Day in the Life video helps Panish, Shea & Boyle win $39.5 Million Settlement


Personal Injury Settlement Believed to be the Largest Involving Cal State University System

Marissa Freeman suffered catastrophic injuries from heat stroke during an outdoor jogging class at Cal-State San Bernardino. Our Day in the Life video captured her dramatic struggle to recover.  

At age 20, Marissa Freeman was working towards degrees in psychology and nutrition. She needed a Phys-Ed course to graduate. But her life was irreversibly altered when a Cal-State athletic teacher made Marissa and her class jog down a long, concrete course. It was a 95 degree day in the California desert.

Marissa collapsed near the end of the 5K run. Incredibly, university personnel failed to use any of the quick cooling measures they had on hand, including ice chests and ice water. Nor did they move Marissa to an air conditioned building just feet away. 

Marissa collapsed feet from Coussoulis Arena

She spent more than a week in a coma and months in the hospital. Marissa then endured more than a year of intense, in-house rehabilitation at Casa Colina in Pomona.

Marissa’s Rehab

Our camera was rolling as therapists patiently tried to help Marissa walk, speak and read simple words again. We captured the staff’s efforts to help her regain as much cognitive ability as possible. Our video showed how Marissa needed assistance with all of her daily activities including showering, dressing and getting to her wheelchair. She even had to re-learn how to eat.

Marissa learns to walk
Marissa learns to eat again

California State University students are big winners too thanks to the negotiating skills of the Panish, Shea & Boyle team. The Cal-State University system has agreed to implement a policy for heat illness prevention and protocols at all of their 23 campuses.

“We insisted on that as part of the settlement to protect student safety,” says Gunning.

The new policies will hopefully prevent another CSU student from suffering the same tragedy as Marissa Freeman.

Marissa Freeman

As a result of the heat stroke, Marissa suffered severe brain injury and cardiac arrest. Within days, her kidneys and liver failed. Her muscle tissue began dying.

Marissa in E.R.

That’s where the Attorneys’ Edge Production team met Marissa and her parents. Panish, Shea & Boyle hired us to capture a day in Marissa’s life. Our video aimed to thoroughly detail Marissa’s daily struggles. 

Marissa learns to read again

“The video had a significant impact,” says Patrick Gunning, an attorney for Marissa. “It dramatically showed what Marissa was going through due to her horrific injuries. Moreover, Attorneys’ Edge captured, not only her struggles, but her determination to get better and the heroic efforts of her care providers.

As a result of the settlement, Marissa and her family can now move to a larger home. It will better accommodate Marissa’s needs. She can more easily move her wheelchair from bedroom to bathroom to the breakfast table. Plus, the family can now face, what’s expected to be, a lifetime of Marissa’s medical bills. 

Marissa at Casa Colina

Memorial Day – Attorneys Also Served

We picture attorneys battling in court, not dying in combat. But our country’s military graveyards hold the remains of those who served dual roles as both attorneys and soldiers. According to the website, members of the Judge Advocate General, or JAG Corps, have died in major US conflicts from WWII through the Iraqi War.

 In the 2000s, the deceased included 6 JAG officers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officers Sharon Swartworth and Cornell Gilmore died when enemy fire shot down the Black Hawk helicopter they were riding in. Military attorney, Michael Martinez, was killed when his helicopter crashed. Paralegals Sascha Struble, Michael Merila and Coty Phelps died in separate incidents. Stuble was killed in a helicopter crash. Both Merila and Phelps died when roadside bombs blew up their vehicles.

In this age of high-tech battles, cultural sensitivities and complex laws, JAG officers and their legal staff are increasingly deployed to war zones to advise commanders on combat decisions. The job requires a nuanced understanding of military law. For example, say a drone spies 3 men digging holes by the road. Are they just innocent Iraqis digging irrigation ditches or are they insurgents planting IEDs? Is it lawful to attack these men under the Rules of Engagement? It’s a hypothetical posed in a military law publication to show the legal complexity facing Army lawyers charged with giving on-scene guidance. In the end, the lawyer’s advice can depend on variables including location, time of day and the presence of civilians. The soldier-attorney may have just moments to reach a conclusion.

Each military branch has a JAG Corps where attorneys, skilled at using words as weapons, have also trained for combat. It’s apparent they are driven by both devotion to country and love of the law. As Army Reserve JAG, Bruce Ellis Fein, told the Washington Post, “Our motto is ‘Soldiers first, lawyers always.’

The JAG Corps is, as the Army’s website notes, “America’s Oldest and Largest Law Firm.” It was born at the start of our country’s first war. George Washington founded the Corps when he took command of the Continental Army in 1775.

On Memorial Day, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Let’s not forget the uniformed lawyers who also gave their lives.

The Attorneys’ Edge in the New Age by Christina Penza

Greetings attorneys, friends and fellow legal hounds. While you were busy trying cases, the multi-platform world has quietly invaded our economic lives. In the future, attorneys will measure their success in megabytes. Yes, I am being a bit poetic, but the reality is that the more online mentions you can get about your firm, the greater the public’s awareness that you exist and have the expertise to win their case and/or get them maximum compensation. So, how do you attract more clients on the web?

One way to stay in the public eye is to improve your Google ranking by maintaining an ongoing blog on your own website. This is according to all those SEO (Search Engine Optimization) geeks who keep track of the latest trends in online marketing. They are today’s “Mad Men.”

The problem, of course, is that few attorneys have time to maintain a blog. You can relegate it to an assistant if you have that luxury – or hire an outside firm that employs journalists with strong writing skills and legal knowledge to write your blog at a reasonable price. Either way, I recommend one blog update a week to start. You can pick the topic – i.e. auto accidents, product liability, personal injury, copyright infringement. Your blog can include information on a previous case. You can write about how to choose the best lawyer for a product liability case. There are many ways to go.

First, make sure that your webmaster puts a Blog or WP (WordPress) key on your website. Make sure that the blog actually exists on your site and not on an outside entity so that Google will give you the credit for having the blog. Then, the key is to let a staff member, someone familiar with your chosen topic, spend a few minutes on the phone with your blog writer. A good writer will get enough information in that time to craft a solid 600 to 800 word blog. Make sure to proof read your blog before it is posted and – voila – you have your weekly post. Linking your website to your Facebook page, Twitter account and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed will further spread your identity. Make sure that the Twitter world knows that there is a new blog on your site which may interest them. This is a whole new world of marketing, but with a little knowledge, you can get the Attorneys’ Edge.