Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dave McDonald

On a somewhat difficult estate planning matter, I have run into a lawyer I have known for years, Dave McDonald. He is sort of the "general counsel" for a successful businessman who became my estate planning client last year. This has given me an occasion to renew my acquaintance with Dave, who is a terrific trial lawyer.

I found that out during the early 70s, in a jury trial in which I represented Lloyds and he represented the owners of a cargo airplane that crashed in Africa. My client had the "hull" coverage, meaning that the Lloyds syndicate I represented was supposed to pay the owners the value of the airplane that went down. Our defense, as I recall it, was a clause the excluded coverage in the event of a war. The plane may have been shot down by guerrillas.

I knew I was in trouble when all the older trial lawyers at the firm I was with back peddled away from the case. (The trial was only the second or third I had tried on my own.) The case was actually controlled by a lawyer in a law firm in New York City through whom the case came to my firm. He didn't went to settle the case, and insisted we try it, and I did, and the NY lawyer sat next to me during the trial as an observer. A locally well known judge, Judge James W. Kehoe, presided. (His weekend job was as a referee for high school football games. Later, he became a federal judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.) It was before a jury.

When the jury came back with a verdict for Dave's client, several of the jurors came over and shook my hand and told me I had done a good job, which is the only time that ever happened. The court house was close enough to our law office to walk, and we always did. Before I returned from the court house to our law office, Judge Kehoe had called one of the senior partners at the firm to tell him that I had done a good job and that the NY lawyer was a jerk.

Anyway, Dave did a fine job in winning the case for his client. He was always a complete gentleman and was (and is still) a gritty, intelligent advocate. I was glad to run into him again on the current estate planning case.

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