I used to be a cruise line defense lawyer.

In 1996, I tried my last defense case, for Dolphin Cruise Lines.  The cruise line was sued by a crew member who slipped and fell on a wet floor of a photography room on the S/S Oceanbreeze.  He underwent back surgery and returned to his home country in the Philippines unemployable.  The crew member’s lawyer asked the jury to return a verdict of over $1,000,000.  But after a six day trial, the jury returned a defense verdict on the Jones Act, unseaworthiness and failure to provide medical treatment allegations in my client’s favor.

Defense lawyers are suppose to be happy when they win a case like this.  But when the jury returned to the courtroom and the foreperson smiled at me, I felt uneasy.  Yes, the cruise line’s Rock - Balance - Whistler - Canada head of risk management sitting next to me was ecstatic.  And the cruise line’s underwriters I reported to were pleased that I kept their money safe.

The defense verdict was upheld on appeal, with the appellate court writing an opinion which explained how effectively I cross examined the crew member and his fact and expert witnesses.  I was a zealous advocate for my client, no doubt.  I had soundly defeated the biggest name in Miami who represented crew members.

But I didn’t like the praise for winning the case.  This crew member deserved better.  His lawyers were unprepared and did, at best, a less-than-average job trying his case.  I understood that the verdict left the disabled crew member with nothing.  He had no means to support his wife or three children.  Sometimes I would awake in the still quiet of the night, wondering what I was doing.

One year later, I turned my cruise line cases back to the cruise line and its underwriters.  I opened my own law firm, advertising that I represented only people injured on cruise ships.  But I had no clients, not a single passenger or crew member to represent.

This was the most liberating feeling I have ever felt.

When I win cases today, I don’t have mixed feelings.  And I have never slept better.

I know that I’m on the right side of the fence – trying cases against lawyers who awake in the dead of the night wondering what the hell they are doing.


Photo Credit:

Jim Walker    Rock Balance – Whistler, Canada  August 2010