Two kindergartners walked away from their elementary school in Waterloo, Iowa and were on-the-loose for 45 minutes before being recaptured. The youngsters high tailed it from Kittrell Elementary School just after lunch and made it as far as downtown. Oh my, the poor substitute teacher. She'll never be the same.
In this instance the children were not harmed, which is lucky for all involved. Had something happened the parents would undoubtedly be upset with the teacher and the school district. The principal would be upset with the teacher and the system. The school board would hear it from the parents and in turn would chew out the principal and the teacher.
But really who is at fault for setting up a system that allows this kind of mishap to occur and to increase the risk of injury or even death to kindergartners? In any law suit filed there would be plenty of finger pointing.
- Principal towards substitute teacher.
- Parents towards school system, principal, school board and the substitute teacher.
- School board towards the principal and the teacher.
- And then all of the above pointing at the voters.
Defense lawyers love to have a full defense table at a trial. You probably wonder why, well it has to do with how the jury system works. The defense lawyers would demand trial by jury, no question in my mind on that issue. They need a jury of citizens whom they can confuse with a convoluted presentation of evidence and issues to create confusion in the minds or jurors who they hope will simply throw up their hands in an exasperated way and say "the issue is too complicated, confusing" and then turn and blame the plaintiff for even bringing the case. The subliminal message is pretty simple: We are all to blame and blaming one person or the system is unfair.
And that's how the defense wins many cases, by creating confusion and getting the jury to take their eye off the ball. Then the defense steals the case from grieving parents, but not before they pronounce to the jury "how sorry we are for the plaintiffs' loss, but that no one is to blame!"
And that's what this defense business is about. It's about feigning compassion at just the right time and in just the right amount that common people in a limited time period of a trial don't figure out that right after the closing argument the defense lawyer will head off to shoot nine holes and forget what they just did; which is cheat grieving parents of justice.
You see, as the judges tell me, justice isn't about fairness, it's about the law. And the new thinking from the bench is to forget about the people involved and to focus on the words of the Code of Iowa. Because between those words it's easier to forget about the humans involved and the losses they have suffered. Sort of like my favorite client Jerrica.
She remains lost somewhere in time, space and in words, but never from my heart.
Who was Jerrica? Read the dissenting opinion and then ask yourself whether or not this human life was worth nothing to the parents. If you answer no then accept that your life may also be worthless to those that loved you.
No. 06-0173. [6-1022] PHELAN-RUDEN v. SUDDRETH
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge. AFFIRMED. Considered by Zimmer, P.J., and Miller and Baker, JJ. Opinion by Miller, J. Baker, J. dissents. (11 pages $5.50)
Plaintiffs Teri Phelan-Ruden in her capacity as the executor of the estate of Jerrica Anne Hilleman-Ruden, and Phelan-Ruden and Jeff Ruden individually, appeal from the district court’s denial of their motion for additur or a new trial. They assert the district court abused its discretion in denying their motion, because the damages awarded by the jury are inadequate, are inconsistent, are a product of jury nullification, and fail to award the minimum value for a life set forth in Iowa Code section 910.3B (2003). They also assert the district court erred when it refused to submit a jury instruction on pre-death pain and suffering. OPINION HOLDS: New Trial. After reviewing the record, including the instructions submitted to the jury, we must agree with the district court that there was evidence from which a reasonable fact finder could conclude the plaintiffs had failed to prove an entitlement to damages for either a net value of Jerrica’s past and future lost services, or a present value of her estate. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the plaintiffs’ motion. Pre-Death Pain and Suffering Instruction. The plaintiffs have waived any error on this issue. Moreover, the district court had no duty to give the instruction in light of the uncontroverted evidence that Jerrica’s death was instantaneous with her injuries. DISSENT ASSERTS: I do not believe that under our decisions we can accept the premise that the life of a healthy eleven-year-old child, regardless of her family background, has no value. I therefore dissent from the majority’s holding that there was sufficient evidence from which a reasonable fact finder could conclude the plaintiffs failed to prove an entitlement to damages for the present value of Jerrica’s estate.
I rest my case, but I will never give up on the notion that life has value or that justice includes an element of fairness. It is a cold heart, a dead heart, that believes otherwise.