Savoring a Hard-Won Victory


The jury had awarded a $4 million decision for the plaintiff.  

When the clerk finished reading how the jury came up with this number and decision, as expected, Judge Donner polled them to make sure it had been a unanimous decision.

 

She also asked if there was any interference from either her clerk or herself when they had knocked on the door to check on the air-conditioning during deliberations or while the jury was reaching its verdict. After they confirmed that there was no such interference, Judge Donner thanked the jury for their effort, for taking time away from their jobs, their families, and their busy lives.

 

She reminded them that they had every right after the trial to choose who they spoke to and who they didn’t. They were perfectly welcome not to speak with the lawyers on the case or the media. This was their choice alone to make.

 

As we closed things out, Judge Donner was extremely gracious in showing her gratitude to the jury. I was also grateful and very proud of the decision they made. I took a moment to enjoy the victory, even though everything in my experienced gut told me it would be short-lived. DuPont was surely going to file for an immediate appeal.

 

When court was adjourned, the atmosphere in our camp was really festive. We had been waiting for two days while the jury deliberated, and though we had hoped and prayed they’d deliver a verdict in our favor, one never really knows how these types of cases will end. Everyone was thrilled with the outcome—at least, everyone from the plaintiff’s point of view.

 

Back then I liked to wear suspenders in court, especially during trial. It was a look that became synonymous with me, and, I suppose, Larry King. A lot of lawyers made fun of me for it, but I didn’t care. In fact, I thought the suspenders were my good luck charm—and this time they really were, because somehow, against all odds, we had landed this verdict. It was nothing short of miraculous.

 

When I returned to my office that night, the atmosphere was euphoric. The first thing I did was light up a big cigar. My staff was passing around champagne, and all the major TV and cable networks were setting up for post-trial interviews. The energy was almost overwhelming.

 

After all the interviews I retreated back into the sanctity of my office. I leaned back in my soft, supple leather chair, put my feet up on my desk, and gazed at the Miami skyline. As I sat, I took it all in—the verdict, the victory, and the view.

 

I’d come a long way from my early days of practicing law, and yet moments like these never get old. As I was contemplating what had just happened, I was also thinking about what was to come next. But there would be time for that later. Right now I wanted to breathe in these few moments of peace I allowed myself that night.

 

The verdict was on the front page of the Miami Herald the following day and became international news because of its global implications.

 

I received interview requests from all over the world, including from a very young Dan Abrams for Court TV; one from Night & Day magazine, which is equivalent to the New York Times Magazine; and the top rated Austrian news magazine show, which I was told was like being profiled for 60 Minutes. These news outlets were eager to hear from us and excited to help the Castillos share their story of triumphant conquest over DuPont.

 

It was all very exciting, and a bit daunting, too, because I knew round two of the fight would soon be upon us.

 

As I predicted, it didn’t take long for the defendants to file an appeal. The road ahead wasn’t going to be a smooth one by any means; our win in Judge Donner’s courtroom didn’t guarantee a victorious outcome in another courtroom. Though we celebrated the milestone for everything it represented, we had a lot of work to do to ensure that our success stuck. There was no more time to bask in the media spotlight.

 

We had to prepare for the next phase, and so we did.

 

I recount this in my next post.

 

My book, Blindsided, from which this post is adapted, goes into great detail on the background to the case, and the trial itself, as well as the implications of the verdict for similar cases going forward.

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