would sure be helpful for me to know before he joins us.”
“I really don’t know how he’ll take an offer like that,” the
lawyer replied. “I don’t think he will like it much. Why don’t I go
ask him? He’s sitting in the lobby.” With that, he left the room.
Minutes later, the gangster’s lawyer returned, shaking his head
“My client said he wouldn’t be happy with an offer to pay only
his medical bills. He would view such a paltry offer as a sign of disrespect.” He shrugged his shoulders, rolled his eyes, and looked
away. It was clear this was his client’s message, not his own.
“I’m gonna get some coffee,” he said as he fled from the room.
I got the message. I’d seen The Godfather. But disrespect doesn’t
translate into a threat … in most circumstances. I called the claims
adjustor back into the room to see how he viewed the comment.
When I told the adjustor what the gangster said, the adjustor
opened his eyes wide. He swallowed and asked me to repeat
myself. So, I began again, “He said his client would view an offer
to pay only his medical bills as a sign of disrespect.”
“Are you sure he put it just like that?” the adjustor asked. “I
mean did he really say ‘a sign of disrespect?’” His hands fluttered
and he began to tug at his coat and tie.
“So what do you want to do?” I asked. “I told them that you
weren’t making any further offers, so I guess we … .”
“You know, I’m not stuck on just paying the medicals,” the
adjustor interrupted. “I mean, that was just my opening offer.
And I’ll tell you what, just to show some good faith, let’s bump
up that initial offer to $10,000.”
The case was settled 30 minutes later for $14,000. And the
claims adjustor doesn’t have to lie on the kitchen floor in the
morning while his wife starts his car.
www.azbar.org/AZAttorney 29 NOVEMBER 2014 ARIZONA ATTORNEY
A 60-year-old man from New Jersey divorced his wife
of 40 years, moved to the Southwest, draped himself with gold
chains, and went into the telemarketing business.
Lying to elderly widows on the telephone and stealing their
pensions became his livelihood. After work, he drank at a strip club
where he eventually persuaded a cocktail waitress to go out with
him. She couldn’t leave until the club closed. The old crook was
drunk at closing time two hours later, and he persuaded his date
to drive his new mini-pickup truck outfitted with chrome wheels
and a sunroof. They went to another after-hours club and his last
clear recollection was sitting in a booth watching his date downing
shots of tequila in a drinking contest with some men at the
They left the club at 4:00 a.m., and although she was
now drunker than the telemarketer, the waitress drove.
She sideswiped a curbside mailbox on a residential street,
lost control, and rolled the truck. The truck’s sunroof
was open and as the truck turned over, the little finger on
the telemarketer’s left hand was pinched between the sunroof and the asphalt. The finger was amputated at the second joint.
The telemarketer sued the waitress for the loss of his digit. “It
was her negligent driving and intoxication that caused him to lose
his pinky,” said his lawyer. “He has a nice diamond ring for that
finger, but now he can’t wear it. Our opening demand is for the
policy limit of $100,000,” he announced.
We were sitting in a conference room in the opening session
of the mediation of this case, and the telemarketer’s lawyer’s
comment caused me to scan the room. Were we on Candid
Camera This had to be a joke. But it wasn’t.
“I will respond,” said the defense lawyer. “First, with all
due respect to the claimant, the pinky finger of a 60-year-old
telemarketer isn’t worth much to a jury. A lot of guys make
their living talking on the telephone, but they all dial with
their index finger,” the lawyer snickered. He began to giggle, swallowed hard, snorted, and broke up with laughter.
Then the claims adjuster did the same.
I did my best to avoid showing my appreciation for the
absurdity of the moment. Neither the telemarketer, nor his
lawyer, thought it was funny. Needless to say, the mediation
was a failure, but the case settled a week later for the medical bills.
An Offer He Can’t Refuse —continued
During the mediation of a $70 million corporate
dispute, the lead lawyer in the private caucus room of the plaintiff
told me his client wanted to keep the company’s Tokyo plant manager as his employee when the company split up. The American
plaintiff and defendant owned a multi-million-dollar business in
Japan but were quarreling over the profits. We were all meeting in
the United States to dissolve their partnership.
The company’s plant manager, Ashiro Tugato, had the squat,
muscular physique and scowling countenance of a sumo wrestler.
He spoke excellent English and was paid a million dollars a year to
run the Tokyo operation. He performed his job very well, and his
workers were loyal to him. But presently, he was in a room across
the hall, allied with the defendant and
his room full of lawyers, CPAs and
Japanese advisers. I had been working
on the proposed settlement with the
plaintiff’s lawyers and was leaving them
to meet yet again with the defendant’s
group. It was the third day of the medi-
“Remind Mr. Tugato that a million
dollars in American money is a lot of dough,” said the plaintiff’s
lawyer as I left the room. “It ought to buy a little loyalty.”
I joined the defendant and his entourage in their conference