First Off, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2021 | Podcasts

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First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. I’m David Heffernan, I’ve been practicing personal injury law here in Miami and South Florida for nearly three decades. The goal behind this broadcast is to bring in other lawyers in varying fields and experiences to kind of maybe one by one start to take them off that kill list. And, and we can prove Shakespeare wasn’t right in the 15th century, when he said it and everybody laughed about it. But my guest this morning, the only difficulty might be I think we can get him off the list. But he’s a guy I know who oftentimes wanted to kill many lawyers, generally opposing counsel, but this morning, I’m really happy to introduce a very close friend of mine. Excellent, excellent lawyer. Andy Haffa.

Thanks for having me on.

So yeah, we’re not going to ask you to take any lawyers off the list. Because I know, given you’re passionate about your practice, and I will get into that. There’s been times I’ve might have heard you out or a few things about killing other lawyers. So, we’re going to try to table that and keep this more on the civil side of things.

You and I’ve had many conversations about going back to trial by combat and how much better I would feel. And as badly as I would like to avoid being on anybody’s hit list. I unfortunately, I found my way too many. And so as hard as you’re going to work today, I don’t know how successful you’re going to be brother.

All right. Well, I’m up for the test. So, let’s see what we can do to get Andy off this list. Let’s go back first and just talk about so you’re a Miami native, correct?

Well, basically, I we I’ve been here ever since I’m two I was born. My dad was in medical school in Richmond. And he when he moved down here for training, that’s when I became a Florida native.

Got it. Okay. So now though, tell me because your dad comes down here, very, very prominent surgeon knows me. Well, he’s seen my insides. So, I got to give him credit for that as he took my appendix out, but Chief of Staff at Baptist I mean, many, many accolades, and just a top notch, top notch surgeon, great guy, and you go to law school. So where was where was that shift? And was there ever an interest in medical school?

There still is. I was I was teaching at the middle school Medical School last night, believe it or not, okay. I ended up going to law school because my dad, who as you said, as a surgeon told me, he wouldn’t do it again. And I took the L SATs and the MCAT. That’s the test to get into medical school within a month of each other. And still, to this day, I entertained dreams of being a doctor. That’s what I was always wanted to do. And I know I would have been a hell of a surgeon, that’s for sure.

No, no doubt about it. And but it’s interesting because you go into law, and then followed by both of your brothers, Sam and Greg go into law who both have thriving careers. And we might have to get them on here. It might be easier to get off the list and you but we’ll work on it. On those two so you get into the practice law. The other interesting thing about you so you and I go back three decades, because graduate, I always know how long you’ve been practicing. Because I got to figure out how long I have came out together, law clerk to different places together. But you’re a little bit of a rarity in that. You went to a firm right out of law school. Grossman, a Roth at the time now Grossman Roth, yeah, often Cohen. But you’ve stayed there, the duration, you know, lawyers tend to start here, get a little experience here, kind of move and move around. So talk about that journey, because I think it’s pretty fascinating that you’ve stayed there the whole time. And obviously, tremendous, tremendous firm. You know, nothing but great things to say about Stuart and Neil and everybody in that firm. And so you’re a great, great fit and a great asset to that firm. But how is it that you wound up staying in the same place for 30 years?

So I was blessed to have found Stuart and Neal, and they took a shot on me how and why I don’t know. But my goal when I started with them was to learn how the best  firm I could find thought so I could go back and defend physicians. I lived through a couple of lawsuits that I felt were unjustified. And so I figured if I could learn from the best plaintiffs firms, I could then jump back to the defense and defend these dogs. And when I saw the cases that Stuart Neal had, it was mind blowing. And I would bring this stuff home and talk to my dad. And he was shocked at the horrific care that existed then and unfortunately continues to exist in South Florida. And so I found my niche and I think we’re able to make Florida a better place by hopefully forcing physicians to practice better and safer medicine. And so that’s really sort of overshadowed my entire journey at Grossman Roth, and I feel as though I’ve, you know, sacrificed blood, sweat and tears there for 30 years. And when I started, we were for lawyers, we’re now up to 12. And it’s amazing the cases we’ve seen, the people we’ve touched and the lives that we hopefully have changed for the better. Well, let’s

talk about that a little bit too, because I know and it had to be difficult for you, given that your dad was a physician and a prominent physician, there seems to be sort of, sometimes almost a public image that, well, they’re doctors, and they can’t make mistakes. And I talk to people all the time. And I say, well, listen, they’re professionals. Lawyers are professionals, contractors are professionals. You know, if you if you hire a guy to build your house, and half of it collapses, nobody ever has a hesitation, oh, I’m going to sue that guy. He did it wrong. But when doctors do that, everybody seems a little hesitant to venture into that. And so how was that sort of going back and forth with your dad. And obviously, I mean, I’ve fished with you many times with your dad and lots of other physician friends. And those were the circle friends. So how well was that sort of taken when you first started suing doctors as opposed to defending.

So I think I brought a bit of fresh air to these physicians that felt that way, because they knew, given my background, given my history, given my father, that I was not going to simply throw a cast net, no pun intended, over everybody that had contact with that patient. If you’re going to get sued, it’s because you deserve to get sued. And it was a breach of the standard of care. And they knew that I understood that not every mistake was medical malpractice that was actionable. Not every bad outcome was medical malpractice that was actionable. And so I truly believe then, and I know, I continue that now I bring, I bring an extra level of screening to these cases, and I make sure if I’m going to do it, they should be brought. And these cases are just and righteous. And these doctors deserve to get sued. If they don’t, I don’t want to be part of.

So, let’s talk about that a little bit. Because we both been doing medical malpractice for a long time, the screening process because again, you know, you tell people, if you got hit by a car, we could file a lawsuit today, you know, and be litigating this case, when it is a medical malpractice case, talk about the extent of that screening process and what it has to go through to ensure that it is a meritorious case, first off on your standards, and then the legal standards of what has to be done before you can file a suit.

So, there’s a movie out there, the girl next door that I use this line all the time, you got to make sure that the juice is worth the squeeze. Medical malpractice cases, obviously, are extremely expensive to be brought, you have to have them reviewed by experts in every specialty of the folks that you’re going to sue. So, it’s not uncommon. Before I even know that I have a case that I’ve spent 5060 $100,000 on these cases. So, you’ve got to be very selective in the case of your brand. Obviously, you got to make sure that the damages on the back end, okay, justify spending those kinds of monies on the front, because I will tell you, at the end of the year, firms like yours and mine, we end up spending hundreds of 1000s, if not more dollars, on cases you’ve evaluated, you’ve investigated, and then you determine that there was no breach of the standard of care. And then unfortunately, something bad happened to this patient. But these doctors and health care providers did everything they could to care for these patients and bad things happen. And they do happen in the absence of malpractice. This is this is what we bring to the practice that understanding. And a lot of patients/clients don’t understand just because something bad happened, why they don’t have a case. So I hope I answered your question there, Dave.

No, you did. You did. And I think that’s one of the hardest things sometimes because it does have to be viewed as a business and at times, you have to look at the extent of the damages and what it would cost to bring that forward because it became it can become cost prohibitive for case. And that’s a hard thing to explain to clients at times. But again, even harder sometimes because there is a bad outcome. That doesn’t mean anybody was at fault. Okay, and that’s not an easy decision to get to, nor a cheap one. So let’s shift gears a little bit because I know that’s one component of what you started. And I think really, back when you started Stuart Neil really emphasized in med mal, but that practice is really expanded. Now. While you still do med mal, there’s a lot of other things you’ve gotten into from products liability to other significant cases. So, let’s talk a little bit about what the overall practice had Grossman Roth, you and Cohen consists of now.

So, when people ask me what we do, I tell them that we will handle any significant case there is any type of significant catastrophic plane train automobile construction litigation, we’re involved in the surf side collapse. We were involved in the FIU Bridge collapse the Miami Dade Community College garage collapse, we’ve gotten involved in some very significant legal and accounting malpractice cases. We were involved in the citrus canker case, the bank overdraft cases. David’s amazing as society changes and science advances, the stuff that comes up that you could never have dreamed of when you and I graduated law school 23. And me, we’re now having cases that are coming up that you could not have even dreamed up kids that are 1617 years old that apply to these genetics’ companies. And they find out that they’re not they’re not the natural children of their parents, mommy and daddy are not good. They thought they were, you know, yes, they are. They loved them. They raised them, and they treated them as their own. But Mistakes were made way back when parents were having a hard time conceiving. And so, we’re now bringing those kinds of lawsuits against fertility specialists that made those kinds of mistakes. We’ve had other cases involving stem cell malpractice, for example, stem cells are cutting edge science. And they may well hold the cure for many illnesses for which there is no cure, but we’re not there yet. And there are spas and clinics and chiropractors selling this stuff. And right now, it’s no better than snake oil, and people are getting hurt. So, it’s a crazy time in our world. And the types of cases we’re seeing is limitless. And when you think you’ve seen it all, then something else comes walking in the door. Right? So it really is amazing.

It is and you see this transition now. And you see going into lots of different doctors, everybody’s going to rejuvenation medicine, you know, we all want to stay pretty and young and pain free. And you’re right it is there are a lot of things that are I think, good science and good medicine that are heading in that direction. But there’s a lot that there, there almost is no standard of care yet, because people are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

Yeah, it’s crazy. And the consumers need to be aware, they need to make sure they’re going to quality physicians that are truly engaging in quality standard of care medicine, as opposed to using off label non-FDA approved medications. I got a case now where a lady went in to have some fat, you know, she thought she was going to have some liposuction, and they convinced her into having an injection where they inject basically an enzyme that lives or digests the fat. Well, the stuff they injected her was tainted with bacteria. And basically, it ate away in the back of her arms. And she needed to have the backs of her arms, both amputated. She’s been through 25 different procedures. She has scarring, she basically has to take antibiotics for the rest of her life because she has what’s equivalent to leprosy. And the spa, that did this had an eye doctor as a medical director, and it’s an eye doctor injecting her arms with this stuff. So, it is the wild west right now. It’s just crazy.

And we get we get countless and it’s heartbreaking. The plastic surgery clinics, Miami seems to be sort of the bastion for that. And when you look at them, the formula is really easy. The online presence is amazing. Okay, and tremendous. And then you come down here, and it’s a storefront clinic somewhere, you know, and these people get horribly, horribly butchered, you know, they fly back to the state they’re from, and unfortunately, there’s no coverage on the clinic, there’s no coverage on the doctors and these poor people have just been totally, totally taken advantage of. And it’s a horrible thing to have to deal with. But we get calls almost weekly on those cases. Yeah. And

it’s not going to go away until the FDA and the other licensing bodies take control and they shut them down or somebody goes to jail. That’s not going to stop, you and I are going to continue to stay busy. And the one the one issue I continue to have that I cannot stress enough is how unfair the free kill law is as it relates to the medical malpractice world, right? Obviously, you need to recognize survivor if somebody dies by health care, fraud by a healthcare provider, and there’s no surviving spouse or no child under the age of 25. If that same person was killed in a plane, train or automobile, that family would have a cause of action. But in a malpractice setting by a healthcare provider, there’s nobody, there’s nothing that you can do for them. And they don’t understand why that life is worth less than the malpractice. I think that it is in the general liability setting. It’s not right and it’s not fair.

It’s not and it’s as you know, and I mean, it’s been challenged and it’s probably the most difficult conversation I’ve ever had with clients when you get that situation is to say, Listen, there, there may be, you know, a cause of action there, this doctor may have killed your mom or your dad or whoever, but if there’s no spouse, and there’s no minor child, by law, they’ve carved that out and successfully. So, but let’s talk about that a little bit. Because I know I know you and your firm have done it. And it’s every pie lawyer that I know. You know, the goal is, obviously, you know, the first goal is win that case. Okay. But the bigger goal is to bring about change. And if you look, society wise, the change that has come about is often driven by personal injury lawyers. I mean, you look at and I always use an example, the sexual scandal within the Catholic Church. You know, when that first started, oh, it was an American thing. Oh, it was this it was. And it was trial lawyers that kept pushing that and pushing that, and now they pulled back the curtain. And you see what’s been exposed is absolutely horrific. But it’s only because of that change through civil courts, and lawyers to talk about some of the cases you’ve dealt with. I know agriculturally. You’ve been before Congress on things to talk about changes for migrant workers in the fields. Talk about that aspect of your practice and how satisfying that is.

So, the case you’re referencing is Carlito Kandel area. And that little boy now is 17 years old. When he was an infant, I was called out to a Mokulele to try and help this family. He was born to migrant parents that were smuggled into the United States from Mexico. They were basically indentured servants. And they were exposed to pesticides in the tomato fields that were known to cause birth defects. This poor lady gets pregnant, she’s ingesting and sprayed with these pesticides, and the baby’s born with no arms and no legs. And so, when I went out there and met this little boy, he was sitting in a bouncy seat in a trailer park. Living in a one-bedroom trailer, there were 16 people living in this one-bedroom trailer, there were little puppies that had been born in the trailer park that were nipping at this child and he was screaming, and obviously, he had no limbs he couldn’t fight back. And it was that scene, seeing him unable to do anything to defend himself, that made me commit to try and help him. So, I began to look long and hard about what I could do to try to help that child. And I knew I couldn’t sue on behalf of the parents because they were illegal, and immigration would be called. And they were called multiple times through that case, I had, I had to hide these people literally for two years. I couldn’t sue on behalf of the parents, you all said workers compensation laws and immunities that prevented doing something on their behalf. But they could not block the case on behalf of the child. And so that’s what I did, I bought a brought a straight premises liability claim against the owner and controller and operator of the farms to to represent that child as it relates to the pesticides that he was sprayed with through his mother while in utero. And really to get that case changed, we get the case resolved. But more importantly, we changed everything in terms of how these people were treated. Day for decades, we got to see it’s truly modern day slavery. It continues to this day, unfortunately. But they change the labeling, they change the type of pesticides that are being used. And I got to see this child, believe it or not, again, he’s now 17. Last week, he is a thriving junior in high school, he’s a straight A student, he’s got plans to go to college, he wants to be an engineer, we built in my house, we put a trust together. So, the monies will be there to take care of him for the rest of his life. This kid is going to do big things, I just can’t wait to see what he’s going to do. And but for our system, and the work of those of us that are on these kill lists, okay, he wouldn’t have a future and I was I was blessed to have been connected with him. He’s made me a better lawyer and a better person, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do.

Yeah, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing the results that you’ve done helping somebody thrive like that. And I’ve got a young girl now who again, nobody thought she’d ever walk talk there, we’re going to put her in a nursing home. She’s walking, she’s talking, she’s functioning, she’s communicating. And she’s getting better every day. And this is, you know, four years ago that this occurred. So, when you see those things, I mean, that to me is the greatest satisfaction is helping those clients that that didn’t have a voice and nobody was going to give them a voice until somebody like you comes along and helps. So, you can see, and I can hear the passion in your voice. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. What keeps you passionate about it, what continues to drive you every day.

When I see a child or a family that’s been wronged and is suffering and is in need. That’s truly what does it and the hope that we can make it safer and better and prevent these things from happening is what drives me. I will tell you, yes, the satisfaction that you and I get from seeing that little girl who’s now walking and talking, or this child who’s going to have a future. It’s so gratifying. But I will also tell you, Dave, and I know you do a lot of teaching, my efforts to get into the medical schools, is my back my back around my behind the scenes approach of trying to make those changes, I told these medical students last night, if I can educate you, and prevent and avoid these cases, from coming through my door, that I know I’ve made a significant change, I want you to think twice before you act, I want you to think twice about how it’s going to affect that patient, and ultimately, that family, and you’re going to be a better doctor, you’re going to avoid getting sued, and patients are not going to be harmed. So, I think it’s a twofold approach that we’re now taking, both in terms of exposing and fighting for those that have been injured. But on the prevention side, I’m getting in the backdoor through the medical schools trying to make it a safer place. And to make these guys, these guys and gals better doctors.

Well, and that’s tremendous. Because you’re right, those changes can have such a big impact. And one of the things I’ve talked to people in the medical profession and they’re terrified, I think sometimes of communication. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls, and there’s no malpractice or anything else. But people just wanted answers. Nobody’s talking to them. And again, if those med students and those people in the hospitals and risk management would have communication with these patients, before lawyers got involved, a lot of times that’s going to peace, they just want an answer to a mystery, it’s oftentimes same thing, you know, people come to us first time in a lawsuit, they’ve never been involved in a lawsuit, we’ve got to be able to explain to them, what’s going to happen, not just hey, just sit back, we’re going to take care of this, you’ll be fine. People want that information. And that’s what’s lacking often

can’t the candor be that old school medicine where the doctor would sit down and talk to the family and the patient, listen to what they’re saying. But more importantly, tell them the truth. This is what happened. This is why it happened. If you made a mistake, you come clean people can accept mistakes. Sure, what they can accept is if you make a mistake, and you try and sweep it under the rug, and then something bad happens, and then it becomes a mountain where you’re fighting over this thing. And once the truth comes out, there’s no defending that.

100%. So let’s shift gears a little bit more things. We’ve talked to everybody since we started this show. We’ve, I won’t say we’ve come through a pandemic, because I don’t think we’re there yet. But we’re certainly heading in the right direction. Talk about the impact that COVID has had on your practice, not only the volume and what you do in practice wise, but the nature of how you practice what your firm has done to become more adaptable, because I think there’s a lot of very positive things that have come out of this. To make us better lawyers, there’s been some negative things clearly to but to make us better lawyers, and to make us more efficient at what we do. So what is Grossman Roth, you often call and how did you guys deal with a pandemic and are dealing with it, I guess, still today.

So, I will tell you that the pandemic has made me a more efficient lawyer, if you will, prior to there was so much time wasted running to and from hearings and getting on airplanes to go to expert depositions, and things of that nature, we’re now able to do all of that by zoom like you and I are talking right now. And I don’t think a lot of that is ever going to go back to the way it was I think that’s a big positive. Some of the negatives are, I don’t think there’s any substitute for being in that room with my clients and being able to hug them and console them. When you’re in one of those emotional moments. And it’s going to happen by the nature of the cases we handle in the practices we have. I think that’s what makes you and I are so effective at what we do. We’re empathetic, we’re fathers, we’re husbands we appreciate. We’re humans. And when you see somebody suffering, there is no substitute for being able to give that person a hug, and console them and to stop it as opposed to trying to do that. From long distance. I don’t like that at all. When I’m taking an expert deposition, I also would much rather be in person as opposed to doing it by zoom. Obviously, the COVID has affected our trial practice. I’m desperate to get back into that courtroom. But if we’re doing our job right and thank God we have been the preparation is such that these cases have continued to resolve trials are starting to resume we’re getting trial dates and still keep are resolving, and I’m happy to see that. But I don’t have the control that I used to have, I used to be able to tell a client, when I met them, within 18 months, I’m going to be giving you a hug and wishing you well, your case is going to be over one way or the other. We can’t do that anymore, because everything is so backed up. And lastly, COVID has made me a better person, I think in terms of being around more for my wife and kids and being able to appreciate the hearing the now because prior to COVID, I was like you a million miles a minute airplanes, courtrooms, hearings, on the car, in the car driving to and from Naples constantly. Now I’m home and I’m president and I’m able to enjoy them. And I think that’s been a big plus for

  • And certainly, that’s a huge thing. And I got to give you props, because you go back and you look at the people you surround yourself with. You know, Mark Caron, I can’t partners were longtime friends, same class as you. But I look at Mark, again, still married to his first wife, you know, I’m still married to my first one, you’re still married your first wife, three kids. And I think those things having that continuity and stability in your life. And those values of what’s important, really do translate to being an excellent trial or because what people forget is, you know, it’s attorney slash counselor. And there’s a lot of counseling that goes on in these cases, just like you said, to be able to do it in person is a huge aspect of it. Because this is a, you know, the people that come see us, their lives have been totally disrupted. And they’re never going to be normal again. And we can only normalize them, to the extent that our system helps normalize it via you know, money, benefits and everything else and to change the quality of their life. But anyway, we’re running down on time, you’re a guy that I think we’ve now been able to take off the list because I think people see the passion, the compassion, the empathy, and the desire that you still have, it’s clear to see burns in you 30 years into this, you know, you’re still chomping at the bit to do the same thing every day. And so, Andy, pleasure, love catching up with that. We could do this for a long, long time. But I think I think generally other than opposing counsel, I’ve got you off all those lists. Okay. So, I appreciate it, my friend. Thank you for your efforts. And I hope you’re half right. If I get off one list. You’ve been successful today, brother. Thanks for having me on. There we go. My pleasure. My pleasure. Give my best to the family. That’s another episode of First off, let’s kill all the lawyers. We’ll be back next week. Thanks.