Jill v. Big Bad Trucking Company II: The Sequel

I have previously shared some of the lessons learned from the mediation and trial of Jill vs. Big Bad Trucking Company. Patience.  Perseverance.  Trusting the mediator’s judgment on when to disclose crucial information.  I even introduced you to Jill’s mother, who apparently prohibited her from settling the case prior to trial.  But those are not the only lessons this lawyer learned from that trial!

The second day of trial began with an hour long drive from our Abnormal Use headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina, to the courthouse square in Abbeville, South Carolina.  I parked my car, opened the back door to grab my file, and panicked!  Where was my suit coat?  How could I forget my coat?  A trial lawyer can wear (should wear?) old shoes.  A trial lawyer can forget his Rules of Civil Procedure.  A trial lawyer can even forget to bring part of his file.  But his coat?  No way!

I immediately called my office but knew there was no way for my staff to get from the office to my house and then to Abbeville before the judge would say, “Mr. Mauney, call your next witness!”  I quickly made my way to the courthouse and found the judge’s law clerk at her desk.  She could not stop laughing once I finished telling my tale of woe.  My next stop was the clerk’s office to find a bailiff.  The first bailiff I found was short and wide.  The next one I encountered was short and skinny.  I was, and still am, tall and wide.  I began to sweat profusely.  What was I going to do?

Suddenly, and without warning, (I have always wanted to write that somewhere other than a pleading), a tall and wide gentleman appeared at the end of the hallway in the basement of the Abbeville County Courthouse.  As he walked toward me, I noticed that he had on a tie, and estimated that if he had a coat, it would fit me!  I walked up to him, smiled warmly, and introduced myself, sharing my predicament.  He just nodded his head and pointed to an open doorway.  Above the doorway was a sign, “SHERIFF – ABBEVILLE COUNTY.”  I followed the sheriff into his office, where he took the light tan sport coat off the back of his chair and handed it to me.  While the coat did not match my dark gray pants, I did not object, and thanked him for his kindness.

When I returned to his chambers, the judge just shook his head and laughed, as his law clerk had already spilled the beans.  Both of them were amused that I had found a coat substitute, and the second day of trial began.  Later in the afternoon, I began my closing argument by thanking the jury for not holding it against me that my suit coat did not match my gray pants.  They seemed to appreciate the story.  As expected, they then returned a verdict against my client.  However, as I shared in my previous post, the verdict was significantly less than Jill had been offered prior to trial.  They apparently did not punish this lawyer for his unfortunate error in fashion etiquette.

Someone recently asked me why I keep an extra coat in my car.  That gave me the perfect opportunity to tell them this story.