One of my earliest cases was representing a 19 year old woman when she was hit head-on by a drunk driver right outside San Antonio, Texas. The crane operator had been out entertaining company clients and buying them alcohol with his company credit card.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real, and these are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
Justin: Since I became a lawyer, I’ve been very involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I’ve sat on the board, I’ve been chairman of the board, the advisory board here in San Antonio in South Texas. I’ve donated to their causes, I’ve walked in their walks, and I’ve represented a lot of victims. One of the first cases I worked on involving alcohol, as a young lawyer, involved a man who got drunk on the job. Not on the job physically while out laboring, but drunk on the job while he was out entertaining clients. He took out some of the bigwig clients. He had a company credit card. He had a company vehicle. He had a company cell phone. He was high ranking in the company.
He took out the clients and they had way too much to drink. Then he hopped in his company vehicle and he was driving down the road. Then he decided to look at his company phone. When he did, he crossed the centerline of the road and he hit my client head-on. My client was 19 years old. I always remember this case for a few things. One, it was very early in my career and I learned a lot. Another thing was my client was in a vehicle that was one of the safest vehicles on the road. She was hit head-on with a delta-v, meaning change in speed. It was probably 70 miles an hour.
In most vehicles, my client would not have walked away. In this crash, however, because she was in one of the safest vehicles on the roadway, she walked away with a broken arm. I always remember that, and I always learned a lesson on how safe your vehicle is matters. I took her case and I represented her against this corporation. My client was a freshman in college, and the defendant was one of the largest crane companies in Texas. They originally took the position that this guy wasn’t on the job and he was out just messing around with his own buddies.
Once we started deposing their clients, they didn’t like that. They didn’t want us to know how they ran their business, how hands-off they were with their corporate credit cards, or what they encouraged their employees to do. I remember as a young lawyer feeling like I did not know what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to fight. I knew I was in the right. I knew that there wasn’t some amount of money they were going to pay me to just go away. I fought and we worked up the case.
At some point, they made an offer on the case that I still look back on and I can’t believe I turned down, but my client listened to me and trusted me to do the right thing. Their next offer was almost double what I had just turned down. We accepted that offer. That case ended up paying for this client’s college, and it started what’s been a long run for me representing victims of drunk driving. We continue to represent people that have been injured in drunk driving crashes in San Antonio. We also represent victims of drunk driving in what are called dram shop cases in San Antonio, where we sue the bar owner for over-serving people.
In this case I just talked about, we looked into the dram shop case, but we didn’t think it was a good dram shop case. This was a very formative case for me. I learned a lot. I still look back on this case as one of the cases that set a tone and a path for my career that I follow today.