Last week, a toddler's grandfather was charged with negligent homicide in her death after he held her up on the 11th floor of a docked Royal Caribbean cruise ship and she fell through what he thought was a closed glass window.
Under Article 24 of the Puerto Rico Penal Code, an act is negligent if it "is performed without intent, but imprudently, when not observing the standard care that a reasonably prudent person would have observed..." This is the crux of the case. Would a reasonably prudent person hold up a toddler against an 11th story glass window on an established cruise liner? I say yes.
Children love to bang on glass and no one would assume one of the large glass panels seen in the below image would be left open. Even if the grandfather hadn't lifted up the child, any other naturally curious child could easily have pushed over a chair and climbed up to the window ledge. I know my kids could have done such a thing. Why would Royal Caribbean even allow these windows to open? If anyone was negligent, or perhaps even reckless, it was Royal Caribbean.
With a "Family Vacations" tab and photos that appeal to kids young and old like this one on it's website, Royal Caribbean is clearly not catering to an adult-only crowd.
Insofar as it welcomes passengers of all ages, the cruise line established in 1968 must take comprehensive safety precautions for its youngest passengers. Where one might argue the grandfather and the cruise line are each contributorily negligent, I disagree. No one in his right mind would assume that particular window would open. It's low enough that a curious child could have easily climbed through, with or without someone helping him up. A reasonably prudent person could assume windows at that level would be sealed shut, as they should be, and therefore, the grandfather should not be convicted.
You can read more here and here.
I welcome your opinions.
In college, I read Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Plato describes a life lived by individuals chained to a wall in a cave. All they see of the outside world consists of shadows on the wall. They give names and identities to the shadows and that is their reality. The chained-up characters have no desire to break free and see life outside of the cave because their universe is limited to their observations. Simply put, they don’t know any different. As I read story after story detailing the horrendous torture inflicted by David and Louise Turpin on their 13 children, I’m shocked beyond words.
For years, the Turpin children were shackled to their beds, unable to use the toilet, shower more than once a year, and eat the food their parents set in front of them causing severe malnutrition and developmental delays. They were reportedly prohibited to play with any toys in the house, as they remained in their original packaging. They didn’t know what a police officer or medication was. Thankfully, they were taught to write and kept lengthy journals, which will hopefully help to confine their torturers to shackles for the rest of their lives.
As I continuously shake my head and wring my wrists over this tragedy, I can’t figure out what’s the worst part. Is it that these children will most likely never be able to function as normal, healthy contributing members of society because of the abuse they’ve suffered? Is it that these siblings will probably be divided amongst many foster families, thus losing the only support network they’ve ever known? Is it that this was going on and on and on for years on end without any neighbor ever speaking up, ringing the doorbell to investigate, or perhaps placing a call to child services to find out why the children in the family of 15 next door never come out to play? So much for neighborhood watch. The criminals were under everyone’s noses and no one said boo.
How can this happen in modern society? Isn’t humankind supposed to improve over time? In how many other homes around the globe is this happening? What greater wake-up call do we need to open our eyes and look around at our microworld in which we live? If something seems off, investigate. Do something. How would you be able to forgive yourself if you find out in a number of years your neighbors are the next Turpins?
One could argue that the Turpin parents are just nuts and there will always be nuts in the world. But, this modern day Plato’s cave didn’t happen in some faraway, isolated land where no one can hear the screams. This torture went on for years in suburban California and “society” wasn’t able to pick up on it and stop it. That is perhaps the most terrifying piece of the puzzle.
I welcome your thoughts on this incredible moral failure.
Warm, fuzzy slippers... Does reading those words evoke images of cuddling up on the sofa in front of the fireplace? I bet it doesn’t conjure up images of working hard for the money. That’s because we are what we wear and our outfits affect our productivity.
In this generation, where lawyers left and right are moving their downtown locations into virtual offices, we have to remember that working from home, or the beach in Maui, might still necessitate dressing up for work.
Life coaches suggest when people switch gears at the end of the workday, they should also change their clothes. Putting on something more comfortable actually helps people relax, both physically and mentally. In her book, Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion, Professor Karen Pine argues that a person’s clothing affects his or her mindset in a tangible way. Pine says “when we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it.” The right outfit, according to one reader, helped her “become considerably more confident, attractive, and powerful.”
There was a post circulating around LinkedIn awhile back showing a photo of three businessmen on an airplane. Instead of sporting sweatpants, they were all dressed to the nines. One of the subjects wrote that he wears his suit on flights so he can have the feeling of being at work up in the friendly skies. Another bonus is that when you land, you’re ready for your first meeting in the event the airline sends your luggage to a faraway land. Plus, flights are fabulous for networking. The people have nowhere to go!
So the next time you sit down to start working where colleagues can’t see your pajama pants under the Skype screen, you may want to actually get dressed to make the most of your billable time. And the reverse is also true. Once you are finished working for the day (your workday should end at some point!), take off your work clothes and shoes to get into that relaxation mode.
Today, my 6-year-old daughter was playing with her new best friend, Siri. For the 2% of you uninitiated readers out there, Siri is the “intelligent personal assistant” inside every Iphone® and other Apple® devices. Siri serves many functions, such as placing phone calls, sending text messages and taking photos, all via voice command. The reason my daughter was so enchanted by Siri today is simply because they could converse ad inifinitum.
In addition to fulfilling commands on the phone like setting reminders and launching various apps, Siri also answers open-ended questions. Some answers are found on the internet by Siri’s due diligence research and other questions have pre-programmed replies. For example, when my daughter asked Siri, “where do you live?” the response was “I am wherever you are.” So when I queried, “so where, exactly is she?” my daughter simply responded, straight-faced, “she’s right here” and then sort of waved her hand around in the airspace between where she and I sat.
There has been much discussion over the last decade or two insinuating that the world’s lawyers will be replaced by robots. Here’s just one of many articles on the topic. Excellent document review software is one case in point. When a lawyer needs to review hundreds of thousands of documents (or more) including emails conversations, contracts, and other potentially significant data, an electronically-programmed “pair of eyes” to do just that is much more efficient than a human being. Machines don’t get tired, need lunch breaks, or have commitments to previous engagements during the workweek. They do make mistakes, but so do people and the latter group probably more often when the documents to be reviewed are especially dry.
However, it is still my firm belief that lawyers will always be needed on the scene. The whole premise of litigation is that there are two sides to every story. Siri does not give two different answers to the same question. Not yet, at least. The creation of litigation strategies requires a human mind. Proper negotiation and mediation demand a tough advocate who can evaluate and reevaluate a client’s situation on the spot considering numerous variables including human feelings. And perhaps most importantly, clients look for a lawyer they can trust. While machines and robots are predictable and efficient, Siri doesn’t give hugs. Artificial intelligence lawyering will never completely vitiate a client’s need to enjoy a trusting relationship with his or her legal representative, in human form.
A Philosophical Look at Monetary Damages
Money is a funny thing. It makes people do things they would never consider doing without the incentive. It also acts as a bandage to heal emotional wounds, both inside and outside the courtroom.
The world of damages to a lawyer sometimes resembles a kid in a candy store. Hmm, what else can we possibly tack on to our request? Just reviewing the largest jury awards can make a person’s mouth water, or at least his jaw drop. For example, back in 2002, Plaintiff and smoker of 50 years Betty Bullock was awarded a whopping $28billion for her lung cancer claim against Philip Morris. This was the punitive award, which was later reduced to $28m, and a “measly” $850,000 was awarded for compensatory damages to the 64-year-old.
But no matter how high the award may be, a victim is never restored to his pre-injury state. So why do societies accept that compensatory and punitive damages are sufficient to offer closure where there is still pain? Why does it make the victim’s family feel better to hit the defendants where it hurts, in the pockets? Do monetary damages really deter future negligent behavior? Last year, Philip Morris still raked in nearly $7billion net income. And with the unbelievable medical malpractice case history, there are still very negligent doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel out there, depriving newborns of oxygen and leaving all sorts of objects inside peoples’ bodies after surgery.
Does the concept of monetary damages help people sleep at night or is it simply making the best out of a horrible situation?
Do you think law schools should teach empathy?
In a recent article, lawyer and author Jeena Cho writes
"Nowhere are we taught that the act of sitting with someone who is suffering — someone who has been unjustly treated, physically, emotionally, psychologically or financially harmed, or lost dignity, limbs, or loved ones — is really deeply painful and hard work. Instead, we are regularly told nonsense like, we’re lawyers, we shouldn’t have emotions."
I agree with her that it can be emotionally draining to sit with a client who has been harmed, especially if physical or emotional abuse is involved. However, clients are not coming to us for a shoulder on which to cry. Clients want justice. While it is certainly appropriate to sympathize with our pained clients, our role as lawyers is to advocate for their legal rights and deliver the protections and compensation they deserve.
What do you think, counselor?
A doctor and a lawyer were going golfing one day. As they strolled across the green, the doctor said to the lawyer, “I have a professional dilemma.”
“Oh yeah?” said the lawyer.
The doctor continued, “Yes. With the ease of quick communication nowadays, my patients have started asking for my medical opinion through emails and What’s Apps. The conversation is usually brief, taking up no more than a few minutes of my time.”
“Ok…” replied the lawyer.
“But, you see, when patients come into my office, even for a brief appointment, I can still charge them for the whole appointment. When they ask me questions over SMS, I don’t charge them because it’s not an official appointment.”
“I see” said the lawyer. “This is a tough situation you’re in. I think you should charge them for the electronic conversation as if they’ve come into your office for an in-person appointment.”
“Really?” replied the doctor. “It’s not unethical?”
“Not in the least bit,” the lawyer assured his friend. “The only mistake you made was not charging them from the first text message.”
The doctor responded, “ok thanks. It’s good to have a lawyer as such a close friend.”
Two weeks later, the doctor received a bill from his close lawyer friend charging him $125 for a quarter hour of legal advice.
Considering President Trump’s recent firing of FBI director James B. Comey amid the spicy Russia investigation, it behooves us all to consider the individuals in our close networks, both professional and personal. Who do we approach with our ethical legal questions, if anyone? Do we only ask sticky questions to those who will provide smooth answers?
We were all required to take a Professional Responsibility course, or its equivalent, in law school. And since 1980, most lawyer wannabes have had to pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) to become licensed to practice law in their preferred U.S. state(s).
Yet, every year, I see hundreds of names of disbarred or suspended (pardon the profanity) lawyers on various state bar association websites. Clearly, no one wakes up one morning and decides “I want to commit legal malpractice today.” So how do so many people slip? One reason involves the company people keep. If others in our professional circle are lax in their ethical standards, this sentiment is likely to spill over to us, unless we make a conscious effort to maintain our integrity.
Warning: This post is more philosophical than most. It may even force you to ponder a bit.
Last week my grandmother died. She was 88 and had been very sick for months. She was an amazing mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, and person. When I got married, she gave me a piece of advice: “never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.” When I was a little girl, I complimented her earrings. Without a word, she smiled, removed them and gave them to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to say goodbye as I live thousands of miles away. I was planning a visit for next month to coincide with my cousin’s wedding. The last time we were together, 5 years ago, my grandma joined me for a Zumba class. My bubby will be missed by everyone who knew her and her death has provided a reminder for us all about the importance of life.
China's One-Child Policy
Life is an interesting concept. We all have it and most of us take it for granted most of the time. We tend not to appreciate the gift of life until it’s far too late. Different cultures view lives differently. For example, consider China’s one-child policy which endured for more than 35 years, and was replaced only in 2016 by a two-child policy. Since its “inception” in 1979, violators of the one-child policy were fined and the practice of forced abortions and infanticide swept through the vast eastern region. An important part of the policy was to sterilize women after their first birth or surgically insert birth control devices. While there were some exceptions to the rule, it is estimated that 400 million lives were prevented. Apparently the rationale behind the policy was to prevent economic, environmental, and social problems in Red China.
A Peak Inside Israel and the United States
In stark contrast, the Israeli government provides a child allowance to encourage families to procreate. All Israeli families (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Bedouin alike) receive a nominal stipend (a bit more than $100) each month into their bank accounts for each child under the age of 18 in the family. In the United States, there is a movement whereby companies will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs in the hopes that they will remain in the workforce and put off having children. Unfortunately, for many of these women, their biological clocks will not be ticking quite so well after a delay of a decade or so.
Aside from cultural push to populate, or not, there are also quality of life debates heating up around the globe. For instance, the controversial discussion revolving around whether or not a woman should abort her fetus after receiving a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, as illustrated in this mother’s blog, highlights one such issue. Another hot topic in America and Europe is the right to “die with dignity” using medical intervention to end one’s life.
What is the value of your life? Is your happiness conditioned upon having “things” like a good job, loving spouse, exciting social circle, or some other extraneous element? If you lived on a deserted island, would you be able to feel as productive and satisfied with yourself as you do after a busy week? Would you question whether or not your life is worth living?
No, really. Going away is so important because it allows us to return stronger and better. When I was studying for the BAR exam, I did not study everyday like many of my colleagues. I studied six days out of each week and took off one day. As the BAR preparation course I took was only about six weeks long, my schedule worried some of my close friends and family members. They thought I would be missing out on information and that my peers would have a significant advantage over me come testing day. But, I disagreed. My day off allowed me to digest the previous week’s worth of information, relax a tad, and rejuvenate myself for another grueling six days of arduous study.
I passed on the first try.
Now that I’m in the working world, it’s harder to get away. This is especially true since I run my own company. I need to be responsive and stay on top of things. I manage multiple projects simultaneously. When there’s a problem, I’m Mrs. Fix It. This is a good role for me as I’ve become quite the juggler over the years. However, I am still a firm believer in going away.
Next week, I will be going away. I’m not physically leaving my domicile, but I will be taking a week off work to spend time with my family and enjoy my kids during their days off school. I will not be checking my emails and I’m so looking forward to it. And any time I feel a pang of guilt or my mind starts to wander to ongoing projects, I will simply remind myself of my BAR prep days. I’ll remember that the best way to grow in productivity, efficiency, and responsibility in the future is to go away.
Technically, spring has sprung, even if you’re still shoveling snow. Here are five simple ways to spring clean your law office, including a few cheap tricks.
Tip #1: Start with the top of your desk.
The first place a client or colleague notices upon entering your office is your desk. If it looks cluttered, it makes you appear unorganized and too busy to help. Get rid of any pens and pencils you never use. Lay out the items on your desk in a parallel fashion so your clock, notepad, pen organizer and laptop form a sort of grid from a bird’s eye view.
***CHEAP TRICK: If you can’t move some important papers off your desk, simply stand them up or stack them in a paper organizer. They will still be within your easy reach, but won’t appear like a messy pile of paperwork.
Tip #2: Notice your bookshelf.
Oftentimes when we set up a bookshelf, it only contains books—surely a novel idea. But over time, other items seem to take residence upon the shelves. Picture frames, pens, office gifts and trinkets, boxes of tissues are all common cluttering culprits. Bookshelves look the most neat when they only have books on them. If you want to add some flavor to your shelves, then you need to move books out of the way for the other miscellaneous items. Don’t merely stick the items in front of books.
***CHEAP TRICK: When purchasing bookshelves, buy ones with drawers along the bottom row. This way, you can keep your tissues and trinkets in the drawers out of eyesight. If you want to insert photo frames in between books, buy bookends.
Tip #3: Electrical hazards.
Take note of anything that is plugged into an electrical outlet in your office. Does it look like a potential fire hazard? There are numerous ways to hide your wires, including simply wrapping them up with Velcro to minimize the haywire effect. You can also get a power strip and safely hide it behind your furniture.
Tip #4: Inside your drawers.
Drawers, whether in your home or office, often become black holes, frightening away anyone who opens them. They seem to vacuum in anything and everything with which we cannot part. In the spirit of spring cleaning, try your best to throw away anything you haven’t used within the last two years. Even if it still works and has some objective value. You can give these items to your secretary or a colleague so that person can make the decision: keep or trash. But if the decision is to keep, it now belongs to your secretary or colleague, not you!
***CHEAP TRICK: If you are truly unsure about something, put it in a box and have your secretary keep it for a few more months. Then, at a specified deadline like September 1, look through the box again to make a final decision.
Tip #5: Timing is everything.
People need mental and physical energy for spring cleaning of any type. Some people work better by handling small tasks over a longer period of time. If this rings a bell, set an alarm where you will tackle some office spring cleaning for 15 minutes one day per week. If you are the more intense type of person, block out two or three hours one weekend and jump in headfirst.
***CHEAP TRICK: Enlist support from a spouse, friend, or child.
Finally, you must plan a reward for yourself once your office is organized to your satisfaction.
Lawyer and legal writer, Julie worked primarily in real estate law before focusing her career on the social media and marketing aspects of the legal industry.