When I was about 10 years old, my mother forced me to go out for the local baseball team in Fish Lake, Indiana.
I much preferred sitting and watching television like Scooby-Doo and eating bowls of Frosted Flakes until I was in a sugar coma. But, like all dutiful sons, I went to an abandoned corner lot where Mill Creek Elementary School was located (the former high school in the 1950s). It was a warm May, 1974 Saturday afternoon and a group of about twelve kids stood before the infamous Fish Lake Coach “Inky” Schoof (known as “Stinky Inky” to his contemporaries, he struck fear in the hearts of young boys with his military haircut and abrupt manner of speaking/yelling).
Inky made us line up before him that afternoon — very reminiscent of an inspection of the troops — so he could size up the Fish Lake squad for that summer. As he passed down the line, looking none too pleased, I was shaking in my Converse when he approached me.
“Boy, what’s your name?” he bellowed.
“Jeff,” I meekly replied.
“Well, Jeff,” he said pointing to the equipment on the ground next to him, “put that on, you’re the new catcher.”
I felt a swell of pride rise within me. Certainly he had seen my intelligence just by looking at my earnest demeanor. He intuitively knew that I was the right person to lead the Fish Lake Nine (our uniforms didn’t have a name or insignia — we were nameless). But, in reality, Inky saw something in me that made sense to him.
I was the fattest kid on the field.
And the fattest kid always was the catcher.
I never forgot that day. I went on to play catcher the rest of my baseball days for numerous teams and I loved it. I was involved in every pitch — every decision — and I felt a part of the action each moment as the game unfolded.
Flash forward about 15 years and the same scenario unfolded in my first real law firm job. The subject this time was the causes of actions known as “slip and falls” and which attorney was going to be getting the lion’s share of those types of cases. Once again, I was picked. I felt the same sense of pride when my supervising attorney picked me out a handful of other young lawyers to handle this difficult, yet challenging cases. But, later I realized something.
I was the fattest lawyer in the room.
And the fattest lawyer always got the slip and fall cases.
But, just like Inky’s fateful decision many years earlier, it proved to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I fell in love with slip-and-fall cases. I was involved in every decision on the cases and I felt a part of all the action on each case.
There is nothing quite like a slip-and-fall case. Most lawyers eschew them. Many lawyers consider the slip-and-fall to be mundane and not worthy of her time.
Not me. I love the slip-and-fall because it is unlike every other type of negligence case. Most negligence cases involve a direct impact from the offender to the injured person. Not the slip-and-fall. It’s more an indirect type of negligence — the condition of the land the defendant owns is the focus, not something he touched or impacted.
And that raises a whole host of problems — and wonderful solutions that I will explore in my next blog installment.
Until then, I still love Scooby-Doo and Frosted Flakes at age 52.
And I still love the lowly slip-and-fall.