Friday, April 10, 2015

Ten Years Ago - Day One

10 years ago today we started our trial. I remember it. Well, most of it. Lizzy was 5. I was 31 and Damon was 32. We had moved from Sumter to Myrtle Beach in 2003. Damon was teaching and coaching. Same thing he did in Sumter. A brand new school opened and he was blessed to get right in and become the head golf coach. I was a stay at home mom to Lizzy and Em, who was 2 at the time.  Lizzy was going to school and Em was in preschool. I was still driving my Astro van. I loved it.  All Lizzy’s equipment could fit in the back.

We arrived at the courthouse after staying in a hotel in Sumter, SC.  This is where she was born so naturally  this is where the trial was. I was so anxious. I remember walking into the courtroom just shaking. I had never been in a courtroom before. It was intimidating. We were told to sit to the left of the courtroom.  Not in the front but in one of the “pews” in the courtroom. The right side was about 100 potential jurors. They were summoned for jury duty for our case. A case that started in 2000.  It was a long 5 years of excruciating ups and downs.

October 1999

I came home after getting my records from the hospital (finally) and immediately contacted the first attorney I could find that “looked” professional.  I didn’t know any better and I was desperate. My intuition had kicked in. I knew I wanted someone with lots of experience.  This was only after having an argument with Damon about it. He was totally against any kind of litigation. Too public. He said no. I said yes. I called this attorney at 7:30 at night and he took my call. Thank you Mr. Pat McWhirter.  He listened to me for a very long time. He said he would help us. I felt relieved already. He called me a few days later and said that he had spoken with Ken Suggs in Columbia and he would take our case. And just like that, we had representation. Not one penny upfront.

April 10, 2005

As I sat in the courtroom, I looked at the people that were there to sit on the jury for our case. I was nervous that they weren’t  able to understand what happened or that they would assume things about us as parents. I knew what the defense was going to do, and it was going to hurt. Bad.

The judge walks in and just starts with the elimination of people. She asked several questions to the group including these

o   Have you ever been a juror on a malpractice case before?
o   Are you a teacher?
o   Have you ever known the plaintiffs?
o   Have you ever brought a lawsuit again anyone?

If they answered yes, they would go up to the judge and explain further. Then she would dismiss them. Amazingly we ended up with just the right amount.  12 jurors with 2 alternates.  And so the trial began…immediately.

We moved to the table in front of the courtroom. This was our place for the next four days.  Right next to the jury.  They watched us those four days too. Our attorney had his opening statement. Then called our first witness. I will always remember this guy. He had dark hair. Thin. Just a regular guy. He was an obstetrician/gynecologist. He stopped working for personal reasons and was living with his parents. When he opened his mouth, I was stunned by what he said about Lizzy. As a doctor, he said he would have delivered her at 11:00 pm, the night before!!  This man was emotional about Lizzy. He taught all of us how to read a fetal monitor strip. I just cried. Now I know why those monitor strips were missing from my records when I finally got them.

After we broke for the day, we met him outside the courtroom and he just broke down. Hugged us and told us how sorry he was.  His testimony was strong.

When we left court for that first day, we went back to our hotel room. Damon and I would talk a bit about the day. We were tired. It ‘s emotional. Bedtime was early for us. We would go all day these four days.

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