Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bob comes home -- Part I

Already the details are starting to fade; too much has happened, with too little time for processing. Strong impressions remain; some incidents stand out in stark relief. But I’m writing now, quickly, because there’s a lull in the action. But it’s not over, not by a long shot.

I was stressed to begin with. College tuition was falling due. Middle Son had totaled one of our cars in mid-July. My largest case was threatening to go into discovery overdrive – in theory good for me as a lawyer who bills by the hour – but in practice a disaster, because the client hadn’t paid me and apparently lacked the funds to pay for a protracted discovery battle. This in a case we had essentially ‘won’ in March: The United States District Court had accepted our reading of the relevant insurance policies, granting summary judgment in our favor on this issue – meaning that the insurance company defendants had underpaid my client’s claim by well over a million dollars. But the insurance company acted as if it were bound and determined to make us spend every last dime of our prospective winnings on pointless depositions and document productions.

I knew we were in trouble the day we went to court to protest the defendants’ discovery requests: When I walked into court there was a full size replica of a locomotive on the wall opposite the jury box. Every hose, every ladder, every safety sticker was faithfully reproduced. That’s what discovery in Federal court will lead to – so how could we expect the judge to sympathize with our complaints about being forced to go to Florida to watch opposing counsel wade through a room full of boxed documents having nothing whatsoever to do with the remaining issues in our case? No matter how legitimate our complaints – no matter how disproportionate the discovery was in our case, it was in keeping with the way things are done in that court. Nor did it matter that we had not filed in that court and that the insurers would never get away with this nonsense in the Chancery Court; we’d been removed there by the insurers entirely in accord with the law. The court gave the defendants carte blanche to do what they pleased in discovery; the sop to us was that we could, if we survived to the end of the case, attempt to persuade the court that the defendants had ‘multiplied the pleadings unreasonably and vexatiously’ and attempt to recover our fees from the defendants at that time.

That didn’t sound very promising to me.

In the meantime, the mortgage was unpaid. This has happened before, and if I was handling it better this time, it was still bothersome. There’s always something vaguely upsetting about your wife and children being put out onto the street.

Now this lack of funds was not entirely the fault of the non-paying client, although its was (and still is) by far the largest outstanding bill. The real problem was that I had sent so few other bills: So much time was spent moving or getting ready to move – and moving again – and, sadly, on the loss of a colleague who’d moved with us – that I didn’t have a healthy crop of receivables coming due now. We’re like farmers, you know: We plant our time today, and reap payment (we hope) 90 or more days down the road.

And, of course, I do spend a fair amount of time on this soapbox, confiding to the world.

It was in the middle of all this that Betty called.

Not Bob. Betty.

Betty told me that Bob didn’t want to talk to me. Not right away, anyway. Betty told me that she’d told Bob to come back to Illinois. That he could live with her. And her family. And her bipolar ex-husband.

Betty was pretty shaken: Bob had not only disclosed his lifetime of drinking, but he told Betty that he was also hearing ‘voices’ in his head that made him do ‘bad things.’ He had thought of ending it all.

Betty – thanks to her ex-husband – has some experience in mental health matters. She figured Bob was bipolar, too.

And this image came unbidden to my mind: Bob and Bill (Betty’s ex-husband), sitting in the basement of Betty’s home, trading pills: “That big green one looks interesting,” Bob said. “I’ll trade you two of my red ones for one of your greens.”

I suggested to Betty that the proposed living arrangements might not be a good idea – at least not at the outset. We know Bob has an alcohol problem, I told her; let’s get him treatment for that and we can work on these other issues as we go. Bob living with her might be a step in his recovery, but it should not be the first step.

So I was to begin investigating alcohol rehab centers available to penniless and soon-to-be homeless persons. Betty continued her discussions with Bob, and started talking to him about the need for treatment upon arrival in Chicago. One thing was made clear to Bob: Betty had a number of out-of-town trips planned in the first two weeks of August. He should not plan on coming home before August 15.

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A very involved post; Bob is definately a focal point.