TLC Grad and faculty member Eric Fong explain the connection and path to the empathy he learned at the 3-Week TLC flagship course. Listen carefully as Eric explains how TLC opened up a new world of creativity in his profession and personal life. Don't miss this podcast.
Eric Fong | William Tisdale v. Apro LLC, a Delaware Limited Liability Corporation | $91 million verdict
The Great Trials Podcast
This week, your hosts Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey interview Eric Fong of Fong Law (https://www.ericfonglaw.com/). Remember to rate and review GTP in iTunes: Click Here To Rate and Review New! Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKdeO4IodggpSLyhWVdcWKw Episode Details: Eric Fong, an accomplished lawyer who has tried more than 100 civil and criminal jury trials, shares how he successfully represented his client William Tisdale after being brutally attacked by a robber due to a convenience store's lack of employee training and proper security measures. Around 11 p.m. on November 4, 2015, William Tisdale entered an Apro convenience store in Parkland, Washington and was immediately told by the clerk to call 911. Not realizing that there was a robber inside the store who was threatening to kill the clerk and demanding money from the register, William stepped outside to call 911 only to be violently beaten by the baseball bat-wielding thief as he stole William's car. Eric Fong used enhanced animation to show jurors the severity of William's numerous injuries, including multiple skull fractures, traumatic brain injury and retinal damage, as they occurred in real-time via the video footage of the attack. In spite of the defense's attempts to minimize William's injuries and to blame him for not remembering to take his medications due to a TBI, the jury responded to Eric Fong's re-telling of William's story and his appeal for empathy and compassion for his client. In June 2021, a Pierce County, Washington jury — limited by COVID-19 precautions and virtual trial proceedings — found Apro was 90% at fault and William was 10% at fault in this groundbreaking premises liability case. The jury awarded William $91 million in total damages, which is the largest compensatory damages verdict for an individual plaintiff in Washington state. Click Here to Read/Download the Complete Trial Documents Guest Bio: Eric Fong Imaginative and yearning to explore with measured recklessness, Eric Fong lives for the adrenalin only a courtroom provides. With over 100 civil and criminal jury trials under his belt, he is recognized as an innovator of creative trial work in both fields of law. Eric protected low-income housing residents of WA State against oppressive crime control measures, creating the constitutional right to intimate association. His $91,000,000 verdict is the largest compensatory damages verdict for one person in Washington State. His representation of iconic funk musician & legend, George Clinton allowed Mr. Clinton to keep his historic body of work. Decided in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, this is the definitive copyright case in the United States. Eric lives with his beloved fiancé and co-collaborator Courtney, 2 amazing daughters, and his courtroom dog “Happy” on the beautiful Burley Lagoon. Read Full Bio Show Sponsors: Legal Technology Services - LegalTechService.com Digital Law Marketing - DigitalLawMarketing.com Harris Lowry Manton LLP - hlmlawfirm.com Free Resources: Stages Of A Jury Trial - Part 1 Stages Of A Jury Trial - Part 2
Empathy And Compassion Should Be Your Core Values, with Eric Fong
Grow Your Law Firm
Eric Fong lives for the adrenalin only a courtroom provides. With over 100 civil and criminal jury trials under his belt, he is recognized as an innovator of creative trial work. Eric protected low-income housing residents of WA State against oppressive crime control measures, creating the constitutional right to intimate association. His $91,000,000 verdict is the largest compensatory damages verdict for one person in Washington State. His representation of iconic funk musician & legend, George Clinton allowed Mr. Clinton to keep his historic body of work. Decided in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, this is the definitive copyright case in the United States. What you’ll learn about in this episode: What’s different and unique about practicing law in the Pacific NW. The power of using the Gerry Spence’s psychodrama technique in the courtroom. How Eric employs empathy and compassion in a way that keeps him truly helping people and growing his law firm simultaneously. How the way you treat your clients and jurors can be the best form of marketing for your firm, better than any paid advertisement. The things that Eric can attribute his level of success to. How taking care of yourself, your relationships and living an honest & committed life can better your career. How habits, good and bad, have an uncanny ability to shape your life as a lawyer and in everything else. Resources: Website: https://www.ericfonglaw.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericfonglaw LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eric-fong-6963237/ Additional Resources: PILMMA’s Super Summit: https://www.pilmma.org/summit/ The Mastermind Effect: https://www.pilmma.org/the-mastermind-effect/ PILMMA’s Free Resources: https://www.pilmma.org/resources/ PILMMA Join Page: https://www.pilmma.org/mastermind/
Transcript of Episode 65, with Eric Fong Scott Glovsky: Welcome to Trial Lawyer Talk. I’m Scott Glovsky. I’m your host for this podcast where we speak with amazing lawyers. Today we’ve got a great, great story from Eric Fong. Eric is a wonderful trial lawyer who practices out of Port Orchard, Washington, but tries cases all over the country. The theme today is about overcoming fear, dealing with obstacles that we face in trials and strategically how to get past those obstacles and move past that fear and get on with telling your client’s story. Eric got a verdict of $91 million a couple of weeks ago in a case that was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. There’s a lot of lessons here, so we’re going to break it into two episodes, but let’s get started with the first episode. I’m very psyched that we have Eric Fong with us. Eric is a wonderful guy, great lawyer, creative, present, charismatic and an incredibly caring. Eric’s going to share with us again, fortunately, I’m very thankful that he’s here again the story of a case that he just tried a couple of weeks ago. Eric, thanks so much for being with us. Eric Fong: Hi Scott. Good morning. Thank you for having me, this is important. Scott Glovsky: Can you take us to a scene that can help us understand your story in the case that you just tried? Eric Fong: Sure, a scene of the case that helps tell my story and when I hear that, I hear my story. Well, how does it relate to me? That immediately makes me want to talk about the jury because the stories that they hear of course relate to them. But that’s a topic for another day, but it is I think it’s really important to know that everything we do in court we are guests in the jurors homes and we need to treat them with the utmost respect and they of course are the focus of everything that’s going on in that courtroom. That’s something we should talk about later, but for me and my story or the story of this case, this morning I was talking with my fiancé Courtney, and she was there every step of the way and the workup of this case. We were reminded, I was reminded of how hard trials are because of the… We put so much effort and energy into choreographing our cases and we have this expectation that it’s going to go a certain way because that’s how we plan it and that’s just the way it has to go and if we do all of these things, we’re going to win. Expectations are kind of like resentments waiting to happen. We get stuck on these rigid beliefs and ideas, and we lose the ability to adapt to what’s happening in the moment. Right out of the gate, this trial was not going the way I had hoped or expected it or my expectations were not materializing. The first devastating blow was that the jury selection process is so important to getting these trials off on the right track. That’s this opportunity for us to sit down and look at these good people and make these human connections and talk about these lofty principles of truth and justice and the law. Of course, when we go into these trials, we have this fear of the group of people that we’re going to meet with. So we come up with all these great questions of how we can ferret that out so that we can get a fair trial. Well, I only had 20 minutes and this was a case that is not jumping out at anyone as, oh, that’s why the law should intervene. It was a robbery at a store where a customer got hurt. So it’s not like a car crash case where someone’s driving on the phone and they run on someone. It was complicated by business agency law and then some third-party criminal that did the actual damage. That takes some time to develop a talk about and I had 20 minutes and all of that time was consumed talking about you can guess, you can imagine frivolous lawsuits. I don’t get any deeper than that. I was at the end of the 20 minutes, of course I was heartbroken. I was crushed. I was negative. Scott Glovsky: Eric let’s go back in a moment. You’re back there, set the scene for us. Eric Fong: Well, I’ll take it to the lunch. We walk out of jury selection and we’re at a pizza parlor just down the road. I’m there with my team and I’m just heartbroken. I’m just heartbroken because I have decided in my mind, my thoughts have taken over my feelings and I have decided at this point that we’re done. It’s like I have a group of people that don’t believe in the justice as I see it. I have a group of people that aren’t going to give my client a fair chance and I was moping around. It was hard for me to snap out of that and thank God that we have these breaks in the day or in these moments because you have to snap, you can’t bring your garbage to the dinner table and expect other people to want to hang around with you. I remember talking to, who was it? I called someone up and I was explaining this sorrow I was in, all these years of putting this case together and all this effort and resources, and look at this jury that I have and how unfair it was, 20 minutes and 20 people to pick from on your veneer. That was 20 people. Out of 20 people we narrowed no for causes. We had our jury and there is a chunk of people on there that scare me. This person said to me, “You know what? You got to forget about that and fall back on your preparation. You got to go- Scott Glovsky: Well, let me stop you for one moment there. I want you to be in this moment where you’re in this pizza parlor, and I want you to reverse roles with your fear. What’s going on with you? Eric Fong: These are things I can’t control and I’m getting steamrolled and I have no power to control it or stop it. The next logical step or the next emotional step, I don’t know which one of those it is that I’m off a cliff. This whole case has just gone off a cliff. Scott Glovsky: And fear, what are your ingredients? Right now you are tearing apart, Eric, but what are the things that are going to go wrong in his life because of what’s happening right now? Eric Fong: My words will be empty. No one is going to listen to me. No one is going to give my client a fair chance and I’m going to lose. Scott Glovsky: What does that mean for Eric? What does Eric have on the line here? Eric Fong: My ego, my wallet, my client’s life. The last three, four years of 100% commitment to winning this case because it’s righteous and it’s important and it matters. All that work for the right reasons. Everything that I did, that I believe was honorable and above board, it didn’t matter. Once again, the bully and the bad guy’s going to win, and it doesn’t matter what you do, because sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way and you just get screwed. I just got screwed. Scott Glovsky: Do you feel powerless? Eric Fong: I did until that phone call. Scott Glovsky: So is there anything else we need to know about your fear- Eric Fong: No. Scott Glovsky: … at this moment? Let’s reverse back, Eric. Eric Fong: Yeah, I already feel better. Going back, I didn’t like that, but there’s… Anyways, go ahead, Scott. Scott Glovsky: So you felt this fear and then you… How did you deal with it? What happened next? Eric Fong: Part of it is the reality that you got to keep going, duh. You got a case to try, pull up your pants and buckle your shoes up, and let’s go, it’s on. Forget about all that other stuff. Who knows? You’re playing mind games with yourself and you got to just stop that and like that person said, you fall back on your preparation. I would say little things to myself to make me feel better that conservative right ring wing jurors. Well, you know what? We know that they can be pushed over the edge to be really great jurors. We know that. So quit judging them and maybe they won’t judge you and just go in and embrace the humanity of this moment and the truth and the confidence that the justice is on your side. I think I moved on pretty quickly like these moments where we have these profound disappointments, you have to be able to… I had to move on because I had to give an opening statement the next day. Scott Glovsky: Where do we need to know to go next to understand the story? Eric Fong: I would say that night I was consumed with the motions practice. My team and I, the defense, I don’t know if it was intentional or just… I don’t like give them the benefit of the doubt. It just happened this way, but they were throwing the trial schedule off with what I believe to be pretty poorly thought out or frivolous motions, arguments and lots of new disclosures and briefings that was requiring a ton of energy on our part to address. That night, I don’t remember the specific legal issue, but I remember staying up until 3:00 in the morning writing a brief so that we could file it with the court the next morning right away to prevent the defense from doing something, an opening statement that I was anticipating. Eric Fong: We were driving from my house to court and we’re going over the Narrows Bridge and I was rehearsing with Ken and Courtney. I was moving for a mistrial that day. I was going to move for a mistrial. I did move for a mistrial and I was rehearsing the points and making the bullet points of why a mistrial was necessary at this point, which was not a fun thing to do. I couldn’t even imagine if it had been granted, but I felt like it had to be done and we get to court and we’re arguing these issues and the court denies the mistrial. I remember the judge looking at me and asking me if I was okay, like, “Mr. Fong, are you all right?” I don’t know where that was coming from. She asked if I needed a minute because the jury was walking in. We had finished the motion stuff and now we were getting ready to go straight into opening statements. I was exhausted. I was upset. I was uncertain of myself and what was going on. I knew that in a matter of minutes I had to stand up in front of a jury and give an opening statement. Scott Glovsky: How did you deal with it? Eric Fong: Well, thank God I had prepared it a lot. Like that person said, I fell back on my preparation and confidence and I have had enough trials where I know you’re done if you cannot… Cause the jury, we have to remember that people are bringing with them their experience of what they know and these 14 people, the two alternatives and the 12, two plus 12, 14, they’re walking into this room. They’ve just been sworn in the introductory instructions had been done, and they’re going to sit down and they’re going to be introduced to the facts of the case. At that very moment I am boiling with kind of this anger at the defense lawyers. I’m dealing with that emotional fallout of the jury selection, not going the way I had hoped or wanted. I knew that if I didn’t push that aside, I didn’t have time to deal with it of course. The jury was right there. I had to push it aside. I had to remember that this jury knows nothing about that. If I interject that negativity or that emotion or that fear, and they can see something in me is not right that’s not a very good impression. That is our bank when we give a closing argument. Our credibility is our… These feelings and relationships that formed in jury selection and continue to get stronger as the trial goes on. If I didn’t tend to the relationship of my credibility with these people and forget about the drama that had just happened in court, that would be greater than losing the mistrust. That flaw or that catastrophe would be far greater than losing legal arguments. So I put it aside, I grabbed my notes and I slipped into trial mode and I was able to do it. Scott Glovsky: I understand there was some difficulties in this time of the day of your opening statement. Eric Fong: Yeah. Holy cow. The West Coast was in the grips of a heat wave and not the one that we just had where it was like 110 degrees but it was hot. We were in this makeshift community center courtroom, and the air conditioners were out. The temperature in the courtroom was approaching 85 degrees for consecutive days. This was the first day of this absurd heat. The judge she’s like, “Look, it’s hot and I told the lawyers they could take their coat off.” And you guess how many lawyers, there’s six lawyers lined up, guess how many lawyers took their coat off? One, and that one lawyer took their coat off and rolled their sleeves up and it was me. Because there’s this, I don’t know this idea of a lawyer and putting on this show or this front or looking a certain way and acting a certain way, flies in the face of human connections. We want to look the part, we want to talk the part. We feel this need to create this image. I have through the work of Jerry Spence, the Trial Lawyers College and the personal journey of just being real. If it’s 85 degrees and it’s hot, and the judges take your coat off, I’d be happy to go into shorts and a t-shirt if she would give me that leash to do that. I wanted to do that to one, be comfortable because that’s what I needed to do physically, but I also wanted to do it to connect with the jury. I’m one of you. We’re all in this together. I’m no different than you, duh. So I was actually glad that it was hot. The other thing that was going on was I had just gotten over limping from a nasty, nasty knee injury where all of my meniscus in the knee blew out, not the meniscus, well, yes, the meniscus, the cartilage, both ligaments and tore the calf muscle and broke the leg. It was a really bad injury where the orthopedic surgeons were like, “Ooh, this is interesting.” I did that on early March, and this trial started May 27th or something. So I had just gotten over this where my body was letting me walk, where my normal gate could come in and pretty we’re lugging around boxes, you’re up and down. I had not been anything close to being active. All of a sudden I’m in this trial, which is an extremely physically. That’s a surprising thing maybe for folks how physical a trial is, but pretty early on my knee did not like it. Those were the physical things that were going on at the time. Scott Glovsky: I understand you were basically with your knee pain, you couldn’t even barely stand. So you were doing your examinations with your legs up on a chair. Eric Fong: Well, I don’t know about that. But yes, I ended up resorting to sitting for a big chunk of the trial because if I needed to, I had to. Scott Glovsky: We were talking about opening day, by the way, before I distracted you. [crosstalk 00:22:43]. Eric Fong: In the opening statement I was… The other thing was, is that the space was so restricted that there was this podium that we were told we had to stand behind. I like to roam around. I like to move, I like to use the space appropriately so that I can make stronger connections on the outer reaches of my eyesight, so to speak. When you look at someone, you get a much closer personal feel with the closer you get to them. So I try to use all that space and in this room, you couldn’t do it. We weren’t allowed to do that. You could not walk around because of COVID, social distancing. We were allowed, thank God when we were talking to remove our mask. So I stood behind the podium. I was up and I delivered the opening statement that I think frankly set the tone for the whole trial and may very well have won it. I moved on pretty quickly from… Every day, got better and better and better. If we started out rough… I do remember when I moved for the mistrial, the defense lawyer said something to the effect of, “Oh, he’s just upset because he’s losing.” We were at the time, I think that might’ve been a fair statement. Scott Glovsky: So where do we need to go [inaudible 00:24:37]. You did mention that there was some violations emotions [inaudible 00:24:45]. Eric Fong: Yes, when we were talking. So the defense lawyers opening state… So there were a lot of unsavory facts that I needed to keep out, or I saw I thought that I wanted to keep out and the court agreed. Prior drug use of… We’re not talking about marijuana we’re talking about like hardcore synthetic junk. There was some criminal history, there was continued drinking and driving. There was my client’s sexuality. There were some issues with CPS and child support and unemployment, horrible facts that on the motions eliminated, I think the judge made the obviously correct rulings and kept it out. I moved for a mistrial twice. This lawyer did not seem to mind violating motions eliminate. Every opportunity he had, he was more than willing to introduce facts that had previously been ruled in admissible. In the opening statement he had a PowerPoint that had a lot of the stuff I just talked about in it. While he wasn’t coming out and saying it, so if you read the record, you’re not going to see it on his PowerPoint and he would leave it up for crazy amounts of time whatever. I would make the objection and he would just keep steamrolling, leave it up. As if there was no regard for the court’s rulings or for what was going, he did not care. He did not care. I clearly that impression didn’t go over well with the judge or the jury or with me, because it didn’t matter in the end but his witnesses were no better. The next place maybe is that I go through my case, I put on the case, we call the store clerk, the manager. I can’t remember if we talked a little bit about what this case was about. Scott Glovsky: Yeah, you gave us a very, very, just brief snippet that involved a convenience store. Why don’t you share, yeah go ahead. Eric Fong: Convenience stores that are open 24 hours a day are dangerous. There’s a scientific correlation between robberies. This is a thing, a convenience store robbery is a thing. It’s one of the most widely studied kind of business dangers out there. It’s extensive. We know certain things are going to increase the likelihood of a convenience store being robbed. We know that operators of these businesses have to do certain things to prevent it from happening. So this was a store in a company that could have cared less, and the store was dangerous. The employees were asking for help. There was just this non-stop barrage of criminal activity on the property. That’s kind of the duty and the breach. Then there was how the clerk actually handled the robbery where he escalated it and then asked my client to kind of help. Anyway, so I put on my case, I have a great expert on liability. The employee and the manager of the store were phenomenal. They’d been deposed. So I knew what their story was. The defense is now calling their witnesses. Their whole theory of the case was just to a character assassination of this poor guy, just tear him down as much as possible as if he’s unworthy as a human for any type of compensation. He’s not worthy of being helped. It’s one of those things where you get the defense medical examination opinions and you the reports and you don’t know if you’re grateful because it’s so far beyond the pale of reasonable or you don’t know if you’re terrified because you know how horrible they make your clients sound. So client suffered a traumatic brain injury. From that traumatic brain injury came the usual suspects of psychological fallout of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and that he had significant functioning problems and all of those headaches, vision, audio disturbances, all of that stuff paled in comparison, if you can imagine to a grandma’s epilepsy that was poorly controlled that had caused respiratory failure and the defense was, “Oh, he’s not that hurt and if he just took his medications, he’d be fine. And all of the problems he’s currently having he had before.” And why did he have it before? Well, because he’s just this miserable human being that had a horrible life who brought all these things on. So the neuropsychologist as I’m cross-examining the guy, I asked him this question, it was something to the effect of tell the jury one thing about Mr. Tisdale that you respect and he couldn’t do it, Scott, he couldn’t do it. I sat there in the silence grew, and I’m not going to stop the silence, come on guy. Let’s hear it. There’s got to be something in this human being that you seem as redeemable. The next thing that happened was this disturbing display of, I would describe it as hatred where he starts spouting out all of the things he was instructed not to talk about. His face went ugly. He just started saying, well, this is a person who is a drug addict. This is a person who’s gay. This is a person who just continues to drank and they keep getting arrested. This is a person whose kids were taken from him by CPS. Of course, we’re supposed to be in control of our emotions. We shouldn’t be overtaken by them and we should let our emotions flow through us and handle things professionally. Isn’t that what jurors expect? We’re professionals. We should behave this way. Well, this was a moment where I wasn’t capable of doing that. I was dismayed after the opening statement. I don’t know, unethical behavior, every chance up until this point. These little pieces of evidence were being interjected into the trial. Now here we have the neuropsychologist just destroying my client, or so he thought because of character flaws. I had already moved for a mistrial at two times at the point for this exact reason. I’d already moved for a mistrial. Finally, I just flew, I just threw up my arms. I said let’s talk about this. Well, the first question I said, did your lawyer talk to you about motions eliminate and tell you that you’re not supposed to bring this stuff up? Was that ever explained to you? There was an objection that was sustained and [inaudible 00:34:03], let’s just talk about it. Let’s just talk about these things. I think I went into the CPS allegation because that was the one where I was the strongest. He just made stuff up. I told my clients story of what actually happens. His kids were never taken by CPS. I just asked the leading questions that set that out to try and get a more balanced perspective that this guy is nothing more than a hired Hitman to lie. Obviously the trust that I had developed with the jurors through jury selection and opening statement and in the cross-examinations of previous witnesses clearly established who had the truth on their side and what the motives of these people were. Scott Glovsky: I can feel the waves building in your case through your sharing with the jury, the truth contrasted with the lies that the defense case apparently was filled with. Where do we need to next? Eric Fong: I think that this is a good time to just talk about credibility and trial and how important our honor is and our behavior is because once you cross the line of honesty or ethical behavior or doing what you say you’re going to do write an opening statement. Once you cross that line, by the time it gets to closing argument, you’re done. The law, as we go through these jury instructions… I’ve done a lot of trials and I’ve read a lot of these jury instructions over and over and over again in all sorts of different jurisdictions and states. I still don’t understand a lot of them, you know what I mean? The way they’re written and the way they talk about the law and human suffering and damages, it doesn’t just jump out at you as like, oh, that makes perfect sense. So frankly, I believe that by the time you get the closing argument, your interpretation of the law is going to have a huge sway with how the jury interprets it, assuming they believe you. If there’s this huge credibility gap between the two lawyers, the closing argument at that point, really isn’t… The jury is not going to put much weight at that point into how a dishonest or someone they don’t believe how they interpret the law. I just think that the conduct of the willingness of the defense to push the limits to assassinate a good person’s character really hurt the credibility of the lawyer. That was a strategic choice. For the life of me, I can’t understand how people are so willing to attack other humans. It’s such an ugly trait, but unfortunately in this line of work, we see it all the time from the doctors, from the insurance adjusters. They’re so jaded and how they view claimants that they are simply incapable of turning it on and off. So when the chips are on the line and there’s jurors sitting in judgment of the facts, they don’t even realize how unfiltered their normal behavior is because this is how they treat people. They’re incapable of seeing that the judgment is poor because that is their judgment. That is who they are and that’s not a good place to be. Scott Glovsky: Can you take us understand after closing you were convinced that you’d lost, take us there. Eric Fong: It gets harder and harder to go there because nothing could have been further from the truth. But we have these doubts that we carry with us through life and I think these doubts are accumulation of our past failures that infiltrate the present. These disappointments of trials of the past, where you won and you hear the verdict and you’re just devastated. So you never know. You never know how these things turn out until the verdict is announced. I did, we were sitting and we had rented this space at the community college to just have as our home base and we were sitting in that room around this table, and there wasn’t a lot of talking going on and we’re just sitting around, this is day two of deliberations. So we knew that at some point there had to be a question, or we were getting into this point where we’re four or five hours deep into the process. We get a question. We get a call from the court and your heart just stops beating, or it starts racing, whatever. The question had to do with liability and proximate cause. Then of course I did not like the question, because that was the issue in this case is approximate cause and intervening acts of a third person and is a chain broken. It scared the living daylights out of me. The judge says what they often say which you don’t want a side note. I wish that I had been more forceful with the judge to actually address and answer the question in a more forthright way instead of read the instruction, but that’s what they were told and 15 minutes later, they came back with a verdict. I tricked myself, I convinced that this is bad. It was confirmed in my mind when we’re sitting there at the table and the jurors file in and this is the moment of intense anxiety because it’s happening and you know that the decision has been made and it’s in their hands and they’re going to hand it to the bailiff and give it to the court. Not one jurors they walked into that courtroom looked at me. Having been there before, when that happens, I’ve come to be conditioned do you believe that that’s a death blow? Not one person had a twinkle in their eye, a wrinkle in their face that could only come from a smile behind the mask, not one person looked at me. So I just dropped my head in sorrow that I knew what the judge was going to read. I was just preparing myself for that. Obviously as the judge worked her way through the verdict, it was just relief. I don’t want to say it was elation. It was gratifying. I was proud of the jurors. I was proud of me. I was proud of my client for… It’s not fun for them to go through this process. I want to jump back Scott, unless there’s something right now you want to say, [crosstalk 00:43:33] I want to jump back to that moment after closing argument before we went to the room that we had rented. When I sat down in the front seat of the car, I wanted to just sob, I fought back this intense grieving of this emotional rush of just wanting to break down and cry. I don’t know what that was about. I’ve done cases where as soon as it was done, I’m laid out like horribly sick, because you put so much energy and emotional investment and adrenaline goes into it, that when your body you’re finally done, it’s weird. It was intense. I had this impending sense of doom. It’s over and I don’t think he did enough. Then I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t have felt better. This is after closing arguments. We closed it, oh gosh. They have like half a day to deliberate. I think we actually got done in the morning with closings, I think. So I went to bed that night just second guessing everything I had done, was it enough? Then the next morning when I woke up, I felt really good. I felt like we tried the case perfectly, the closing arguments covered what needed to be covered. It’s in the hands of a good group of people that are going to see this thing through that this defendant finally is going to be held accountable. As you know that’s how it played out. Scott Glovsky: Eric what is the… I know there are many, many, many lessons in this case, and you shared with me a little bit about how to motivate a group of people to do something that they would never individually do. Can you share with us how what you’ve learned and how it ties in with your journey? Eric Fong: So I am a big believer in the jury trial and you’re going to get a group of people who collectively had experienced everything that this world can present. from the highs to the lowest lows and everything in between. You take 12 people off the streets, there’s nothing that they have not been exposed to in life. Now, having said that, there’s no way that individually their thoughts are aligned and they’re going to see things the same way. So as a trial lawyer who’s asking for justice, you apply the laws to the facts of the case and you’re going to spit out a verdict that as we love to say, and it’s just more true to this day than ever that what that verdict represents is the conscience of the community. It’s the voice. It’s what our future needs to be. It’s what the present is about. I believe that these ideals of justice are tied to something much bigger and greater than the facts of the case and even the law. I believe that justice exceeds the space that the law provides and within each individual, as different as those experiences are that collectively make up the whole spectrum of life do you know what they all have in common? Every single one of those, every human being on this planet has one thing in common and that is this burning desire, deep inside of them to matter, to make a difference and to be heard and to live a life or choosing and our destiny and that’s pretty profound stuff. If you think about how important each individual life is now, there are certain people that want to die and they commit suicide. Even that person, there’s something inside of them that is sick and that needs to be replaced or go away, which we all have and in that process, we kind of grow. But the idea of 12 people getting together to do justice to me is a spiritual journey. It’s a spiritual journey that evolves through the process of the trial. Scott Glovsky: How was this tide to your personal journey? Eric Fong: Now that’s exactly it, Scott. That’s a hard question. In 2001, I was introduced to this concept that you can’t ask other people to do something unless you yourself are willing to do it. Ancillary concept is if you don’t believe in yourself, or you don’t believe what you have to say, well, you know what, it’s pretty much a certainty that other people aren’t going to believe it. So you have to dig down deep within your soul and do the hard work to learn who you are. That’s a scary journey. Of course, I’m talking about the Trial Lawyers College and the work that we both did at Thunderhead Ranch under the brilliance of Jerry Spent. I was like, “Who are you?” who is the authentic you? Not everyone is willing to take that journey. Not everyone is willing to strip down through the layers to do the hard work of exposing your flaws like the sickness inside of you, which by the way we all have. There’s no one that hasn’t thought of horrible things from homicide to suicide or crazy disgusting thoughts. That’s part of living and the scary part is if you’re not willing to admit it, or you’re not willing to do the hard work to uncover what’s driving your feelings, why do you react to certain people in a certain way? So that process began in 2001, so 20 years ago. Along the way and I was willing, you have to be willing to go down these journeys like an openness and a willingness to just receive other messages in life. As I got further along into the personal work of just like, who am I? One of the most profound oldest questions on the planet. Well, who am I? What am I doing? Where do I want to go with this life? Intense, deep reflection on these really simple and sound questions but overly complex and reality. The deeper I got into understanding my own flaws and my trauma that was inflicted on me, the more open I came to seeing it in everyone around me and how we individually go through life on this journey or in these moments. So here’s where the next big jump came, Scott. So that was profound. That’s profound work. When you’re willing to open your soul up and uncover and just open up the nasty things about who we are and what was done to us and just deal with it so that we’re not carrying it around. We’re as sick as our secrets or the things that we can’t talk about control us. Those truisms that hold us back in life, when you’re willing to go to the things that you can’t talk about, that’s life changing stuff. But no matter how much work I did in that department, there was something deeper that was still eating away at me. The next layer above that, they gave me a breakthrough was the 12 steps. My work as an addict, which alcohol and marijuana got the best of me and inflicted severe damage on my personal life, professional life, my physical health and I was on my knees crawling into the AA halls looking for help. It was the 12 steps that start out with this concept of powerlessness. We’re powerless over alcohol and our life has become unmanageable. When you can grab… By the way, each 12 steps are just basic truths that in and of themselves are just common sense. It’s how they’re strung together that gives you an approach to life that is magnificent. It’s brilliant. But step one I’m powerless over certain things. When you can recognize your powerlessness, you’re actually empowered. Think of the times that you have spent contemplating and obsessing and trying to solve a problem you have that you simply don’t have the power to solve. How much healthier would you be if you could intellectually recognize you have no power over this particular event. So just let it play out and see how it goes and just adjust to it. So that’s step one. The last step is the spiritual principle of generosity. The gift isn’t complete until you give it away. You 12-steps someone, and that’s being generous and helping other people. Then the 10 steps in between there are just equally magnificent but that was the beginning of a spiritual journey that took me to amazing places working with Brant Secunda, who is a incredibly powerful shaman from the Huichol tribe at Mexico. I did some work with some other spiritual, I don’t know, they just bring so much and you realize that we’re just scratching the surface of our understanding of what it means. Talk you pie this little tiny space we have right here now. Scott Glovsky: Wow, Eric, there’s so much wisdom that you share and I’m looking forward to continuing to spend time with you and learn from you and follow your journey and follow my journey. I’m so thankful that you shared your thoughts with us today. There’s got to be a book on this [crosstalk 00:58:04]. Eric Fong: It’s already been written. Thank you though. There’s so many great self-help books out there. Scott Glovsky: Give us in closing, just give us your tips or your advice for becoming whatever we want to become. Eric Fong: I think that there’s a lot of uncertainty and there’s a lot of fear that people are carrying right now. I think that these messages are being like, I don’t know, I think of like a laser that shooting toxic stuff into you, these images of negativity, I don’t know if that’s true or not, Scott. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but I think that what I do know with 100% certainty is that we carry an idea of what we should be and it’s not based on what we want to be. It’s not based on who we really are, but rather we carry this idea of what we think we should be based on some external source or pressure. The advice that I would say is, what I just said, that what I did, which was, who am I? Why am I feeling this pressure to be something, what does that say about me? And can I admit that my thoughts are creating a negative emotion and that I need to get on top of this stuff? I need to just break it down to its most basic kind of level of who am I and what do I want to do with the rest of my life and be true to yourself and be willing to admit that I’m suffering that my life isn’t going the way I thought it should go, that I do have emptiness and pain and sorrow, and be willing to open that up and deal with it. Because what you will find is in that part of you that is hurting is the next level behind that and underneath it is the next level of wisdom and gratitude and meaning. I was talking earlier about someone who has a part of them that needs to die. Literally that part of you that needs to die will literally cause some people to take their lives. It makes me so sad to even think of that level of suffering. But what happens if you deal with that part of you that needs to die and underneath that you go to just this profound level of understanding, of enrichment in faith and hope. What would happen if that’s what you discovered if you dealt with the scary parts of you? I think that’s where the cutting edge is. I think that’s where people should be living and it never ends. It never ends. I’m grappling with my own failures as a human, as I am talking to you right now. It never ends. But unless you’re willing, and then we’re going back to this idea of this openness and willingness to go there, unless you’re willing to start that it’s entirely possible that the sorrow of when these days come to an end is not that you died, but that you never lived. Scott Glovsky: That’s profound. I’m so thankful that you’re sharing this wisdom with me and with us. I’m just so excited to watch your journey and to continue to learn from you and your friend. Eric Fong: Scott, we’ve known each other a long time, man. So you as well as anyone know it, and have seen it unfold. Thank you again for doing what you do and inviting me on. Scott Glovsky: The pleasure is all mine, buddy. Eric Fong: Thanks Scott. Scott Glovsky: Thanks again. The post Trial Lawyer Talk, Episode 65, with Eric Fong appeared first on Law Offices of Scott Glovsky.
Eric Fong on the Remarkable $91 Million Verdict Won for His Injured Client
The Trial Lawyers College Podcast
“The storytelling potential in this case was off the charts because of the lengths the defense was going to go to to avoid the truth.” In this podcast, Eric Fong joins host Rafe Foreman to share, in captivating detail, the extraordinary story of how he and his client defied all odds to obtain a $91 million verdict in a recent personal injury trial. The case began when Eric’s client suffered a significant, life-altering brain injury during a late-night convenience store robbery that arose from inadequate security. Incredibly moved by his client’s struggles and humanity, Eric was faced with the responsibility to convey those same feelings to the jury. Now recalling those moments for Rafe and his listeners, Eric discusses the astronomical challenges he and his client encountered throughout the trial, from COVID restrictions to juror predispositions, and the techniques they used to overcome them. Above all, Eric explores how he got the jury to not only hate the defendant but to love his client exactly as he did.
Behind the Scenes of a Medical Malpractice Case with TLC Faculty Member, Eric Fong
The Trial Lawyers College Podcast
Eric Fong talks with Trial Lawyer Talk Host, and TLC Grad, Scott Glovsky about a medical malpractice case that had quite an impact on him due to the circumstances of all the problems this case had interwoven into it. He talks about his client and the difficulties he was dealing with after an extended undetermined medical problem and got more difficult when he found out his client had prior felony charges of IV abuse. There was also a magnitude of complications when Eric reached out to other attorneys or ‘friends’ to help with the case. But in the end, a couple weeks before trial, he listened to his heart and went in a different direction than anticipated and got the needed justice for his deserving client.
Eric Fong on the Truth of Work/Life Balance and the Details of Cross Examination
The Trial Lawyers College Podcast
Eric Fong, TLC faculty Co-leader for the upcoming Cross Examination Seminar, talks about the details of an effective cross examination - the goals, and the how-to's of the trial skill. He then goes into the daily work of a lawyer and the difficult task most lawyers face when it comes to balancing work and personal life, the best ways to spend your time as a lawyer and what holds many attorneys back.