Florida Supreme Court hears "dead peasant" insurance case

        On May 4, 2010, the Florida Supreme Court heard argument in the case Wayne Atkinson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Click here to watch the argument). The case concerned Wal-Mart’s policies of “corporate-owned” life insurance, sometimes called “dead peasant” insurance, on the lives of its Florida employees.   Michael Myers of McClanahan Myers Espey argued on behalf of the families of the Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart was represented by Eileen Tilghman Moss of the firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon in Miami, Florida.

        In the case, Mr. Atkinson and others sued Wal-Mart, seeking to recover life insurance benefits Wal-Mart was paid after the deaths of their relatives, who had worked for Wal-Mart as rank-and-file employees.  The company received $66,048 after the death of Rita Atkinson and $72,820 after the death of Karen Armatrout.  A federal judge ruled the women's families did not have the right to sue under Florida law.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit then asked the Florida Supreme Court whether Florida law allows such a lawsuit.

Why not use a Board Certified lawyer?


            I just perused a lawyer’s website. His firm had several lawyers. He was from a small town, adjacent to a metropolis. He handled business litigation and probate litigation. His firm worked by the hour and on contingent fee. Then I noted the disclaimer: “He is not licensed by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.”

            How do people find a competent trial lawyer? I suspect it is the same way they find doctors, dentists and other professionals – they ask a friend if she knows one! There are, of course, better ways, but most ordinary folks don’t know about them. That’s where the Board of Specialization comes in.

            Would you want a general practitioner physician to perform your heart surgery? Of course not. You would want a Board Certified heart surgeon. Then why would you want a non-board certified trial lawyer to handle your important patent or business litigation?   High hourly rates are not an excuse. If your case is right, you can probably get a highly qualified attorney to handle it on a contingent fee basis.

            Board Certification is a mark of excellence and a distinguishing accomplishment.Within the Texas legal community, Board Certification means an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law as well as demonstrated, and tested, special competence in that area of law. There are more than 70,000 attorneys licensed to practice in Texas. Only 7,000 are Board Certified. 

           About 1100 Texas lawyers are Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. That is the specialized area that deals with litigation involving contracts, businesses and business owners, negligence, creditors and debtors, fair debt collection, landlord and tenant, and deceptive trade practices act. 

           You can easily find a Board Certified Trial Lawyer by going to the Texas Board of Legal Specialization’s on-line directory.  It has a "search" page. That allows you to search the database using a variety of criteria, including name, city, county, or zip code.  Alternately, call the TBLS at 800-204-2222, ext. 1454 or at 512-453-7266, or e-mail TBLS.

           It behooves you to insist on the best. Make sure your contingent fee lawyer is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law. Why do anything else?