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Lawyers Who Count Chickens Before They Hatch Lay Eggs

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Defense attorney John Shely reportedly lost the largest verdict in an individual "bad faith" insurance case in Oklahoma history.

But the $25.5 million verdict did not make him the biggest loser. After all, attorneys don't really lose anything in court -- their clients do.

Shely lost big time, however, when he opened his mouth. This is why lawyers should never count their chickens before they hatch.

Laying an Egg

After laying an egg in the case, Shely reportedly walked up to the plaintiff and said he would lose on appeal. That remark earned him the title of "Biggest Jackhole Lawyer in America."

Above the Law called Shely out because the plaintiff had lost his wife to cancer. The case was about Aetna denying her insurance claim.

"My wife started the case, and I'm just finishing the fight," Ron Cunningham said.

Aetna's lawyer apparently turned off jurors, too, when he said in closing arguments that he was proud of the doctors who denied coverage. Two dissenters in the 9-3 verdict thought the $25.5 million award was too low.

Popping the Corks

For a seasoned trial attorney, Shely apparently didn't get the memo that civil practice means being civil. He also fell into the same bad practice that cost another attorney a huge verdict.

Plaintiff's attorney Brent Wisner had a winning argument but it offended the judge. Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos didn't like the part about popping champagne corks.

Wisner told jurors that the defendants were waiting for the verdict, and "if the damages number isn't significant enough, champagne corks will pop."

The jurors awarded $289 million. The judge reduced it to $78 million.

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