One of the things that was important out of representing our clients in the Deepwater Horizon explosion was to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. It was especially important because all the money in the world doesn’t bring back the lives of the 11 crew members who died, it doesn’t help their family’s nightmares go away, and it doesn’t make orthopedic injuries feel any better.
One of the things that was important was to shine a light on bad safety practices and make sure that something changed in the industry. The crewmembers having the bravery to step forward and challenge these large companies, to step up in court and say “you need to fix it,” accomplished that. It not only made the companies change their policies and procedures on paper, but the financial penalties they had to pay are enough to make sure the companies actually enforce their new policies and procedures.
One of the great things about representing all these different crew members was if you looked at the crew as a whole, they got along great—but many of them came from different walks of life. We represented men and women, people of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, people from cities as small as Kokomo, MI and as big as Los Angeles, CA. When Kurt and I would go out to their houses and homes, you’d get a feel for the cities they lived in.
We would go and meet them face to face, meet their families, and answer all their questions. Ultimately, you have to understand that most of these guys have worked for their companies for more than 10 years, and they’re naturally distrusting of lawyers, as we would be. They had lawyers from the company trying to get them to sign documents, and they were in a situation not knowing who to trust. We made the same promise to every one of them: we would go out and visit with them at their house, visit with their wife and family, let them think about it, and tell them to call us back with any questions.
It was important for us to get to know our clients face-to-face and have them know their lawyers. We didn’t want to just be a voice on the phone to the client, or have our client be a voice on the phone to us. It was important to feel that this was someone we would go to lunch with, go to dinner with, or have over to our home.
We knew this was gonna be a long, hard fight. From both a lawyer’s and client’s standpoint, it’s better to have someone you have trust and belief in, a personal connection with, when you’re gonna be in a fight like that. It was important for us to know who we’re fighting for—not just our clients, but their wives and their children as well. When you’re working on a Saturday afternoon, and you could be out doing something more fun, it’s important to know that this is a worthwhile cause and these are people worth fighting for.
Before you know it, we represented more than a fifth of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon. Over the course of the subsequent 18 months—up until the point we resolved most of their cases—we’re proud of the way our firm ultimately handled their situations. Their situations are very delicate for a few reasons.
A lot of guys say “I’ve worked for this company for 25 years and they’ve always taken care of me.” That’s fine—let’s see if they do it in this circumstance. Just call us when they don’t.
The doctors that the companies had our clients see—it’s shameful. One of our clients was sent to someone who was supposedly a psychiatrist, who told our client to lay down and “stare at the magic wand” for 45 mins and our client would be feeling better. They had almost all of our clients see another doctor, an orthopedic doctor. He’s well known amongst lawyers as being a doctor that doesn’t treat patients anymore. He makes over $1 million a year seeing injured workers on behalf of companies, and testifying 99 percent of the time that the injured person isn’t hurt.
The company had no interest in seeing the clients getting better—what they wanted was a piece of paper written by a doctor saying “we don’t need to take care of the injured worker’s medical bills.” It was shameful and shouldn’t have been allowed.
Maybe the guys you’ve worked with for 20-25 years want to do the right thing. They want to make sure you’re taken care of, that your medical bills are being paid. Routinely, you’ll hear rig managers say that—problem is, your case switches over to another side of the company. That other side of the company has a job: to minimize the cost of the accident.
What they’ve been taught to do—their “right thing"—is to minimize what they would otherwise have to pay out, whether it be medical bills, wages, or other things of that sort. Those people become hardened to the process, so when they come in, they don’t see a person anymore—it’s a case number. They’re trying to get that case closed for the minimum amount possible. There’s a lot of talk about doing the right thing from the company, or “we’re gonna take care of this or that,” but I can tell you that with the exception of 1 or 2 companies out of the Deepwater Horizon, that didn’t happen.
This case has meant a lot to us personally. We’ve been in the homes of almost all of our clients. We talk to them all on the phone. We send text messages and emails back and forth. These clients are more than just clients—they’re our friends, an extended part of the family. Knowing that we were able to help take them from a bad situation from an emotional, physical, economic standpoint, and guide them through a very complicated minefield of companies doing everything they could to keep them from justice.
We were able to put our clients on a path to recovery and financial security for the rest of their lives.