NeuwirthLaw holiday, In the News, Sue The City

Ah, the holiday season. I got my first static electric shock this morning and it always serves as a reminder that winter is coming.

On another note, Cherelle Parker was elected as the first female Mayor of Philadelphia. She has a lot on her plate and while it is nice to have a historical change and perhaps some more energized leadership, results matter. I expect that we will have 8 years of her, and we can only hope that she is able to fix up the quality of life that makes people want to live AND stay in Philadelphia. I think that policing and enforcement of quality-of-life crimes has to be at the top of the list with the City’s really pathetic education system second. After that, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Country is coming to Philadelphia and will be a big deal for all of us who live here.

I happen to field a ton of calls from Philadelphia people who want to sue the City. Amusingly, if you google sue the City of Philadelphia, you see www.neuwirthlaw.com above the City of Philadelphia’s own site. So, I get a lot of calls about: 1) dirt bikes/atv’s terrorizing people; 2) Kensington’s drug abuse culture; 3) gun violence killing people. Those seem to be the hot topics to call about. I cannot help with any of these things. These are all government functions. While we are not Somalia or Yemen, it is tough to say that you are running a functioning City if you cannot protect the vast majority of law-abiding citizens from the extreme minority of jerks who make things unpleasant.

If you talk to students in Philadelphia or young families, what do you hear? You hear plans to leave because the schools are not working to educate people and the city is too dangerous to raise little ones. So, people leave. Statistics show they go to North or South Carolina for jobs, weather, schooling, etc. They are certainly not staying here.

So, Mayor Parker, have a good Thanksgiving and get some rest. You are going to need it.


NeuwirthLaw In the News

You have no idea what I am talking about? In a nutshell, every year forest rangers monitor which grizzly bears return to eat salmon in Alaska on the Katmai river. An informal competition watch has developed and this female bear ate the most and gained the most. Sleep well mama bear. At least she wont have to run Philly when she wakes up in the spring.

More importantly, do you engage in risk taking behavior? I don’t skydive or free solo rock climb because they are too dangerous. But, I read a lot of medical records and a lot of us engage unwittingly in risk taking behavior that might as well be like skydiving. If you live in the suburbs, you don’t walk enough. I was just in NYC and everyone is thinner there because they walk all the time. They are also prettier and taller, but I think that has something to do with the drugs they are using. So, before you end up looking like 128 Grazer in January, try to get 7,000 steps in a day or just do something physical every day, however small. Your body and future will appreciate it. I have a friend who is 73 and had a heart attack and recovered, but his doctor said he needs to exercise more to keep healthy. Exercise had never really been part of his life and he had to start at square one to learn how. It’s a long road to learn how to do something at 73 for the very first time. It just is. If you start walking now, you may lose the fat bear challenge, but you may feel better in 20 years.


NeuwirthLaw For Lawyers, Law Practice Management

So, a case of $500,000 or more in value needs more time and attention and funds spent than a case with a smaller value. The usual distinguishing factors for these higher value cases is a loss of earnings that is legitimate. Not two weeks of work at $1500/week. I am talking about totally taking you out of your career and costing you $200,000 over 20 years or so. That takes a few fractures or a major injury and turns it into something more valuable.

But I cannot snap my fingers and say your case is worth more. It must be proved in Court and that takes experts and experts take money. So, if you have a severe injury that keeps you from doing your job, like a concussion that results in trouble reading or trouble hearing etc., I will hire someone to explain why you cannot do your occupation. Usually, this is a physiatrist or other doctor who, for litigation purposes, can connect up why an injury prevents you from doing your job. Then, I also must hire an economist to project your future lost earnings. The two work together to really tote up what your losses look like and the losses get big fast because of lost benefits, Medicare contributions, health insurance lost etc. This is a regular part of what I do in higher value cases. It makes the case cost more, but it is worth it to the client and outcome down the road. If I do not take these steps, an insurer will not view the file as significant because I will not have done the basics to get the evidence of future losses admitted.

What other elements go into bigger cases? One is a real focus on damages witnesses. Your family, friends, and co-workers are always great windows into what you suffered. Most people need to hear about damages from the injured person, but if it turns into too much drama, jurors will turn off and view it as whining. So, that is where bystanders come in. Anyone who can say what you went through is usually devastating testimony. Most of the time, the defense lawyers will not take their depositions during discovery and often will not even cross-examine the witnesses in a trial. It is great evidence. But most personal injury plaintiffs don’t want their family and friends to have to come in and hear about their pain and suffering or participate in their case. Plus, who really wants to drop things and come to court to testify under oath? Not too many.

I finished a recent case where the friendly witness was the best witness in the case. She came in, said her piece, and supported everything the plaintiff was saying, but in a nice folksy and endearing way. She was a winning witness. In summations, even the defense lawyers conceded that she was a lovely witness. Amusingly, before I put her on the stand, I had a chance to discuss with her what she would testify to and she basically said, “Mr. Neuwirth, I have testified in my own cases before over the years and I know what you want and what to say. I will do my job.” And she did. It was nice to watch her talk about her friend and her friend’s struggles. There was no cross-examination of substance.

So, bigger cases take more work, but there is more reward.

WHY IS SALTZ MONGELUZZI ADVERTISING? The changing face of Personal Injury Lead Generation

NeuwirthLaw Case Matters, For Lawyers, Law Practice Management

I was watching Monday Night Football and Bob Mongeluzzi’s ad shows up on TV. Bob is a legend in our business and likely one of the most successful personal injury lawyers in the City of Philadelphia if not the world. However, this is the first time I have ever seen them advertise on TV. Why now? Well, I think that things have changed post-covid and with the maturation of internet ads, internet lead generation, and new players coming into the area.

First, Morgan and Morgan has made a huge ad push into Philadelphia. Often, they suffer from the same troubles as the Cheesecake Factory does or Wal-Mart. If you want to be treated like a number and don’t know where else to go, you will likely end up with Morgan and Morgan. Their size matters campaign is picking off a certain number of potential clients and this must be affecting Mongeluzzi.

I recently received a case from a disgruntled Morgan and Morgan client. It was an amusing failure to properly understand the case. The police report got the responsible or negligent party wrong and Morgan rejected the case. The lawyer rejecting it had minimal experience and was listed as a pre-trial specialist. To me, that is a lawyer who is just cutting their teeth and not really trusted to do much but reject or accept cases. I am not complaining.

However, my business is a highly competitive one and more cases coming in means you will eventually get a few good ones despite your staff’s intake errors. Plus, if you get enough cases, nobody will notice if you screwed up and missed a $25,000 legal fee. As a result of your crappy intake, nobody will notice that there is a problem with the intake, nobody will properly train the new lawyers assigned to intake, and the rot will continue throughout the firm as the new lawyers are brought through the ranks.

This must really annoy Bob Mongeluzzi. He has the chops and experience and feels like he should be getting the volume that Morgan must be seeing. It appears that now he is turning his marketing budget to address Morgan and Morgan’s ad push.  We shall see how that plays out.

Nobody likes to be a number. Nobody likes to only talk to a paralegal. I try to avoid that dynamic as much as possible. If you want to talk to me, you get me. End of story.

But, over the past five years, the lead generation business has changed dramatically. Google has entered the fray and crowded out smaller companies that were sending lawyers leads. In my business, you can pay for leads to be sent to you just like any other business. For example, if you are a roofer and want to get leads, google or facebook etc. will send you leads on prospective business clients. In personal injury, the business has morphed from using runners, who were illegally chasing ambulances to lead generation. Now, if some is searching for a personal injury lawyer, they may find me or any of my competitors.

There is still a need for a referral base of quality former clients and lawyers who know that you do good work and keep clients happy. But, there is also now a business of generating leads that is reliable and quantifiable. I expect AI will or is contributing to a growth in that business and that it will grow and change.

Want to be scared? If someone is within 30 yards of a hospital emergency room in Allentown and searches personal injury lawyer, I have a guy who will scoop up that lead and send it to my inbox. I have to pay for that lead, but still it’s pretty amazing that the internet can connect customer and professional with neither knowing each other before that moment.


The Trump Show: A Separate Reality

NeuwirthLaw Courts, For Lawyers, In the News

I have spent my professional life in and around courtrooms.

The Court system has a simple, clear, and traditional way to deal with litigants who reject its authority, reject the good faith of its prosecutors, and reject the fairness of its judges or elected officials. So, how does the system respond? With predictable results. The system’s only response to an out-of-control litigant is to exercise its levers of power or control. That Trump cannot or will not see this is comical since he was in the seat of power once. I expect that Trump’s business will be dealt a death blow. That is the only way the judicial system can respond to this nonsense.

It is difficult to convey how outside the mainstream Trump and his lawyers’ presentation of their case has been to non-lawyers or non-litigators. Obviously, what he is doing is not normal behavior. A person involved in a lawsuit, a party, calling the process, the prosecutor, and the judge a fraud or worse is simply outrageous. Amusingly, his lawyers seem to be doing little to prevent his antics. I have to assume that they know that there is little they can do to control Trump and he is going to do what he wants to do regardless of their advice. They are getting paid and whether they are good or bad lawyers does not seem to matter very much in this case. I have two quick pieces of analysis that have not been broached on the endless shows focused on Trump’s civil case.

First, I cringe when I see Attorney Habba outside of court criticizing the judge and the process. Whether she is experienced in litigation or not, criticizing the court and the process is a rapid way to the disciplinary board and suspension of your law license. I would guess that her client requires her to go outside and bash the judge to the press to please her client. But, it is a quick way to have your license suspended. Since she is a New York barred attorney, getting your license suspended in New York is probably not too wise. Amusingly, this ain’t the TV show Suits.

Second, every time I see this sort of behavior, it does not end well for the offending party. Trump is going to get his ass handed to him by this Judge. He will get a huge fine, will have his New York business gutted or sold off and there will be very little appellate grounds to stop this sort of thing. In my world, whether you say it’s a death of 1000 cuts or giving the defendant all the rope he needs to hang himself, the outcome is the same.

One situation comes to mind that is not similar but is instructive. There is a grass roots movement of clowns who claim to be sovereign citizens and not obligated to follow the laws of the US Government or the states. When stopped by police they invoke this nonsense and are rightfully prosecuted or punished. Another similar group in New York and potentially elsewhere is the Moors. They are a grass roots group that rejects the authority of the courts over them. The Moors were an amusing nuisance in New York’s criminal courts. They would periodically get picked up for minor offenses, would spout their nonsense about rejecting the authority of the Court and promptly find themselves handcuffed and in prison for far longer than had they said they were sorry. Trump’s hubris makes this same outcome very likely. Why would a judge give him a break? It is time for the system to take back its respectability with its verdict. Politics will view the decision based on your political view, but Trump’s business is toast. To think otherwise is fantasyland thinking.

A courtroom sketch of Donald Trump on the witness stand on Monday © Elizabeth Williams/AP


NeuwirthLaw Best of, In the News

Reggie Jackson at bat

No one does grace under pressure like the one and only Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.

The figure skater who falls during their routine at the Olympics or the quarterback who throws an interception or the tennis player who double faults. Why? While there is tremendous pressure on these athletes, many of us manage to perform our jobs at a high level for decades without failing under pressure. So, the pro tennis player who cannot serve under pressure is a whole lot different than me double faulting in my weekly tennis match. This is their job. They are paid crazy amounts of money to perform under pressure and to see failure there is just pathetic to me.
I would guess that the only real difference between professional lawyers, doctors, engineers, and these athletes is age and experience and the fact that 50,000 people are not watching. The number of people watching does not impress me. This is their job. They have developed into pros in that setting. However, age and years of experience may be factors that the athletes simply cannot attain. Djokovic, Federer, Serena all made a splash early, but their grinding persistent success in destroying opponents made them legends.
Many of us have immense pressure to perform on a weekly if not monthly basis. Our success in our professional lives often depends on that performance. I just finished a trial. I may win or lose but I am certainly not going to forget to prepare or quail under pressure when giving an opening statement. Pressure is a privilege said Billy Jean King. Pressure is also something to be managed and prepared for.
There are athletes who rise to the pressure and perform on the big stage. I grew up as a New York Yankee fan and the owner, George Steinbrenner, called outfielder Dave Winfield “Mr. May”, which was trolling in the worst way. This contrasted with Reggie Jackson, whose nickname was Mr. October. You want players who perform in the playoffs in October, hence Mr. May was a way of saying Winfield was one who would fail under pressure.
In the words of one Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, Do Your Job!


NeuwirthLaw Case Matters, For Lawyers, Law Practice Management, Uncategorized

Bad advice leads to bad outcomes.

A potential client recently contacted me 22 months after an out of state car accident. The case sounded fairly easy and something I would have been interested in 22 months ago. However, when queried as to why it took 22 months to contact a lawyer, the client reported that a lawyer told them to wait until the statute of limitations was almost up before contacting a lawyer.
Now, I don’t know if this is the worst legal advice ever given to a client. But, in personal injury practice, it may qualify as such. This advice prevented the client from turning an okay or decent case into a good one and, frankly, prevented the client from having a case at all. The only “lawyer” I can think of that would provide such advice is State Farm in house counsel or some similar pathetic excuse for a practitioner. There, I said it.
There are other legendary bad pieces of legal advice, but I have not spent too much time collecting them. How about selling the fake electors scheme to trump? That may go down as a doozy. Not only did you likely get the leader of the free world convicted, but you also lost your law license and that of a bunch of other lawyers. Excellent work.


NeuwirthLaw Case Matters, Courts, Slip and Fall, Sue The City

I just finished a three-day bench trial in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA). The facts of the case in brief were that a 68-year-old woman went through a TSA checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport, removed her shoes, and slipped and fell on the terrazzo marble-type flooring after she was cleared to pick up her belongings. The fall was captured on video. The client plainly steps off a rubber mat and her sock covered foot just slips out from under her. She breaks her knee and has surgery and lifelong pain and suffering. The defendants were the City of Philadelphia, which owns the airport, and your friends at TSA, represented by the U.S. Attorney’s office and/or the Department of Justice.

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a plaintiff is not entitled to a jury trial, so this was tried to a judge. We call these bench trials. This was my first bench trial and while it took about half the time a jury trial would have, we still got through a lot of testimony in a short period. The preparation is the same. Amusingly, the time spent on trial was very compressed because it was a bench trial. If this trial had been to a jury, it would have taken a week and a half. We worked through four defense witnesses, two plaintiff’s witnesses, two orthopedic surgeons, and two flooring experts.

A few impressions on this case. First, it is and was a strong case in a lot of respects. A fall on video in a commercial establishment is hard to rebut or dispute. There are always issues with any case that goes to trial.  Here, there were disputes between the defendants over who was responsible for the flooring and allegations that there was no notice of the slipperiness of the flooring. I don’t or didn’t care about who was the owner or possessor of the flooring, as it was not my issue.  I had an opinion on it, but it really did not change the obligation of the defendants towards my client. The notice issues were more interesting. The floor did not comply with any building codes because socks on marble is not an expected, intended, or acceptable use. Further, commercial landlords have a duty to inspect for dangers and plainly TSA did not do so. But, to sue the City requires notice and the City always argues notice. I believe that there was plenty of notice here, but it is an issue in the case. The City plainly knew that TSA was requiring people to walk in socks on terrazzo. The City’s expert and the City’s custodian both acknowledged that that was an unsafe situation that they would be concerned about. To me, the failure to investigate from there is negligence.

Amusingly, the video provided to us by TSA happened to show other younger people slipping and almost falling in their socks at the checkpoint. The younger people were able to catch themselves and my client was not because she was older. Personal injury law says you are not permitted to blame the injured person for their pre-existing conditions like age, brittle bones, etc. If you were not negligent, it would be safe for all travelers, which is the TSA mission.

Second, there were offers to settle the case which were rejected as inadequate in my opinion and were rejected with the client’s approval. So, we are rolling the dice a little here.  Educated risk taking is part of my job.

The case was also interesting because the federal government was unable to find an expert to say that the flooring was safe. The City hired an expert to say that the floor was safe for people with shoes, but that it was not safe for a person in socks. So, you have two experts saying the floor is unsafe for people in socks and no defense expert saying it is safe. Weird, right? The case should normally settle, but as I said in my opening and closing arguments, we are not dealing with normal defendants.

The FTCA says to treat TSA as any private landlord or property owner would be treated. So, no special favors or considerations because they are the feds. So, a slip and fall on video where the Ritz Carlton hotel made people enter the hotel in socks and people were slipping and falling on video is not a defensible case and would result in a large verdict. But, here, the feds have the benefit of no jury and a bunch of unusual immunities that the Ritz would not have. In reality, the Ritz would have been begging to settle the case and it would never go to trial. Here? We shall see. We must wait at least 60 days to hear from the Court on their verdict. It’s a long time to wait, but the hard work is done.

Finally, there is always the reminder to me and future clients of the cost of trial. I try about two cases a year, year in year out. Trial expenses, if you win, take a big bite out of a client’s ultimate payout. Here, I think I have spent about $15,000 or more just in experts, tech support, transcripts etc. If we lose, I eat the costs and the client gets nothing. If we win, the client pays those costs. So, in considering settlement amounts, I always explain to clients that we don’t quibble about gaps between the parties of $25,000 or less because the trial will eat that up in the blink of an eye. Nevertheless, it’s always a good reminder for me.

So, I am tired, and my office is a mess and I broke my printer and burned through a lot of paper and toner. I will let you know how things turn out.

Big Case This Week…

NeuwirthLaw Uncategorized

Big week here at Neuwirth Law– here’s the case we’re working on:



Judge denies summary judgment to U.S. government, in case of woman injured at TSA checkpoint

PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge has denied the U.S. government’s motion for summary judgment, in response to a Delaware woman’s negligence lawsuit which contended she was injured when going through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Philadelphia International Airport more than two years ago.

Mink on the Loose in Pennsylvania: Nuisance

NeuwirthLaw Case Matters

Minks are a nuisance? Hold my beer…

I love a good mink story. According to the New York Post, some animal activist released 6,000 mink from a mink farm in PA. I know next to nothing about mink or minks. What I do know is that mink farming forms the basis for one of the pivotal cases in nuisance law.

I always have a few nuisance cases in my case load because they are largely indefensible and fun to work on. I currently have cases in litigation against UGI, a big gas transporter and Energy Transfer or Sunoco’s successor for being a nuisance to the community. The UGI case alleges that it operates a compressor plant that runs 24/7 compressing natural gas in northern PA and destroyed my client’s family hunting grounds as bucolic places of refuge. Bucolic is a good word. In any event, the compressor plant is not moving and nor is my client.

So, back to the minks. In this law school case, a mink farmer sued a neighboring manufacturing plant for injury to his business. Apparently, mink are anxious creatures as you or I would be if we were prey or had a future as a coat. When exposed to loud noises, the mink refuse to mate and become useless to the farmer. The case went forward and the manufacturer could not just move their plant and the minks were not changing their behavior. This is a classic case that has to go to a jury. No settlement will really be possible. The mink owner won and the manufacturer appealed, but the mink owner ultimately prevailed. Presumably, the mink owner took the verdict money and moved elsewhere, but essentially, the manufacturer’s nuisance or noise had forced the mink farmer to move.  Classic nuisance.

The interesting thing about nuisance cases is that the noisy neighbor is not going to be enough to interest a lawyer in taking your case because there is simply not enough damage to make money for the client and the lawyer. In general, if the lawyer makes money but the client does not, the client will not be happy. I have a general rule that in settlements, I will not take more as a fee than the client gets in their pocket. I don’t know if this is routine or not, but there are situations where there is a large health care lien that has to be repaid or a large litigation expense that throws the settlement out of whack. Having a happy client is an important part of running a referral-based business. In every situation where I cut my fee, the client always thanks me and appreciates it.