Case Study

Legal Eagle Harold Hymen Got What Was Coming To Him-Exactly Nothing.

By Jeff Smith

VILLIANS AND CYNICS will tell you there's no such thing as bad press, as long as they spell your name right. If I were Harold Hymen I would not be entirely comfortable with that assumption.

Smith You remember Herrold, don't you? He's that lawyer nerd on TV who drones on about how "If we don't win, you don't pay."

Actually Himes is treading what should be pretty solid ground, message-wise. No less authority on truth and ethics than Adolph Hitler propounded the theory of The Big Lie, which asserted that when you're out to blow smoke up the public ass, the richer the bullshit the more likely folks will swallow it. As corollary to Hitler's thesis, the hidden persuaders of the advertising racket cleave to the principle that any message, however obnoxious, however implausible, will, if repeated ad nauseum, eventually take root like crabgrass and flourish.

Hymie couldn't have selected more suitable company for his assault on public credulity if he'd looked in the Yellow Pages under lawyers.

So he went to work, a small-town lawyer-boy taking a page from the book of Jacoby & Myers, Goldberg & Osborne, Dewey Screwem & Howe. His low-rent ads were all over the telly for years, etching the image of a high-school dweeb who grew up to be his mom's favorite law-school grad. I doubt that very many viewers were much impressed with the man's dynamism, or his plaintive, nasal, "please-don't-kick-sand-in-my-face" sales pitch, but for sure he won points with his variation on the Hitlerian/Madison Ave. theme:

"If we don't win, you don't pay."

Satisfaction guaranteed, right? So it would seem. And so it did seem to Susan LoCascio (L-small o-big C-small a-s-c-i-o) in 1991, after she was injured in a traffic accident.

She went to Hi-yams' office and hired him to sue the other party in the traffic case. His legal beagles read the case report, did a bit of research and wrote a snarly letter demanding half a million bucks. They got back a letter from the other side's lawyer, offering to settle for 50 grand. At that point Hal's pals told Ms. LoCascio they didn't feel like going to trial and she should take the 50K and go away.

She did and she didn't. She didn't take the 50 and went instead to Ed Bolding (B-o-l-d-i-n-g), a nice lawyer who happens to be a friend of mine, who took her case to trial and won more than $177,000.

That's when Hymens came after LoCascio, suing to collect one-third of the $50,000 that LoCascio was offered in answer to Hymens' toothless demand for half a million, which she wisely declined to accept. To be frank, based on seeing his TV ads more times than I care to recall, I never figured our lawyer lad for balls that big. Or brassy.

But greed can make a pitbull out of a pekingese. Hairball hauled LoCascio before Superior Court Judge Kenneth Lee (L-e-e) and got what he had coming: justice.

He didn't get any money; in fact the judge fined him $250 and ordered him to pay $1,500 in other fees to LoCascio's lawyer, Gerald Maltz. That's M-a-l-t-z. Maltz in turn is going after Heinz for more than $29,000 in defense fees and court costs. He's entitled to this because the jury found in his client's favor and against Herald "Duncan" Hines and his half-baked claim against a settlement he never won.

The jury, seemingly, remembered the oft-repeated little white whatever:

"If we don't win, you don't pay."

Don't you just love justice? Aren't you just breatheless to see how this case comes out on appeal? Because Harry promises he's not done yet. It's not the interest, it's the principle, he contends...raising the question:

What would a lawyer who advertises on Channel 11 know about principle?

Me, I hope the appeal drags on forever and costs a shitload of money, and Hymen loses and has to pay the tab for everybody, including burgers and fries for the jury for lunch every day. Maybe they could be sequestered and stay at Motel 6.

Maybe the concept of karma is beginning to dawn on old what'sisname.

AND HOW ABOUT that Dr. Laura, the radio scold who likes to give beaver shots to dirty old men on the sly?

I am not a regular, or even irregular, listener to Dr. Schlessinger's talk-radio crusade for old-fashioned morality, nor am I sufficiently web-literate to find the extra-familial album of nude shots taken by her adulterous paramour of two or three decades past, but the sheer goes-around/comes-around (or as my more-literate older brother, Dave, prefers to call it, Schadenfreude) of it tickles the hell out of me.

I say again: Don't you just love justice?

The only cloud on this horizon--as in the parallel case of the ambulance-chaser preceding it--is that for all their egregious hypocrisy and greed, neither Dr. Laura nor Hyam will suffer long enough and hard enough. Not in this life: the human attention-span is insufficient to the task.

People who do not read, or cannot remember, will tune to the radio or fail to mute the television commercial, and they will hear Dr. Laura's preachments and see the hon. Harry mouth his money-back guarantee...

...and be gulled...and beguiled. TW

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