Sandy Hook Families To Sue Gunmaker

The Guardian is reporting that families of the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School are planning to sue Remington Outdoor Company – the makers of the Bushmaster Rifle used in the shootings.

According to the Guardian, the families have the powerhouse Connecticut firm of Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder.

From time to time, the possibility of litigation arising from the Sandy Hook shootings has been discussed in the Connecticut plaintiff’s bar. Most everyone, that I’ve read or heard, thought such an action was a long shot. Gun manufacturers have significant immunity from suit.

In March of 2013, Koskoff partner, Josh Koskoff, penned an editorial in the Hartford Courant that may offer some insight into the firm’s litigation strategy:

Perhaps the worst part of the arms act is that it creates a disincentive for gun companies to incorporate safety mechanisms that are available to prevent guns from being used by any one other than the permit holder. Everyone agrees that there is a rampant problem with guns falling into the hands of people other than the permit holder……

Just as car lovers continue to love cars despite air bags and seat belts, gun lovers will continue to love guns with this technology. Unfortunately, the gun industry sees no financial reason to incorporate these safety devices, given the law’s unique protection. They believe themselves largely immune from product liability lawsuits, unlike car manufacturers. So why would they invest in safety features that would make their products marginally more expensive and possibly affect sales?

We should not forget, however, that there is no “safe” gun when it is in the wrong hands. The technology exists to prevent the use of guns by other than the authorized user, but gun manufacturers have not applied it. Manufacturers should answer for this inherent flaw and litigants and the legal community need to continually test the limits of the 2005 arms act until it is repealed.

Don’t be surprised if Koskoff tries to test the theory that gun manufacturers aren’t using existing technology to implement safety measures that prevent guns from being used by unauthorized users.

In my opinion, given the existing immunity afforded to gun manufacturers, I believe this suit has little chance of success. Though it is impossible to weigh the relative merits of a case that hasn’t been filed. The initial pleadings (not referenced in the Guardian Article) will show what legal theories are being pursued.

Koskoff, Koskoff, and Bieder is a firm with lots of talent and resources. They have obtained some of the highest verdicts (possibly the highest) in State history. They have a history of picking fights against long odds and winning. The fact that Koskoff is bringing this case intrigues me. They are outstanding lawyers and I can’t imagine them taking on this fight if they didn’t believe there’s a chance they’ll win.

The suit is likely to be brought in Federal Court in Connecticut under the theory of diversity jurisdiction. In the event it is filed in State Court, I would expect the gun manufacturers to remove it to federal court.

From their, the defendants will use every motion possible to obtain judgment before the case gets to a jury – motions to strike, motions to dismiss, and motions for summary judgment. There will certainly be appeals.

This has the potential to be one of the most significant cases in Connecticut history.

Google Chrome Now Working With CT Judicial Branch Website

chromeFor the past two and a half years, I’ve had great difficulty using Google Chrome on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website.

Last week, Chrome for Mac received a major update. It went from 32 bit to 64 bit. This evening I used Chrome on the Judicial Branch website to both view and efile pleadings. Everything worked as it should.

If you’re a Chrome user, make sure you update to the most recent version of the browser and try your hand using the the Connecticut Judicial Branch website. Things should now work smoothly for you (or at least as smoothly as the work on other browsers).

No longer will you have to suffer through the minor inconvenience of having to switch to FireFox to move business on the CT Judicial Branch website.

Krisch Launches “Holding Court” Blog

Connecticut Appellate lawyer, Dan Krisch recently launched “Holding Court”.  I’ve long been a fan of Krisch’s musings as a columnist for the Connecticut Law Tribune.  Krisch’s commentary is frequently timely and always thoughtful. Dan’s writing style is well suited to the blogging format.

I’m excited to read what he has to write.

Parking At New Britain Superior Court….

….is about to get better. New Britain Superior Court has a nice garage located very close to the court. Making it one of the more convenient Connecticut courts to park at. The only problem s the garage only accepts cash or checks.

The garage is owned by the City of New Britain.

nb superior court

Last week, I sent the following Facebook Message to New Britain Mayor Erin Sterwart:

Dear Mayor Stewart, I am impressed with your initiatives in New Britain. I am not a resident of New Britain, however, I am an attorney who travels frequently to court in your city. There is a problem with your parking garage – unlike any other in the state – it does not accept credit cards. It only accepts cash or check. Often in the morning, the cashiers struggle because they don’t have enough change since the lowest bill most folks pay with is a $20. Lines often back up as folks have to back up because they aren’t carrying cash. Further, I haven’t been able to find an ATM close to the court. The garage fees are amongst the highest that I pay anywhere to park for court. Please make it easier to take our money. Please let attendants accept credit cards. – Ryan McKeen

The good Mayor had the following response:

Good Afternoon Ryan, I actually just had this conversation about a month ago with our property management department and we are working on a solution to fix that in all of our garages. Thank you for sharing it with me…

(These messages are being published with Mayor Stewart’s permission).

Good towns and cities get the small things right. Good on Mayor Stewart for working to fix this small problem.

Fitness Trackers Can And Will Be Used Against You In Court

“We’re constantly adding more shelf space. Consumers have many options right now. So many that it’s confusing. We’re going to sell a lot of these for Christmas” said the helpful Best Buy employee to me. He’s right there really are a lot of fitness wearables on the market ranging from cutting edge to fairly low tech.

Moto 360

The Moto 360 isn’t a fitness wearable. Though it tracks steps and heart rate.

We are witnessing Act 1 of the wearable revolution.

What happens outside of the courtroom eventually finds its way into a courtroom.  Newton’s 28th law of thermodynamics or something.

We represent folks who are injured as a result of others violating safety rules.  Sometimes our clients suffer life altering injuries. We’ve represented a cyclist whose riding was limited. A musician who was unable to play and the dancer who can’t dance. And many more folks who are simply unable to move as they once did or unable to do the things they loved to do.

The very things, like running, that make us human.

Frequently, insurance defense lawyers accuse folks who have been injured as a result of their insured of faking their injuries. They try to undermine reports of treating physicians. They may hire surveillance and video tape our clients at family functions. They do this because they are looking for any discount possible on the harms and losses that their insured has inflicted.

We fight these lies with truth. One of the things we do is subpoena gym records. We call fact witnesses who can testify of our clients activities before and after a wreck. We fight back.

Fitness trackers are going to be on the front lines of this fight. Engadget reports:

Insurers couldn’t force you to wear a smart band, but they might compel you to hand over data….In that sense, fitness data is a double-edged sword. While it might save your hide in certain legal battles, it could be a smoking gun in others.

There is not question in my mind that the data that wearables collect will become one of the most significant pieces of evidence injury cases. In order to be successful in prosecuting a claim, lawyers must know both the law and the technology.

So when you put on your new “FITBONE” for the New Year do so knowing that you may one day be subject to cross examination on the data.

_________________________

If you have been injured as a result of someone violating safety rules – contact us immediately for a free consultation. 

A Post About Lunch

“Always plan your day around lunch.” – Judge Smith

Coffee at Cafe Mantic

Coffee at Cafe Mantic

One of the great blessings in my nine years of practice has been the willingness of experienced lawyers to share their insights. The practice of law is literally that. It’s a practice. Practice is best with coaches. I’m writing this to share Judge Smith’s advice about lunch.

Why am I writing a post about lunch? Because, when Judge Smith told me to plan my day around lunch – I initially thought he was kidding. I’ve come to learn that he wasn’t. I met Judge Smith at lunch with my bosses.

Lunch is a special time for me. Often, I eat lunch at my desk while working. But at least once a week – I try and get out. Being a father of two young children – I do everything I can to be home for dinner with my family. My days of Young Lawyer networking Happy Hours are long gone. The only professional commitments that I make in the evening is to Inn of Court which meets once a month. I otherwise avoid evening commitments if at all possible because reading “Goodnight Moon” to my son and daughter means everything to me.

Lunch is my opportunity and I try to seize it.

In September, I had a meeting in New Haven. A place I only venture to a handful of times each year. My meeting got out at 11. I texted my brother who works in New Haven and asked if he wanted to grab lunch. He said “sure”. On a perfect September day, we walked to a Mexican restaurant and had lunch. It was a time to connect and reconnect.

There have been lunches with classmates, friends, and colleagues. The life of a practicing lawyer is often a moving target. Hearings run long. Closings get rescheduled. Cases settle. A lawyer’s calendar is always in a state of flux. Clients always take priority.  Sometimes the first thing I do when I get in after checking my schedule is ask myself “what am I going to do for lunch?” Time permitting I’ll email or text a colleague and schedule a lunch meeting. We catch up, we discuss cases, and we discuss practice. I can’t tell you how many of these conversations that I’ve cherished over the years.

This summer after wrapping up closing arguments in hotly contested trial in New London – I grabbed lunch with co-counsel and opposing counsel at a deli near the court. The pulled pork was outstanding. The company was better. Being able to sit down with adversaries after a hotly contested trial where both sides were vigorously represented was refreshing. We talked little about the trial. We mostly talked about our kids and summer. It was great.

If I have a meeting in the northern part of the state, I try to time it in order to have lunch with parents.

At home my meals can feel rushed. My son is 16 months and my daughter is 4. My son needs his food cut. My daughter wants something. It is often loud. My son gets tired early in the evening. DInner feels like the thing we do before bathing, changing, reading and putting our kids to bed before we start getting ready for the next day.

Why am I mentioning dinner in a column about lunch? Because when possible I try to steal a quick date with my wife. Grabbing a 45 minute lunch feels like spending hours together. We’re not cutting food or answering questions about giants. We’re able to talk…..in peace. It feels vacation.

Oh and Chilis. My daughter loves Chilis. My office is a short walk from Chilis. On school vacations she often comes into the office with me. We go to lunch at Chilis. I love this time with her. Someday she’ll have lunch plans with colleagues, friends, and maybe her husband. But for now, going to Chilis with her Dad is awesome. Never miss a chance to do awesome.

Lunches with clients are critical. Getting to know a client and build a relationship over a meal can yield countless dividends.

This summer I went to Cafe Mantic with my wife for our anniversary. I read about it in the New York Times and decided to make the trip on the way home from Watch Hill. I’m glad we did because it was outstanding.

Yesterday, I had a mediation in Willimantic with Judge RIley from 9 to 1. A few weeks ago, I received a call from Manchester Probate court looking to schedule a hearing. I looked at my schedule and asked that the hearing be scheduled for 3. I did this because sometimes a mediation, particularly if it is productive can run long. But I also hoped that a 3 o’clock hearing would give me time to enjoy lunch at Cafe Mantic.

My mediation ended at 1:00. The case resolved. My client was very pleased with the result. I headed down to Cafe Mantic. Opened my laptop – caught up on the emails and messages that I couldn’t get to during the mediation. Prepared for my 3 o’clock hearing. And I quietly celebrated the successful mediation with a salad and some of the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Connecticut is full of great places to have lunch.

Judge Smith was right about lunch.

Attorney Ryan McKeen Speaking To UConn Law Class

Eighteen years ago, on October 1, 1996, REM’s “Monster” tour rolled into Hartford’s Meadows Music theater.  Opening for REM that evening was a far lesser known band called Radiohead. On that warm early fall evening, I bought my first concert shirt. The shirt was a drawing of a bear in the woods with a question mark over its head. Below the picture was the following quote:

I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. – Jack Kerouac

If I still had the shirt, I’d wear it to UConn Law School on Wednesday night.  I’m serving on a panel of three lawyers for UConn’s Business of Law class. I’ll be discussing building a law practice and offering about 30 students my own confusion.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the clients that I have. Law is about community and people. Focusing a practice on representing individuals and small businesses presents a lawyer with an extraordinary opportunity to connect, improve, and grow relationships with clients.

The process of growing and building a practice is just that. It’s a process. Really it is many processes. At it’s core, building a practice is about letting people know what you do and doing great work for clients.

I hope that sharing my various struggles with the confusion that can come with building a practice can help someone else land clients as good as mine and enjoy the adventure that is small firm practice.

 

 

One

McKeen Law Firm, LLC turns one today. It has been an amazing year. We’ve championed causes at trial, on appeal, and before the General Assembly. Many of our victories have occurred in resolving matters favorably for our clients in ways that don’t grab headlines. We’re proud of our work.

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This year I’ve spent a lot of time and money improving my trial advocacy skills. I’ve attended national seminars and have developed an extensive library of the most cutting edge trial materials available. I’ve invested time and resource into putting technology to work for our clients both in the courtroom and in our office.

The investments have and will continue to pay dividends. This summer, I took a matter to trial 6 days after I was hired, and three days after I filed suit. I squared off against 3 lawyers and a small army of assistants from one of Connecticut’s largest firms. Ultimately, the judge found in favor of the defendants on a question of law that no court had ever addressed. While the result wasn’t what I had hoped for, I’m proud of the fight we put up at trial. Opposing counsel – ever gracious – couldn’t believe that I was able to pull off this kind of trial on such short notice.

There have been victories at trial as well. I’m proud of those but wise enough to know that strong advocacy has little to do with result. We’ll continue winning cases in our second year.

We’ve also invested significant resource into streamlining our real estate closings. The goal is to have the client’s walk out saying “that was easy”. The processes that my team has in place continue to yield satisfied clients and have allowed us to lower our fees on closings.

For the second year in a row, I’m very proud to sponsor the McKeen Law Firm Race To Fill the Pantry on November 9th. Such a great race. Hope to see you there.

As my workload has increased my blogging has suffered. I’m aware of this and working on ways to expand the presence of this site and others.

I’m actively exploring ways to grow and better serve my clients. This next year is going to be big. To reflect this, I’ve changed the cover page of several social media accounts to the lion pictured above.

In year two, “we’re running to roar”. We’re ready to hit our stride.

Many thanks to my family, friends, and clients who have placed their faith in my. I could not operate without you. I am forever grateful.

 

A Little Labor Day Law

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day marks the end of summer. And for many Connecticut students it means back to school. Here’s a little school law post for your holiday weekend.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-4 is one of the more interesting statutes on the books.  Check this out:

When any such holiday, except holidays in January and December, occurs on a school day, each local and regional board of education may close the public schools under its jurisdiction for such day or hold a session of the public schools on such day, provided, if a session is held, the board shall require each school to hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday. If a holiday in January or December occurs on a school day, there shall be no session of the public schools on such day.

A local school board can decide to hold school on Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day,  and Memorial Day so long as there is an educational program in observance of the holiday.

However, there can be no school on Martin Luther King Day and Christmas. Educational programs won’t suffice.

Why?

It’s an elaborate tap dance by our legislature to avoid the appearance of endorsing religion (yes, I know Christmas is a secular holiday) and at the same time insure school is not held on Christmas.

Have a wonderful school year and a happy and safe labor day.

McKeen Selected For Hartford Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Class

This morning, the Hartford Business Journal announced it’s 2014 – 40 under 40 class. I’m proud to have been selected.

A year ago yesterday, I began building McKeen Law Firm. I didn’t know where my office was going to be, what my firm was going to be named, or when I was going to open. Life had given me a blank slate.

While my name makes the Hartford Business Journal – my success wouldn’t be possible without the support of many people. I’m most grateful to my family for supporting me. When I needed it the most they were they helped and believed in me. Thank you, Allison and Mom and Dad.

None of what I do would be possible without the assistance of Ruth Deslauries who capably assists me on litigation files and Jackie Pentalow who makes smooth real estate closings possible.

Most of all this wouldn’t be possible without my clients. Thank you for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to earn your trust.

Being selected is great. Now time to get back to work. Thank you.