months or so, my focus was getting to know Aries, and just doing whatever I could for her. Then focusing on the liability part of the case because that’s where I thought the problem was, and it certainly was.
Scott Glovsky: How did you get to know Aries, and what did you do for her?
Michael Callahan: I would visit her at the hospital frequently, while she was there. Then she was released to a rehab facility, and I would go up there and visit. Stayed in touch with her sister and other family member, and tried to help out in whatever way that I could with her son. I remember the day that she was released from the rehab facility.
Was she really ready to be released? I mean, she could have used a lot more rehab. But unfortunately, she didn’t have the finances or the health insurance to continue getting the kind of rehab that I think would have helped her. I mean, it wouldn’t have resulted in her walking again, she’s a permanent paraplegic. I think she had a five or six level fusion in her lumbar and thoracic spine, and you can’t undo that.
So she got discharged from the hospital to apartment. Obviously couldn’t work, didn’t have any health insurance. Her family couldn’t do a lot to help her out financially. Part of my job, as I saw it, was to care for her. Not only in terms of handling the case, but I did everything I could to help support her financially, and support her son financially, while we tried to help her with the legal case. That involved finding an appropriate apartment for her, on the first floor that had a ramp for her wheelchair, and helping her with bills.
She had follow up appointments as well, and that was very difficult because how was she supposed to get around. We had to coordinate with the city of Houston for wheelchair accessible van to come and pick her up. Needless to say, it was never on time, it was always running late; an hour late, two hours late. They would finally get to her doctor’s appointment, and then the doctor couldn’t see her because she was late. So she would have to reschedule.
It was just a challenge after challenge. I spent I don’t know how many hours at her house just sitting and visiting with her, and doing what I could to take care of her, and to get to know her. Get a better since of what she’s going through, get a sense of who she was before the crash happened. It took probably six or eight months before she was ready to talk with me about what happened that day, leading up to the crash.
Scott Glovsky: How often would you see her in that six to eight months?
Michael Callahan: I’d say throughout the time I handled the case, I would go out to her apartment and spend time with her, at least once and sometimes two or three times a month.
Scott Glovsky: How many hours do you think you spent with her throughout the case?
Michael Callahan: Oh goodness. That’s tough to estimate. A lot, enough to get to know her very well.
Scott Glovsky: Yeah, hundreds?
Michael Callahan: Well figure four hours a month for 24 months. What was that? 96 hours, and that’s just to go out and visit her. But then also, many times I was spending a lot more time than that with her to review medical bills, to help her understand what happened that day. Of course, through the trial lawyer college, we learned these techniques to discover the story in doing psychodrama. I had a psychodramatist come down and we worked for a couple of days with her in a big group. Kathy St. Clair, came and worked with us. So those were a couple 10 hour days.
I had her at my office a couple of times, not that many times. Because it was just easier for me to go to see her, and bring a stack of medical records, or bring a stack of documents, and work with her. Yeah, 100’s of hours, yes.
Scott Glovsky: Tell me why this case has a profound impact on you?
Michael Callahan: Because she was such an underdog. I saw the beautiful person, again not just physically, but beautiful through and through. Someone who tried to do the right thing, who struggled, who was doing the best that she could. Who didn’t always make the best decisions, but who does amongst us? Then this happens to her, and it seems like instead of people reaching out to try to help her, everyone was against her.
It just touched me. I think everybody has had the feeling before, where you don’t have a chance, or someone you know doesn’t stand a chance. They are such an underdog, and the deck is completely stacked against them. There was just something about her case, and about her, that I couldn’t give up. So we just kept fighting and fighting and fighting it.
The thing is, the first six or eight months I was focused on the liability part of the case, which means how the crash happened.
Scott Glovsky: You just mentioned that the deck was stacked against her, and it seemed like she had little. Did that resonate with you personally?
Michael Callahan: Oh yeah.
Scott Glovsky: How so?
Michael Callahan: I can’t speak for all people, but the many times in my life that I’ve felt like the underdog, where people didn’t believe in me. You’ve got to go sometimes, to that place in yourself where you’ve got to reach deep down inside, and believe in yourself. You really, very much hit ground zero. There’s only one way to go, and that is up. I just felt that she was at that place and I wanted to help her. I mean what happened was not right.
Scott Glovsky: Michael, can you share with us a time in your life when you felt that way?
Michael Callahan: Yeah, I suppose. I’m not trying to blame anyone for anything, but this is just a part of our lives where we all have our experiences. I come from a family where one of my parents is an alcoholic. My father doesn’t drink anymore, but he did when I was growing up. It just creates a dynamic in the household.
It was something that was hidden. I didn’t see, there wasn’t drinking out in the open. But as a kid, just instinctively, you know that something is just not quite right. You feel like you’re walking on eggshells a lot. I just felt very alone. I remember, generally at times, that I wasn’t a kid anymore, I just wanted to grow up.
There were times that were times that were painful. I just remembered, as a kid being in my room sometimes, because getting yelled at or whatever it might be, for whatever. Sometimes, it was for things I didn’t do, and got accused of, and got blamed. Finding a place deep inside of me that I would go to, to find refuge.
I’m not looking for sympathy from you or anything. But I had discovered in myself, at a young age, a place that I could go internally. The place of peace, a place of refuge. A place where, in the end, I had to believe in myself, there was no other way. It was about survival.
On some level, I felt that with Aries, and ultimately working with her, doing self-discovery throughout the case. Just understand why I relate to this person, and how do I relate to this person. I realized that that was a big part of how I related to her, why I hung in there.
And why I fought, put thousands of hours, and all my finances into this case that was so incredibly difficult. She needed someone to fight for her, and I’m not trying to sound like a hero or something. She just resonated with me and I cared about her.
What am I going to do, pack up and turn my back on her and walk away like everyone else had? I couldn’t do it, and I believed in her. I knew she wasn’t perfect, that she had made mistakes. But damn it, she didn’t deserve what happened to her.
Scott Glovsky: Investing so much of your time, your psyche, your energy, and your money into a case that was an incredibly difficult case. How did that make you feel during that process?
Michael Callahan: Scared to death. A lot of lost sleep, inability to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night. Emotionally, psychologically it’s difficult. Physically it takes a toll on one’s body. I started to see a lot more gray hairs. It’s not just about me, it’s also the toll it took on my family, and that’s something I didn’t realize during the course of it so much. I guess on some level I did, but it was only afterwards, reflecting on it, just realizing how much of a toll.
It wasn’t just about me, it’s about the toll it took on them. Because I wasn’t around, and when I was around maybe I was there physically. But on so many different levels, I was very much somewhere else. I’m very grateful to my wife for understanding and being supportive. Also to my daughter, who was three or four years old at the time, and I don’t know if she remembers any of it. I hope she doesn’t. If she does, I hope she’s not adversely affected by it. But it was a very, very challenging time.
Scott Glovsky: So tell me about the days right before trial, how you were feeling in those days.
Michael Callahan: Oh my goodness. We had been set for trial a couple of times. As frustrating as that is, in many way it’s a gift to be set for trial multiple times. It means you get ready for trial each time, I do. My preparation gets better each time. I go through attire, opening, closing, witness direct exams, cross exams, look at medicals again, and just review the whole thing. The story becomes more clear. My understanding of the case becomes better, and the story becomes tighter. It inevitably evolves a little bit, and it becomes a stronger more powerful story.
Leading up to the time that we finally tried the case, there was a lot of anxiety, but there was also… It got to a point where … The day of the trial, I just strangely enough felt peace. There was a part of me, yeah I was scared, but I felt peaceful. Because I was well prepared, we were well prepared, and there was no other way to go. We just had to go forward.
Scott Glovsky: How did you bring her story to life in the courtroom?
Michael Callahan: I just gave her an opportunity to show who she is. We started by talking about her personal background. Immediately, her tone of voice, so soft spoken, so beautiful, a little shy, a little bashful, but also very courageous. We spent some time talking about her background, and about her son, to show the side of her. Not just a side, it is very much her. She’s a very loving, caring, thoughtful person.
One of my concerns in the case, a big concern, was that the defense was going to say that she didn’t care about the people in her van. She was reckless, and she had illegal drugs in her system. Even though the urinalysis, it showed inactive metabolite of cocaine. Inactive, what that means is it ain’t active. We wished it wasn’t there, but by gosh it was there. If it’s inactive, it means it not having an effect on the person at that time. This crash happened on a Monday morning.
The defense wanted to paint her as a horrible, awful person, that really didn’t give a darn about people in her van who were crushed and killed. That was a big challenge in the case. On one hand, before trial lawyer’s college, I would have got her to talk about how much she cared about these people, and she would never do anything to harm them.
The only way I would have known was to get her to tell the jury that she cared and loved these people. But what I have learned that’s not the most compelling way to do it. So what I did in the courtroom, while she is up on the witness stand, of course she’s in a wheelchair.
She can’t come down and set the scene for me, and I wanted to set the scene. Which means, let’s set up this van. With the other witness, I’ll have them come off the witness stand, and we start setting the scene to do a reenactment, because she couldn’t do it.
So I had to get up and do it and grabbed one chair and set it in front of the jury box. She pointed out this is where she was sitting. She was in a 15-passenger van. I walked off the van. We talking about what color it was, what it looked like. We placed the driver’s seat, and she talked about that’s where she was sitting, and what it was like sitting there. I put her in first person, and she talked about that.
Then I set up the chair next to her. I said, who was sitting here? She said, oh that was Ms. Green. I said, what’s Ms. Green wearing? Look over at her now, what is she wearing? So I put her in present tense, on the day. She talked about Ms. Green and what she was wearing. Tell us a little bit about Ms. Green, we’d like to get to know her. She would tell us a little story about Ms. Green. I went through and one by one set up all the chairs that were in the van, and we met each and every person.
Another was Mr. Jones, who was about 78 years old. He had dementia and some Alzheimer’s. He was big guy, former football player in college. Aries said, he was just the biggest flirt, and he would always flirt with her. Well, what do you mean by that, Aries? She would tell us some stories about how he would flirt with her. She would say, No Mr. Jones. Thank you so much, you’re so sweet. They had this little relationship going on.
Then there was another lady as well. I forget her name exactly. But I said Aries, introduce us to her, what is she wearing? What does she have on her head? Well she wears a hat. Tell us about that hat. It’s a hat, and it has fruit around the perimeter of it. We got this idea of what this hat was like. Well tell us a story about her.
One day, a week before this happened, we were up at the facility, usually Ms. Brown, for instance, was always cheerful and chatty. But today, she just sat in the corner and she seemed so sad. I didn’t understand why. So I went over and held her hand and said, Ms. Brown, what’s going on? What’s on your mind?
You’re always so cheerful and happy, what’s going on? She said, today’s my birthday and my family didn’t remember, and I haven’t heard from them. So it’s my birthday and I’m feeling a little sad and a little lonely. What Aries did then, she went out and she bought a birthday cake, came back and had a birthday party for Ms. Brown. Got the whole group to celebrate Ms. Brown’s birthday.
It was the way Aries explained it. You felt like these people were in this van, and in this courtroom, and we knew them. They had a face. We knew what they were wearing. We got a sense of who they were. Suddenly, they were very real people. The picture that it painted was that these weren’t faceless names. These were real people that Aries knew and that she cared about.
Instead of telling the jury she cared about, we showed that she cared about them. Because we talked about how well she knew them, and she was able to tell very intimate personal stories about each one. So suddenly, we had a van full of people.
Then I went, Aries you’re driving down highway 249 in Houston, how fast are you going? Okay, what happens? You hear a big boom, okay what do you do? We went through, she slows down and comes to a stop on the freeway. I said, stop on the freeway? Why did you do that? She said, I didn’t know what happened. I thought the transmission fell out, or the under part of the van fell out, I didn’t know so I stopped.
I said, well what’s traffic like? Traffic was not very bad. There was some cars behind me but they slowed down, and they safely passed. What did you do next? Well I got out of the van. You got out of the van, what do you mean, on the freeway? Yeah. Then what happened? I walked over and that’s when I saw my front left tire had blown out.
What did you do then? I got back in the van. What’s going on? All the passenger’s they’re asking what’s happening? What’s going on? Aries, what’s happened? Aries said, everybody just settle down, it’s going to be okay. We got a flat tire. We are going to go to this exit up here, and we are going to be okay.
She puts the van in gear, and starts in her lane and goes a certain distance. She’s got a flat tire. She can’t go very fast. She checks to the right and changes lanes safely. Then she checks to the right again, as she goes to change lanes, she gets hit by the cement truck, and that’s the last thing she remembered. The next the she remembered, she wakes up. So she talks about, she heard this big boom. I paused, and there was silence.
I said Aries, what happened next? She said, I can’t feel my legs. I said, what Aries? She said, I can’t feel my legs. Aries, I can’t hear you. I can’t feel my legs. She puts her head in her hands, and she bursts out crying. We pause, and there is silence in the courtroom. You could hear a pin drop.
Something I meant to point out, while she’s talking about what happened leading up to the crash. I got my associate lawyer to come up. I waved to him, and we got one of our big poster boards. We came up behind the chairs that represented the van. As she’s talking about it, I changed lanes safely, and I went to change lanes again, and then boom.
When that happened, I knocked down the first row of chairs, then I knock down the second row of chairs. The judge says, Mr. Callahan stop doing that. I said, judge I’m so sorry. Then I go and knock down the third row of chairs, and then the judge glares at me. But it was just we recreated the crash right then and there.
So you’ve got all these rows of chairs knocked down on the floor, in front of the jury. The only chair that’s still sitting upright is Aries’ chair, the driver’s seat. That’s when I say, what happened next? That’s when she says, I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel my legs. She just breaks out in tears. You can only imagine. Again, you could hear a pin dropping on the floor.
Scott Glovsky: Wow. During closing argument, what were you feeling, and what were you communicating to the jury?
Michael Callahan: Inevitably, I feel fear. It’s just something I can’t deny. It comes up and I’ve got to embrace it, and find a place for it. I set it off to the side and I recognize it, and tell the fear it’s got to sit down because I’ve got some work to do. But it keeps me energized, and keeps me motivated.
One thing, throughout the case, during opening statement, I said, I need to tell you something. That is, Aries, she was not perfect in this case. She’s made mistakes and we’re not denying it. You’re going to hear about it throughout this case, and I’m going to tell you about the mistakes that she made. But she shouldn’t bare all the responsibility for what happened that day. We’re going to look at what Aries did, but we’re going to also look at what Cemex did. What it’s driver did, and what it didn’t do. In closing, I talked about that.
One of the things that I did was, I rented a cement truck before trial, and got a driver. I had one of my experts meet me on a Sunday morning, early when traffic was light on this freeway. We went out, and we drove the route this cement took leading up to the crash. You could still see the gouge marks in the freeway where the impact happened.
So he started off by marking off those gouge marks. We had a GPS device. We also had a video camera. So we’re sitting in this cement truck and we’ve got the driver. I’m sitting in the middle on this bench seat with the video camera. Then I’ve got my expert sitting on the right side of me.
We go through and we video tape what the driver saw. What he should have seen. What he could have seen. We show this video to the jury. It made it very clear to them that the driver could have seen, and should have seen, Aries van at least half a mile before he hit it. He admitted in his deposition, he never saw it before he hit it. He never slowed down. He never braked. He never honked. He never swerved. He didn’t do anything.
We made that really clear to the jury. It was clear to them that this driver, who’s a professional driver, wasn’t paying attention to the road. Actually, I think he might have fallen asleep. He wouldn’t admit it. But what was interesting is, during the course of the two-and-a-half-week trial, the driver was sitting there and he kept dozing off during trial; and the jury saw this. For me, I think the guy fell asleep behind the wheel.
We embraced the good, the bad, and the ugly on the liability part of the case. Then we went through and talked about the damages, and talked about the life care plan, what it’s going to cost to help her. This is not money for her, this is money for other people to help her. So we asked for the money for the life care plan and the past medicals. Then we talked about the human damages; about the pain, the impairment, the anguish.
When she testified, I like to do it, and we talk about facts, and also we talk in terms of stories. One of the stories that she told I repeated and reenacted during the closing. I said, you hear Aries tell us about the first time she was able to leave her apartment. She and her son Deonte, they went to Walmart.
She took her wheelchair and they went a quarter of a mile down the road, on the sidewalk, to the Walmart. It was the first time she had been to a Walmart since being out of the hospital, since the crash. They go into this Walmart. She’d already talked about being in a wheelchair. It’s not how people look at you. It’s how they don’t look at you that hurts so much. She sees how it would affect her son, he’s now nine-years-old.
So she’s in this Walmart. She’s wearing her jeans and sitting in her wheelchair. Her jeans are kind of long, and one of her jeans legs, the right one, gets caught up in the wheel of her wheelchair. Then she tumbles forward, she gets pulled out of her wheelchair. The wheelchair goes rolling over, and she’s laying on the floor.
I reenacted this. I sat down in the chair. I said I’m Aries and here is Deonte. We roll ourselves into the Walmart and fall down, get dropped down on the ground. I roll down on the ground in my suit right in front of the jury, and I was Aries at the moment. I show myself trying to get up, but I just can’t get up.
Then I reverse out of that and became Deonte, and showed me trying to help my mother up. I’m nine years old, my mother, she’s on the ground. I can’t get her up off the ground. I look around and I see these customers. They’re all standing there. They’re staring, they don’t know what to do.
I said to the jury, aren’t you very much like those people in that Walmart? I mean, Aries is on the ground, she can’t get up. She can’t do it herself. Her nine-year-old son, he’s trying the best he can. He’s trying to lift her up, and he can’t do it. He needs help, they need help. Here today, isn’t this very much like being at the Walmart? She’s here, she needs help. They need help. They can’t do this on their own.
Aren’t you jury, very much like the people in that Walmart? What are you going to do? Are we going to turn and walk away? Or are we going to come over and kneel down, and put our arm around Deonte? Tell him it’s going to be all right, and help lift Aries up. Set her wheelchair right, and set her back in the wheelchair, so she can go on. Because she can’t do it, they can’t do it on their own. I felt that was very powerful.
Scott Glovsky: Tell me about when the verdict was read. I’d love to hear about how you were feeling in the moments before it was read, once it was read when you looked at your client, and tell me about those feelings.
Michael Callahan: The jury deliberated for close to a total of three days. When we were told there was a verdict, everybody comes back into the courtroom. I couldn’t look over to the jury, but I’m sitting next to Aries, I’m holding her hand, and she’s holding my hand. We’re just looking at each other.
How did I feel? I just felt numb. I felt like I put everything I had, on every level, into this case. I had nothing left. I didn’t know what was going to happen. So I looked up at the judge, and he starts looking at the verdict. He’s looking through it, and he lost color in his face. I didn’t know what that meant.
He went through and slowly started reading the verdict. Sure enough, the jury put some responsibility on Aries. As I said, I think you need to. Clearly, she is partly at fault. There’s responsibility for it, and she accepts that. But we’re here today because Cemex’s driver never once accepted responsibility. They won’t unless you tell them that they need to accept it.
That’s what the verdict stated. Put responsibility on Cemex and its driver as well. Awarded a significant sum of money. Does it fix all her problems? No, it doesn’t. But it was justice for her. After the judge read the verdict, I looked over at the jury, and they all look at us with such a deep look of caring and understanding.
I looked at Aries and she’s looking at the jury as well. We look at each other. She’s got tears in her eyes. She reaches over and hugs me, and gives me the most tightest beautiful hug I’ve ever gotten. I could hear her, she’s crying on my jacket, on my shoulder. I didn’t have that jacket dry cleaned for about a year and a half. I couldn’t do it, that was the jacket that we got justice for Aries in, and it had her dried tears on it.
It was interesting afterwards, talking to the jury outside. We talked about a lot of things. We talked about the cocaine. They said, we appreciated you addressing it, bring it up to us, and telling how you felt about it. Quite frankly, we spent five minutes on it. Then we decided it wasn’t an issue. Because it was an inactive metabolite. Yeah, Aries shouldn’t be doing that. We’re not sure how it got in her system, but it wasn’t a factor. That’s something the defense very much hung their hat on.
What was interesting was one of the jury, I think it might be the jury floor person, she’s about a 27-year-old woman. She said, there’s something I want to tell you. That is, when I was 21-years-old I was in a very bad car accident, and I broke my back. I couldn’t walk, and I was in a wheelchair for about a year. But I saw the X-rays of Aries spine and knew she would never walk again, mine wasn’t nearly that bad. I had the change to do whole lot of rehab. Obviously, I can walk today.
She was up walking around like anyone else. But this was a personal story that she had. She went for a year, year and a half in her life, where she was in a wheelchair. She felt like she had no hope, and would never walk again. So you never know what people’s stories are, where they come from. But in the end, we were honest and upfront about everything, and just put it all out there. Told our story, trusted the jury, and in the end they did the right thing.
Scott Glovsky: How did that make you feel?
Michael Callahan: I mean, so many different emotions. Very much relieve for her, that she now has a chance. That Deonte, now has a chance, her son. It doesn’t fix everything. It’s not like she can ever not work in her life. But she can now go out and get additional medical treatment. She was able to buy a house and put some money away, and continue on with her life. It gave her a chance.
Scott Glovsky: How did it make you feel, about you?
Michael Callahan: My first response to that is, it wasn’t about me. It was about her. But getting past that, how did it make me feel about me? It made me understand deeper the power of believing in other people. It helped me understand that people, regardless of first impressions, how they look or how they vote, or any of that. Human beings are compassionate, caring people, if you trust them. If you give them a change, if you don’t try to be cute or clever or play lawyer tricks. If you just put it out there, they’re going to do what’s right.
Scott Glovsky: Michael, what an amazing story. Thank you so much for spending time with us today. You’re obviously a phenomenal lawyer, phenomenal person. I’m so proud and fortunate that I get to call you friend.
Michael Callahan: Thank you, Scott. It’s an honor to have you as my friend. I thank you for giving me the chance to share this story today.
Scott Glovsky: Thank you Michael.
Thank you for joining us today for trial lawyer talk. If you like the show, I really appreciate if you could give us a good review on iTunes, and I’d love to get your feedback. You can reach me at scottglovsky.wpengine.com. That’s S-C-O-T-T-G-L-O-V-S-K-Y. com, and I would love to hear your feedback.
You can also check out the book that I published called Fighting Health Insurance Denials: A Primer for Lawyers, that’s on Amazon. I put the book together based on 20 years of suing health insurance companies for denying medical care to people. It provides a general outline of how to fight health insurance denials. Have a great week and we’ll talk to you in the next episode.
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