Recently, I went down to the Harris County District Court and watched three of the lawyers at the firm finish trying a lawsuit. I was able to make it down to watch closing arguments. The case involved a worker who had been killed on the job after a terrible incident involving a large truck. Without going into the details of the incident, this was a wrongful death lawsuit. The evidence clearly showed that it could have been prevented if the defendant had simply followed its own rules. This particular worker was from another country and was working in the United States with the hopes of a better life for his family and himself. He had lost his life in pursuit of that dream.
During closing arguments, defense counsel for the employer made many remarks regarding our client’s country of origin. He was clearly trying to let the jury know that our client was not “one of us.” He arguably had legal justification for some of his statements, but others were basically implying to the jury that they should not compensate the family of the deceased worker with much money for the child’s loss of a father and the wife’s loss of a husband because the deceased worker “was not from around here.” He further tried to argue to the jury that any compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, or loss of household services would be arbitrary and speculative.
Although defense counsel fully knows that these elements of damage are legally compensable and were warranted in the case, he tried to play on the jury’s prejudices against immigrants and against non-economic damages. Defense counsel’s argument was essentially this, “Since we don’t have any evidence that we can see regarding the pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc., such as a bill or an invoice, any amount awarded for those damage elements will be based on a guess, will be arbitrary, and will be speculative.” His argument, if followed by other courts and juries, would essentially destroy non-economic damages in their entirety, as these types of damages never have an invoice or a bill. That is why they are called non-economic damages. However, defense counsel was playing on the prejudices of the jury against lawsuits and personal injury awards.
The attorneys at my firm then responded that Lady Justice is blind. One of the attorneys explained that we have all seen Lady Justice. She is at the courthouse. She holds the scales of justice and stands for the proposition that evidence will be weighed and judged accordingly. He further explained that she is also blindfolded. Why? The reason is that under the law, justice is supposed to be blind. Justice should be blind to your ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, age, appearance, and anything else. To have justice, you must have it applied equally. Justice applies to immigrant workers just as is does to anybody else. Indeed, this is the foundation of the rule of law.