Read an Excerpt
I don¹t give a shit if they take
it or not. If the plaintiff doesn¹t
settle, it doesn¹t matter to us. We
tell them, "We¹re coming after you."
‹ James A. Brown
Assistant General Counsel
The Ford Motor Company
National Law Journal
March 18, 1996
I get to my office around 10:00 a.m. sharp. I check with our receptionist Sharon for messages and see if anything is on the seat cushion of my custom leatherette "executive" chair. All emergencies or urgent matters somehow find their way to this chair. Then, I walk downstairs hoping to find a cold Diet Coke in the refrigerator. Nothing else will do. I won¹t drink Pepsi, Mountain Dew or some 10 percent real fruit flavored non-carbonated punch. With Coke in hand, I return to my office to see what major manufacturer will be sued next. This, typically, is how my day begins.
Mid-March 1996 was no exception. When I returned to my office with the first Diet of the day, I noticed that the new National Law Journal, a weekly newspaper for the legal profession, had arrived. The front page caught my eye. Some arrogant looking SOB was pictured in white shirt and black tie, with arms folded, standing abrasively in front of a blue Mustang convertible. The caption read, "Lean, Mean Litigation Machine ‹ Ford Thinks It Has A Better Idea: Hardball."
The individual that I had judged an arrogant bastard was none other than James A. Brown, assistant general counsel at Ford Motor Company and manager of product liability litigation. Mr. Brown was delivering a message on behalf of the High and Mighty Detroit Giant to plaintiffs¹ attorneys and the clients they serve. The crux of the message was simple. Ford had changed its corporate attitude from "Screw you," to "Fuck you."
Mr. Brown would lead the charge against victims injured by defective Ford products. Cases would no longer be settled based on merit. The Giant would try any case, no matter how small, no matter how great the risk of a mammoth jury verdict, just to scare other victims and their lawyers from filing suit. The message was clear: "If you sue Ford, be ready for war." And, as part of the battle cry, plaintiffs were offered a one-time, take-it-or-leave-it, low-ball settlement. If they took it, fine; Ford got off cheap. If they rejected it, Mr. Brown¹s zealous statement on the front page of the Journal eloquently summed up Ford¹s compassion for the injured.
"I don¹t give a shit if they take it or not. If the plaintiff doesn¹t settle, it doesn¹t matter to us. We tell them, ŒWe¹re coming after you.¹"
For over a decade, I¹ve been fighting Giants. I¹m a Lemon Law lawyer practicing out of Waukesha, Wisconsin. I represent people who buy cars and trucks and suffer for it. My track record is good. In fact, it¹s more than good. I¹m one of the best in the country. Out of more than 1,000 cases in 13 years, I¹ve lost 9. But on this day, I didn¹t file any lawsuits. I didn¹t write any letters to Dearborn, Michigan. I didn¹t make any phone calls to GM¹s attorneys, Bowman & Brooke, in Minneapolis. What I did do was more important.
I took the Journal, got in my car and drove to Creative Enterprise, my brother-in-law¹s wholesale framing business.
I waited three hours while one of the most disheartening stories I had ever read was double matted and framed.
Today, the Attorney Brown Hardball article hangs in my office as a continuous reminder of the Almighty Industry we fight and the true corporate greed that permeates our society.