A Win at Any Cost

As Jerome F. McClusky Jr. entered Antoine’s restaurant for lunch this hot July day with his son Jerome the third and a potential client, his personal waiter, Arnard greeted them. “I see we are three for lunch today gentlemen. The Rex Room is available. Will that be suitable?” Arnard inquired.

“That will do just fine,” the elder McClusky responded.  Then he further instructed the waiter, “Arnard, this is our friend Julius Hardin visiting from Chicago. I trust you will take good care of Mr. Hardin should he return without us.”

“But of course Mr. McClusky. Anything for your family,” the dutiful waiter replied.

In reality, the McClusky team had brought Mr. Hardin, the president of Midwest Casualty Insurance Company,  to Antoine’s in an attempt to solicit–in the most discreet  and genteel manner–legal business for their small, but well-established, law firm. The firm of McClusky, McClusky and McClusky specialized in the defense of casualty insurance companies who insured against industrial hazards.

Jerome Jr. was known in his firm and in legal circles about town as Jerry Jr. Jerome Sr. had long since shed the bonds of the mortal earth, but not before putting his son and grandson through Ivy League law schools at great expense. The firm had other hired help in the form of young talented attorneys just itching to scrap it up in court with the plaintiff lawyers who sued the firm’s clients. But these young attorneys would never see their names above the line on the firm stationery or share in the lion’s share of the firm’s profits.

After Aunard seated his guests in the plush room where portraits of past kings of Rex glared down from all walls, Jerry Jr. commenced “Yes Mr. Hardin…”

Suddenly, Julius Hardin interrupted his host to request, “Please Jerry, let us get on a first name basis if we are to talk business.” This delighted Jerry. Julius’ request for informality led Jerry to believe his chances to acquire Julius’ business seemed good, but he still had to seal the deal.

Arnard returned to the men’s table and announced, “I assume your usual virgin bull shot is in order for you, Mr. McClusky.”

“That will do just fine,” Jerry replied, being happy to suggest to his new potential client that he had been on the wagon for some time and was now hanging out with a group of people who knew one another only by first names. Jerry continued, “Arnard can tell you there was a time in my younger days when a three martini lunch would have been in order. My father would admonish me, ‘You know son, martinis are like women’s breasts. One is not enough, but three is too many.’”

Arnard took the other gentlemen’s drink orders. Julius ordered the pompano for lunch. Jerry had his customary crawfish bisque, and “The Third” restrained himself with just crab salad.

Getting down to business, Jerry turned to Julius and said, “Julius, we would certainly like to represent your company. I can only tell you we will work hard to defend your interest. Our reputation is that we will do whatever it takes within the bounds of ethics and the law to win a case. We like to win at any costs.”

“We are proud of that reputation,” The Third interjected. “Dad, Tell Mr. Hardin”– The Third  didn’t feel comfortable addressing the older potential client by his first name–”the lengths you went to to defend in the Dixie Beer case.” The Third had heard this story from his dad’s own lips and members of the New Orleans Bar many times, but he could not resist a chuckle each time he heard the tale.

Jerry needed little coaching. Having literally kissed the Blarney stone in County Cork while on a trip to the old country with his father, Jerry took glee in telling stories… especially this one. He became animated when he commenced a story. His crystal blue eyes glistened. Fresh blood squeezed through the tight collar of his white cotton shirt constricted by a red silk tie, which turned his ruddy complexion the color of American Beauty roses. His scalp glowed pink beneath the wispy strands of silver hair he meticulously combed straight back. His immaculately pressed navy pin-striped suit clung to his lean tall body.

“Gordon Bright, a young industrious attorney, brought the case to the Civil District Court in Orleans Parish”, Jerry began to explain. Jerry proceeded, “Gordon claimed his client, a young woman called Ellie, while drinking a Dixie Beer with friends after work at The Napoleon House in the French Quarter, ingested a worm from the bottle of Dixie Beer. She claimed to have become deathly ill and had to be taken to Charity Hospital to have her stomach pumped out.”

Jerry continued the story, “Sure enough, Gordon had two eye witnesses to the event and a part of a worm to prove his case. In my trial preparation, I had to concedethe fact that Ellie had in fact ingested an offending worm from a bottle of beer produced by our insured. Ellie, through her attorney Gordon, asked for the ridiculous sum of one million dollars for her damages. My strategy had to be to prove that swallowing a worm called for far fewer damages that Ellie or Gordon expected. I had to trivialize Ellie’s experience in any way I could.”

The case came before Judge Richard Garvey a fair and diligent man. The facts would be determined by a six-person jury. Jury selection concluded late Monday afternoon. Judge Garvey instructed the attorneys to attempt to finish the case by the end of the week.

Jerry continued to relate the events of the trial to his prospective client. “In the early morning of the second day of trial, I sat on the veranda of my Garden District home having my morning coffee and trying to conjure up a way to illustrate how insignificant Ellie’s damages were. I noticed my gardner, Raul, preparing the soil in a bed of begonias. He introduced long, red worms worms in the bed to aerate the soil.”

Jerry continued, “I asked Raul, ‘Would it be harmful if one were swallow one of those worms?’ ”

“No Senior,” Raul replied. “When my kids were young I saw one of them eat a worm. My wife just said it was probably good for him.”

Jerry continued with his story. “ I instructed Raul to find a large fat worm, wash it off and put it in a half pint fruit jar for me.”

Jerry leaned close to Julius, who by now had become curious. Jerry confided, “I had tried cases with Gordon before and felt pretty sure he would lead off with his plaintiff. She would make a good witness and impress the jury. I would stick to my plan and try to diminish the damages Ellie suffered in the minds of the jurors. I had my secret weapon–a worm in a fruit jar.”

“Sure enough,” Jerry continued, “Gordon put Ellie on the stand as his first witness. I let him go through her whole testimony about ingesting the worm without many objections. However, when she came to describe the illnesses she had suffered by swallowing the worm, I waited to pounce on her.”

As Jerry described to Julius, the first morning of trial went on and on, with Ellie emphasizing how ill she had become because of ingesting the worm.

Jerry then picked up the story. “I let her have all the line she wanted on direct examination. On cross exam, I even encouraged her to testify that unintentionally eating a worm could cause horrific illness. Her sorrowful testimony lingered until almost lunch time. I had her describe the offending worm in great detail.”

Jerry continued to regale a raptured Julius, “The description she gave of the worm that caused her illness matched in much detail the one I had in a fruit jar in my brief case.”

“The morning dragged on,” Jerry continued. “Judge Garvey, intent on concluding this trial, took no breaks. I had to urinate very badly, but was anxious to spring my trap on the unsuspecting Ellie. Feeling certain that Judge Garvey would call a lunch break upon the conclusion of my cross examination of the plaintiff, I prepared to defeat the claim that Ellie had suffered serious illness because of her encounter with a worm.”

An animated Jerry informed Julius with word and gesture just how he sprung his trap. “After I had Ellie describe her worm in detail, I walked over to my table slowly, opened my brief case for all the jury to see, carefully removed the fruit jar containing my large, juicy red worm, deliberately unscrewed the lid and asked permission to approach the witness, which Judge Garvey granted. I removed the critter from the jar with forefinger and thumb of my right hand for Ellie and all jurors to plainly see. Did the worm in your beer look like this?”

“Well yes. I guess so.” Ellie cautiously replied.

“Well, was it as big as this worm?” I asked.

To which she answered. “I don’t think the worm in my bottle was that  big.”

“And you didn’t even ingest all your worm, did you? I pressed her, “Jerry proudly said.

A wide-eyed Julius looked up from his gourmet lunch when Jerry, again by gesture and word illustrated what happened in the trial. “I tossed my fat red worm in my mouth and swallowed it whole while the jury and Ellie gasped in unison. The judge seemed none too pleased, but I had made my point to the jury. I told you Julius, we would go to any length to win a case. I then flaunted my demonstration by telling the witness, ‘Let’s see how sick that makes me.’”

“Since the noon hour approached,” Jerry explained to Julius, “I knew for sure the judge would take a break. He did not. I really had to pee badly but knew if I asked for a break, for any reason, the jury would think I had become ill and needed to excuse myself.

When Judge Garvey instructed Gordon to call his next witness. I knew I would be in for another our of urinary torture, but I was now a prisoner of my own doing.”

By now, Julius starved to know the outcome of Jerry’s stunt to win his case, asked “What did you do?”

Jerry replied. “Well I could not ask for a recess. I was in for another hour of pain. Being in my fifties at the time I had little control of my blatter so I did what any good trial lawyer wanting to win a case at all costs would do. I sat down in my chair behind the defense counsel table and peed down my pants leg. My dark blue suit concealed my misdeed.”

Midwest Casualty Insurance Company became a client of McClusky, McClusky and McClusky.

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