Christmas Law Firm, LLC - March/April 2020

March/April 2020

E very D ay in C ourt I s A pril F ools ’ A LOOK AT HOW INSURANCE COMPANIES PRANK JURIES A pril 1 is April Fools’ Day, and, in my house, it’s celebrated with gusto. My 12- and 7-year-old sons, Austin and Walker, love to play pranks on me. Even though they’re pretty terrible at it, it always reminds me of doing the same thing when I was a kid, just like I bet a lot of you did (or maybe still do) to your own parents and friends.

companies have started to accuse every plaintiff of being a gold digger. They make these accusations in court, turning the jury against people who, between 80% and 90% of the time, really need and deserve compensation. The way I see it,

those old campaigns against rotten suits were so successful that now they can’t resist trying the same thing on everyone. The pendulum has swung all the way from concern over legitimate abuses of the legal system to outright lies. Take a recent case of mine, for example. My client had suffered a brain injury, and to prove it, we’d lined up a bunch of experts, including a neurologist, a neuropsychologist, the treating doctor, and an orthopedic specialist. The insurance company didn’t have any witnesses of any kind, but they still claimed my client wasn’t injured! These illegitimate denials are disturbing. Not only do they cost people an arm and a leg to fight, but they can also delay benefits by as long as two years, extending the pain and suffering of those injured. Instead of “frivolous lawsuits,” we now have “frivolous denials” at the expense of ordinary people, all so insurance companies can profit. It’s the world’s least funny April Fools’ joke. These shady practices are the reason I always tell my clients never to trust their insurance companies to treat them fairly. Even if your insurance company says you don’t have a case, always get a second opinion from a lawyer you trust if you’ve been hurt because the insurance representatives are probably misrepresenting the facts, the law, or both in their conversations with you. I hope you’re never in this situation, but if you are, know that you can trust me and my team to give it to you straight, without any misrepresentation or lies. In our office, it’s only April Fools’ on April 1 — and as much fun as we have joking around, it never touches our work. –Gary Christmas

I always get a laugh out of those prank attempts, and that’s how it should be! April Fool’s Day is our one day a year to crack people up, get their goat, or surprise them by saying the opposite of what’s true. Unfortunately, in my line of work, I see a much less funny version of April Fools’ play out almost every time I step into the courtroom. My kids having a laugh at my expense is one thing — insurance companies doing it to one of my clients is something else entirely. In many personal injury cases, the positions taken by insurance companies are the opposite of the truth. They make claims as ridiculous and unbelievable as the pranks my sons pull, and yet they do it routinely in order to deny deserving people benefits. Their goal is always to pay out as little as possible or nothing at all in order to keep making the record profits they’ve been raking in for the last 25 years. It’s not an exaggeration to say my team and I see this every day. Decades ago, insurance companies started accusing lawyers and their clients of looking for “jackpot justice” and filing “junk lawsuits” or “frivolous lawsuits.” Back then, I think those companies had good intentions. They wanted to uncover fraud, and those rare bad apples were definitely out there who deserved to be caught. But these days, it’s gotten to the point that insurance

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The Freedom of Information Act, commonly referred to as FOIA, has been a crucial part of the democratic system for decades. It was designed to improve public access to governmental records, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as intended. In most cases, requests are only answered if a lawsuit is filed. Nevertheless, FOIA has had a crucial role in many high-profile legal cases. Here are a couple of the most significant ones in American history. A Journalist’s 16 Years in Court California-based journalist Seth Rosenfeld has had some serious contention with the FBI. In 1985, he filed his first lawsuit against the FBI for ignoring his requests for information about the Berkeley protests of the 1960s. The case was eventually settled in 1996, and Rosenfeld was awarded $560,000 in fees. In their settlement agreement, the FBI agreed to be more thorough with FOIA requests. Rosenfeld filed a second lawsuit in 2007 accusing the FBI of withholding information during former President Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Five years later, he was awarded $479,459 in attorney

fees. Rosenfeld is known for having some of the longest-pending FOIA requests and has received over 300,000 pages of FBI documents since the 1980s. The SCOMM Scandal In a landmark FOIA settlement concluded in 2013, the federal government paid $1.2 million to settle a suit brought by several civil rights groups over the Secure Communities (SCOMM) Immigration and Customs Enforcement program. The litigation exposed a plan to create a multi- agency database focused on collecting DNA, a person’s gait, and iris scans. When evidence was uncovered during the litigation, governors of New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts tried to opt their states out of the program, but the Department of Homeland Security determined SCOMM mandatory, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The case also changed how the government is required to identify, collect, and produce data for all FOIA requests. Thanks to FOIA and these important cases, the people’s right to government information (and honesty) will continue to progress in America’s democracy.


J ustice I s S erved ! CHRISTMAS INJURY LAWYERS WINS $399,000 FOR INJURED LONGSHOREMAN The work that longshoremen and harbor workers do here in South Carolina is often incredibly dangerous, and under their working conditions, mistakes and twists of fate can lead to serious injuries. When a worker on or near the docks is injured on the job, not only is it painful, but it can also be devastating to them and their families. This was exactly the experience of one of our recent clients, a longshoreman who was injured while working as a warehouse manager. When exiting a forklift at work, our client fell painfully onto a concrete floor. He ended up injuring both the cervical and lumbar regions of his spine. Even after surgery, he continued to struggle with repercussions from the accident, including an altered gait, a hoarse voice, and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). These long- term effects seriously impacted his life to the point that he turned to us for help.

benefits if they’re injured working on or near docks along navigable waters. The LHWCA here locally requires the employer to provide the injured worker with medical care and treatment, biweekly disability benefit checks for all periods of time they were taken out of work by an approved physician, and payment for any permanent total or partial wage loss or scheduled member disability. But even with those stipulations, insurance companies work hard to minimize the medical and monetary benefits paid out in every case. That’s where a good lawyer comes in. Luckily for our client, our team of experienced injury lawyers had his back. In the end, we settled his case for $399,000 — enough money to help him continue his recovery without stress and get his life back on track. We love seeing that kind of justice served! If you or someone you know has been injured working the docks, we can help. Call 843-535-8000 to schedule a consultation today.

Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), workers like our client are owed medical and monetary



We have big news to share with you all! Last November, our very own attorney Gary Christmas became a certified instructor, and this spring, he’ll start teaching trial advocacy skills to lawyers from around the country through the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA). Gary is thrilled to be joining the NITA faculty, and we couldn’t be more excited for him to take on this challenge in addition to his trial work at Christmas Injury Lawyers. NITA is a respected national nonprofit organization focused on teaching a fair, impartial, and ethical approach to law. Its faculty and staff believe the training and development of skilled legal advocates can (and does) improve the administration of justice, and we share those same values. Since its founding in 1971, NITA has helped thousands of lawyers hone their abilities. It has locations in 21 states and the District of Columbia and offers online courses, including trial programs, judicial programs, and more.

As its website says, “NITA began over the desks and dining tables of attorneys who had to learn the hard way. These lawyers wanted something better for the generations of attorneys who would follow them. Using their skills and their hard-won experience, they created advocacy programs that gave attorneys the opportunity to learn and practice skills such as taking depositions, making opening and closing arguments,

examining witnesses, and more. This is still the foundation of who we are today.” Last year, Gary attended NITA’s teacher training and certification program at its Boulder, Colorado, office and passed with flying colors. If you see him in the office this month, be sure to tell him congratulations! We couldn’t be more proud of his work and continued efforts to give back.


Ratatouille Inspired by Bon Appétit


• 1 eggplant, peeled and chopped • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds • 2 tsp salt • 3/4 cup olive oil, divided

• 5 sprigs thyme • 1 large onion, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick • 1 red bell pepper, chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, sliced • 2 pints cherry tomatoes


1. Heat oven to 400 F. 2. In a colander, toss eggplant, zucchini, and salt. Let sit for 30 minutes and pat dry. 3. In an ovenproof pot, heat 1/2 cup olive oil. Add half of eggplant mixture, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from pot. 4. Tie thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine. 5. In the same pot, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and cook onion, pepper, garlic, and thyme for 8–10 minutes. 6. Add half the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. 7. Stir in original eggplant and zucchini mixture and top with remaining tomatoes. Do not stir. 8. Transfer pot to oven and bake mixture for 15–20 minutes. 9. Remove pot from oven and remove thyme bundle before serving.




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105 S. Cedar Street Suite D Summerville, SC 29483 843-535-8000

Every Day in Court Is April Fools’ inside this issue 1 2 2 Influential Freedom of Information Act Lawsuits Christmas Injury Lawyers Wins $399,000 for Injured Longshoreman

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The Student Becomes the Teacher


Bringing Love, Joy, and Life Back to Kishi Station



During the mid-2000s, the Kishi Train Station in Japan began to deteriorate. By 2006, Kishi Station was left completely unstaffed because of low ridership and financial problems. However, one last resident still remained after everyone else was long gone: a black, white, and tan cat named Tama.


Stationmaster of Kishi Station, the first cat stationmaster in Japan. To complete her look, Kojima gave her a small conductor hat to wear as she greeted commuters from her window perch inside the ticket gates. As an official stationmaster, Tama became well known all across Japan and throughout the world. She appeared in the media and on promotional materials that soon brought much-needed foot traffic to Kishi Station. Thousands of tourists came rushing to Kishi to see Tama for themselves, ride the Tamaden carriage, and pick up Tama merchandise inside the station. Tama brought joy to all commuters for the next several years before passing away in 2015. Nearly 3,000 people attended her funeral, and her legacy lives on. Tama’s successors continue as stationmasters: Nitama, who serves as Kishi stationmaster, and assistant Yontama at Idakiso, five stations away. Tama’s friendly and loving nature impacted many people around her, and she will always be affectionately known as the cat who saved the Japanese train station.

Tama first appeared at the station as a young cat in the late 1990s. She lived near the train station and would visit commuters daily to receive affection and the occasional treat. But, as it turned out, her continued visits to Kishi Station would end up playing a much bigger role for the station. The same year it became unstaffed, residents living near the station asked the president of the Wakayama Electric Railway, Mitsunobu Kojima, to revive the station because the cat’s survival depended on it. It turns out Tama’s original owner had asked the railway workers to care for her before he moved away — he couldn’t bear to take her from the station she loved to visit so much. So, Kojima decided to go meet Tama. He liked her immediately and adopted her. A year later, Tama was officially named the


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