By Karen Koehler
In the evening of October 5, 2006, you have a few drinks and smoke a bowl of marijuana. The next morning you get up early for your new job driving a truck for a window company. What better way for you to start your day, than to smoke another bowl as you are walking out the door. In fact, you like this routine so much that you start off every morning this way.
You get to work, get in your truck and head out. In the middle of making deliveries, you decide to turn around. You are on highway 99 and make a left turn intending to go around the block. All of a sudden, your truck feels like it’s been struck by a bomb. It lurches forward. And you sit in your seat thinking. Uh Oh.
You are scared to get out of your truck. You have a pretty good idea what you’re going to see when you do. You sit in your seat and get up the nerve to call your boss. By now you can see other people rushing around and assume someone else has called 911. Time seems to take forever and you don’t know how long you sit there. Eventually you get out of your truck, walk around the right front end and stand there, looking down the length of it. You can see the people huddling around something that looks like the back of a car. The front of it is under the truck.
You don’t walk up to see if you can help. You don’t want to see whatever is in that wrecked red pile of shredded metal. You stay right where you are until you can hear the sirens. You back away. Away from the dread of knowing that there is someone half under your truck. You can barely see his outline. And that’s the last time you ever see Marc Maislen.
Years pass, and it is April 2010 and you are in court. Mr. Maislen has sued you. The company’s insurance company does not offer enough to settle the case. You are facing a full jury trial. The insurance company at first tried to claim that Mr. Maislen was at fault. For years, they denied that you were responsible. Even though you gave the police your pot and pipe that were in your coat pocket. Even though you admitted that you were high. Even though you were convicted of a crime and went to jail. The insurance company tried to blame him. Until a few months before trial. They decided they better admit fault. They told the judge they would agree you caused the wreck. But they also wanted to keep the jury from ever knowing that you were high.
Juries are almost never told when a defendant is drunk or high so long as they admit fault. But this case is different. Mr. Maislen has post traumatic stress disorder. Knowing that you were high when you almost killed him, has made him more fearful of driving. It caused him panic attacks. Judge Gonzales rules the jury needs to know the reasons why Mr. Maislen claims an injury, since your insurance company is fighting this. And so on the first day of trial, the jury is told of your behavior.
Your insurance company is very upset. They cannot believe the jury is being told you were high. This almost never happens. Instead of being able to have the jury look suspiciously at Mr. Maislen for bringing a lawsuit. They are looking at you.
Over the next several weeks, Mr. Maislen’s attorneys Karen Koehler and Mimy Bailey tell the jury the story of Mr. Maislen’s life. All the bones and joints that were broken, the nerves that were blown away, the traumtic brain injury, and the emotional injuries. Mr. Maislen was beloved by many. Over thirty witnesses testify for him. The insurance company hires experts to minimize Mr. Maislen’s claims. But at the end of the day, the jury has the final say. And they say that Mr. Maislen deserves a verdict for full justice.