Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Shoes of Another

There is a cliche about mileage walked while wearing the shoes of another as being the surest way to know what someone else has experienced or is experiencing.  I am a bit fuzzy on the exact verbiage but I am confident that I have properly captured its gist here.

I spent part of Tuesday at a deposition, which in the parlance of the our civil justice system (at least here in the State of Concrete Gardens) is nothing more or less than sworn testimony given verbally and in the presence of a court stenographer and which is usually taken in the phase of the case we call "pre-trial discovery."  In the course of my legal career I have defended a lot of them and have taken far too many of them to accurately calculate.  Tuesday's affair was a bit of a hybrid for me in that I appeared on behalf of one of the two entities that is a defendant in the action for the plaintiff's deposition, which was conducted by the attorney for the other defendant principally because his client shall be responsible to pay 94% of any settlement agreed to with the plaintiff or or any award entered in the plaintiff's favor.  My client is on the hook for only 6%.  Life is good when you are the 6% defendant.

Tuesday's proceeding arose out of an incident in 2007 during which the plaintiff - who is a police officer - was run into by a suspect attempting to flee from a motor vehicle stop.  As a result of being struck by a car moving upwards of twenty-five miles per hour at the time it struck him, the plaintiff sustained injuries to a shoulder and to an elbow that ultimately required surgery to repair.  He missed a bit of time from work secondary to each surgery as he went through physical therapy but eventually returned to work full-time as a member of his police department's patrol division.

Among the intriguing things he told us on Tuesday afternoon was that in addition to being a member of his department's patrol division he also is a member of its ESU (Emergency Services Unit) team, which is the designation his department gives to its SWAT unit.  He told us that he serves two roles on the ESU team:  he is part of the entry team and he is a sniper.  In response to a question, he testified that although his department is located in a sprawling, mostly suburban township, the department's ESU team has been called upon to respond to a number of incidents in the past several years.  Then, without giving a lot of details, he told us that its last action had occurred in March 2011. The ESU team responded to what he referred to as, "an officer-involved shooting."  He was not pressed for a lot of details about that particular incident as it had little to do with the matter for which he had appeared to testify.

When the proceeding was completed, he thanked his questioner and me both for our time, shook our hands and then after saying goodbye to his attorney, simply headed off to the rest of his day.  After he left, his counsel told us that the "officer-involved shooting" of which his client had spoken arose out of an incident involving a former colleague.  The incident "wrapped" with the former colleague (who had barricaded himself in his home) firing multiple rounds from a machine gun at the ESU team to which, in response, the plaintiff performed his job.  A single shot stopped the madness.  His shot. 

I cover a lot of ground on my feet these days - running many miles in many different pairs of shoes.  I do not know whether I could take a single step in his.  I hope that I never am placed in a position where I am - and other are - dependent upon my ability to answer that question affirmatively.


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