Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What's the blue book market value of a teenage sex-slave, anyway?

Here's what's being reported: A guy in California was getting young girls in India or someplace, then bringing them into the U.S. where they served as unwilling sex-slaves, among other things. When he got two sisters in this fashion and one died while locked away, her parents decided to sue him for damages.

They hired a lawyer to do so. Now that the case is over, the parents now allege that before the case went to trial the defendant offered settlement for 7.5 million. That's $7,500,000.00. Count the zeros. The parents now further allege that their attorney wouldn't take the settlement, against their wishes, but held out for more, which he got! These poor parents apparently had to go through depositions, which increased the value of the case by another million or so.

You'll never guess what happens next. The parents now are suing their own attorney because he didn't do what they wanted, which was to settle the case for the $7.5 mill! The parents claim that he was interested in the notoriety the case would get him if he got a big verdict, so he put them through the delay and annoyance of the depositions.


First, as an attorney, you do what your client wants. If your client wants to settle, you do it, even as you counsel your client that he is not right bright for choosing to accept a clearly inadequate offer. It happens. The attorney's settlement authority only comes from the client.

Second. I don't believe this story. I'm assuming that this kind of case must be on a contingent fee basis. I can't imagine there are many attorneys who, for this kind of case, would turn down a 7.5 million settlement. That's probably a fee of 2.5 million or so. You gotta' write a whole bunch of wills to earn 2.5 million in a year. And notice that this would have been a compromise settlement which would have completely eliminated the risk, which would be considerable, that a jury could come back with a smaller verdict. An attorney would risk a 2.5 million fee for notoriety? Oh, c'mon! Think of the notoriety you would get if you were the smart boy who refused a 7.5 settlement and ended with a verdict of a mere 6 million, having just given away a million of your client's money. Or worse, nominal damages. I just don't believe it. If you settle a case for $7,500.000.00, the word gets around. You don't have to go to trial to get notoriety. Just don't believe it. No way.

Third. What makes these "sex slaves" worth 7.5 million dollars to their parents? Don't get me wrong. The defendant should be locked up and all of his assets should be taken from him. If he's got millions to pay in settlement, take it all and put it into the school system. Put it into counseling facilities for young girls who are sexually abused. Don't let the enslaver keep a dime. But to give it to the parents? Okay, I know. If you find out that your daughters had been taken as sex slaves, you would want the perpetrator to pay for his crime. But how is giving these parents this much money anything like justice? They didn't have to put out; the girls did. This just sounds to me as if we have the parents seeing an opportunity for a big score, capitalizing on the victimization of their daughters.

And now they want more.

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