A Call in the Dark for the Case of a Lifetime
It was June 1993 and I was in the middle of another habitually late night in the office, when I heard my private phone line ring.
I was working on an important and time-­consuming case. Although I rarely answer my own calls, even after hours, for some reason I reached for the receiver.
“Hercules. How ya’ doin’, man? Look, before you say anything, I have a favor to ask.”
It was my longtime friend Mark Eichberg. We first met in college and became good friends back in the early 1980s when I was an accountant. He and I used to work out together a lot, so we started calling each other Hercules.
“What’s up, Hercules?”
“Listen, I work with this guy, Juan Castillo. He and his wife are desperate to hire a lawyer. You’ve got to see them, man, and hear them out.”
The truth is, I hated getting these types of calls. They usually led to some bullshit case in which I had to explain to the family sitting across from me all the reasons why they had no claim or recourse in the judicial system.
I didn’t like being the bad guy delivering that kind of news. I understood how personal these situations were to people. I dealt with them every day. But I also knew the process, and most of the time it wasn’t anything like the glorified, glamorous version we all see on TV.
Besides, it wasn’t as if I was hard up for work; in just a few years, my small law firm had grown exponentially. I went from representing a hundred people to advocating for several thousand in liability cases largely related to asbestos-induced diseases such as meso­thelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. I’d also done some work on a variety of medical malpractice cases, mostly representing the plaintiffs.
These cases were often hard to win, but that’s what made trying them so appealing to me. I enjoy a good challenge, and in a field where a lot of my colleagues tend to stick with the same kinds of clients and cases, I appreciated the difficulty in pursuing different types of cases.
From a lawyer’s point of view—or at least from my personal perspective—there’s nothing more exciting than building a case piece by piece, convincing a jury you are right, and then having them put a high dollar value on something as painful as watching someone you love suffer long and hard before they eventually die from the disease in question, or in many cases enduring that pain themselves before they die.
This is my art—an art that takes a great deal of skill, thoughtful strategy, and determined precision to win.
And I love to win.
Yeah, business was booming. I didn’t have the time or the interest to take on dead-end cases. Even so, Mark wasn’t the kind of friend I could say no to, so I reluctantly agreed to set up a meeting with the couple he was referring to me.
This was the beginning of an extraordinary personal, professional, scientific, legal and judicial adventure. In this series of blogs, I will recount the story of how I undertook to represent a remarkable family, how I and my colleagues fought a giant multinational corporation and how we managed to change not only how certain cases are heard, but to find justice for a family.
In my next post, I will introduce you to that family.
These blogs are based on my book, Blindsided, which you will find recounts in great detail the case, my background and the implications of the ruling.