By Kenneth M. Levine
There is an adage that the lawyer should never get emotionally involved in the case. That always seemed like nonsense to me and certainly is not the way I ever acted with the children and families I represented. Cases take years to litigate before a trial or settlement. During that time, I got to know every family and child so well. I lived with the families through the surgeries, the therapy, the ups, and the downs. My clients became family to me. Their fight was my fight. My clients have always known my commitment to them, their children, and their case.
At some point the case ends though. We won the fight and were able to take care of the child for life through a settlement or jury verdict. So, what happens next. We go on to the next case, the family puts the legal process and my law firm behind them, and life moves on. Sometimes we get an annual school picture but not often. I am not offended though; I know the lawsuit does not bring back good memories and most families would like nothing better than to wipe the whole process from their mind.
So, on a bright spring day as I sat in my office working to represent another child who suffered birth trauma or an obstetrical brachial plexus injury, I never imagined the gift I would be given. One of the paralegals came into my office to tell me a young woman had asked to see me. She did not give her name but said that she just wanted to say hello. Intrigued I had her come into my office. A moment lawyer a lovely young woman came in and introduced herself. When I seemed confused, she asked if knew her and I had to admit I did not. She then told me I had represented her in an obstetrical brachial plexus case when she was four years old. She was now 23 years old and had despite having no use of her right arm and hand had just received her master’s degree from a prestigious Ivy League school in Boston. She said when she was in college, she asked her mother how her parents were able to afford her education as they were otherwise not well off. Her parents told her about the case we litigated for her and the substantial jury verdict we obtained on her behalf. The money from the case was used to pay for her education and the trust fund her parents set up would be there to help her through her lifetime.
As she gave me a hug and thanked me for helping her the smile on my face was only matched by the warmth of the moment. To know we fought for this young woman and affected her life in such a positive way makes the daily search for justice worthwhile. Maybe someday there will be no more medical malpractice, but until then, we continue to demand accountability, due process, and equity for every child.