Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I guess the foot's on the other hand now, isn't it, Kramer?

For years, I have told associates that they shouldn't take legal cases personally. In particular, when a decision was made to settle a lawsuit over "but we didn't do anything wrong" protests, I'd explain the costs of litigation, etc.

So late this afternoon, I heard from a colleague at my old place that they were paying to settle a case I was involved in. They never even asked for a deposition from me. Instead, they folded and handed over some cash. The hospital's lawyers didn't have the balls to call me about the settlement, because they didn't want to hear my opinion.

When they first told me the asshole in question had the nerve to sue, I gave them my opinion, one lawyer to another. I told them if I still were in my role there, he would get a penny over my dead body.

Let me tell you the background. A couple of years ago, some union reps came to my office to "ask a favor." Someone we had fired the year before for being late and ditching work on more occasions than we could count later told the union that he had a problem with the bottle. So they were asking if I could give him another chance.

I am a big believer in second chances. It's hard for someone to kick a problem like that, so I said yes. There were two conditions: he had to stay on probation longer than usual (we settled on 9 months as a reasonable period), so we could make sure he didn't go back to his old ways, and he had to work with Employee Health so they could monitor his compliance with his program.

The people who did our hiring (in our uptown offices) screwed up. They had instructions from me (and I am so glad I put it in writing) not to rehire him until he had signed off on those conditions. Instead, they put him back to work. I told him he still had to agree to the conditions (which, by the way, are standard for anyone in such a situation), and the union had the complete fucking lack of integrity to defend him and say he shouldn't have to agree. They claimed he was clean, but the key part they didn't like was Employee Health being able to check with his program that he was sticking with it. Gee, seems like something doesn't make sense, or is it just me?

In the end, after I entertained way too much bullshit from this guy and the people who asked me for a favor, because I had absolutely no obligation to do a fucking thing for this guy, I was forced to utter the following: "You have no choice. You got a second chance on the condition that we can take steps to make sure you're fit for duty and no risk to the patients. Either sign the documents or you're going to be fired." He agreed to sign the one extending his probation but not the one that would let us confirm he was staying clean. So I fired him.

He then filed a complaint, saying he was discriminated against because of his disability (being an alcoholic). Now, if I were inclined to discriminate against alcoholics, HE NEVER WOULD HAVE GOTTEN REHIRED IN THE FIRST PLACE!

The icing on the cake? A few weeks ago, this same guy was in the news. He drove drunk and smacked into 15 parked cars. When the cops arrested him, he also had marijuana in his possession. I made sure the hospital's counsel was aware of this, so they realized the kind of guy they were dealing with.

If they didn't have the strength to tell this guy and his lawyer to go fuck themselves, then they should have farmed the case out. I was a trial lawyer. There are some cases you don't settle on principle. This was one of them! Yes, I know. I started out saying it's a business decision, and I should take it as calmly as some folks I've explained that to (and my thanks to the writers of Airplane for the title of this post). Even so, I never would have settled this case. I would have taken it to trial. I take some comfort in the fact that this money and quite a bit more will be needed to pay for the damage he did while driving drunk (plus, he'll probably go to prison), but this is just wrong.


Dantallion said...


That's one thing about the US that always catches me a little off guard. We are far, far less litigious in Canada - a ridiculous nuisance suit like that would almost never happen, let alone be settled in favour of the bum in question. Common sense (and our legal system) would preclude any lawyer from wasting their time on something like that. So when we see reported in the news the number of frivlolous and ridiculous suits going to trial, settling, or even being won by plaintiffs down your way, it always makes me wonder how the system could have become so unfair, let alone so wasteful of the system's resources.

I'm with you - based on the background you give, there should never have been a settlement, if for no other reason than to send a clear message that people are unwilling to cave against abusive suits like that.

d. chedwick bryant said...

Totally unfair how a person like this could waste the time of so many people.

CoffeeDog said...

You are so totally right - the guy was getting a second chance and needed to toe the line and sign on all dotted lines. Too bad for him, and I hope those in charge tell him to shove it!