Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
Trip To The Courthouse
July 20, 2010
This morning I found myself at the Davidson County Courthouse in downtown Nashville. I was accompanying my girlfriend Stacy, who was served in May with a frivolous lawsuit by the insurance company representing the woman who hit her in a wreck last year, a frumpy mess of a middle-aged female named Sandra. Stacy's insurance company countersued, and both the suit and countersuit were combined into one proceeding. I had offered several weeks ago to come along for moral support, which I did gladly, though I was also curious how the proceedings would play out.
Here's what happened in the wreck: Stacy was attempting to make a left turn onto Murphy Road from West End Avenue in Nashville. The light turned yellow, but Stacy was in the intersection far enough to where it would have been, in her judgment, a hazard to stop. She continued through the intersection, where at that point frumpy Sandra was driving away from downtown on West End fast enough to zip through her own red light and slam into Stacy's car, spinning it 180 degrees from how it was.
Imagine having that happen to you... and then have the person who hit you turn around and sue *you* because of damage done to that person's car. Until we have tort reform in this country, such things will continue to happen.
We arrived early, hoping to land a good seat. The courtroom doors were locked when we arrived, so Stacy and I sat down on one of the benches in the hallway. We waited a bit. I spotted an attractive, well-dressed blonde woman approaching, looking in our general direction. I glanced away and then looked back and she was still looking over. It turned out that the woman was the attorney from Stacy's insurance company, and she recognized Stacy from their previous meeting. She introduced herself as Erica, and we briefly discussed some of the facts of the case.
Finally the large wooden double doors were unlocked and, after some delay, we entered the courtroom. Plenty of good seats were available, so we took a spot in the front row. Fortune was on our side with the docket; it was a light day for the court, and as it turned out, all of the people in front of us on the list either had dismissals, continuances, or other reasons for their cases not taking place today.
I wasn't sure how a suit/countersuit would go (Stacy's insurance countersued since the fault seemed at best 50/50 and at worst 100% Sandra's fault), but as the initial plaintiff the other side went first. They only had one witness: frumpy Sandra. In my opinion she had clearly been coached, using exact phrases repeatedly, including the outright lie by Sandra that Stacy had "suddenly" turned out in front of her. I was fuming mad in my seat, unable to say anything lest I end up in contempt of court. Then came the leap of logic.
Under sworn oath, frumpy Sandra claimed that she had come to a stop at the intersection: meaning that the light was red. Yet Sandra then went on to claim that she "didn't know" what color the light was when she went through the intersection, a direct contradiction to what she told the cop on the scene. I sat incredulously as her conflicting testimony went unchallenged.
Sandra said she had stopped at the intersection. She also said that she was going about 25-30 mph when Stacy pulled out in front of her so quick that she couldn't stop in time to prevent a collision. Apparently I was the only one who saw the clear contradiction there: she was for sure lying about one part or the other. But no one seemed to point this out, not even Erica during cross-examination.
Also interesting to me was the judge, who seemed to be half-listening at times. I discovered at the end that he knew exactly what was going on, but from a novice's perspective it appeared that he was looking at other paperwork and in general not giving his full attention to the case. Apparently the judge was good at multi-tasking, though he did have a tough time understanding the explanation about how red lights are timed at the intersection.
After all the jumping through hoops, and the bitch lawyer for frumpy Sandra who raised my ire at times while cross-examining Stacy, the judge ruled that the case was what the cop originally said it was: 50/50 fault. In an interesting move, he said that he had been presiding on cases for nearly 20 years and that he had never heard anyone actually admit to running a red light (which, in Stacy's case, is technically what happened, even though it was frumpy Sandra who caused the accident by slamming into Stacy).
Overall, Erica did a good job representing Stacy and her insurance company, though there were a few unasked questions that I wish had been asked of frumpy Sandra, particularly questions that would have revealed to the judge in no uncertain terms that Sandra was lying under oath. Maybe Erica knew better under the circumstances of the situation, and I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. She has a law degree and I don't.
After the verdict was rendered, I was in rare angry form, even though the ruling was favorable for Stacy's side. I can be irritable at times, but I was downright pissed at what Sandra and her attorney had done. Sometimes I talk softly intentionally to make sure people are actively listening when I speak, but I had flipped over to full-out Loud Lou mode outside of the courtroom. Frumpy Sandra had made her way to the elevator area, but she was near enough for me to make damn sure she heard my thoughts about her lying under oath.
Almost immediately, both Stacy and Erica did their best to calm me down. Erica specifically suggested that we wait and let the other side go down the elevator first. In hindsight, that was probably a wise move.
Stacy and I said our goodbyes to Erica and rode down to the lobby. I scanned the lobby area, looking for frumpy Sandra. No dice. From my days doing Mock Trial in high school, I was familiar with how the security system is set up at Nashville courthouses, with a walkway beside the machines for people exiting the building. I lead Stacy outside into the plaza.
Once we reached the sidewalk I saw frumpy Sandra shuffling along down the road. Perhaps it was my instincts to protect Stacy kicking in, but I felt myself getting whisky-angry, which is an odd sensation when you are sober. I walk with a naturally quick pace, but even by my standards I sped up as Stacy and I proceeded hand-in-hand toward the parking area. We drew closer to frumpy Sandra, and I really wanted to give that bitch a piece of my mind.
Stacy, who is masterful at reading me, picked up on it right away. She asked me to hold back, specifically saying to do it for her. As livid as I was and as much as I wanted to lecture that spineless, lying, bottom-feeding troll, because of Stacy I let it go. Frumpy Sandra continued down the sidewalk while we cut over via the crosswalk to the side where we had parked.
In the end, the proceedings proved to be a colossal waste of time for all involved considering the outcome. At the same time, I'm glad I went along for the experience -- and also to lend moral support to Stacy. Plus I got to see the frumpy hag that sued her gain nothing, which is a happy ending in my book.