On Friday, I received a message from the brother of one of my clients. My former client had suddenly passed away on Christmas Day.
His cause of death was not immediately known. In my mind, it was caused by a broken heart.
I represented Brooke about 10 years ago, but his story stays with me.
I met Brooke after the death of his wife.
She had been driving home from the store after picking up candles so that she and Brooke could share a special dinner together on Friday night. A semi-truck trailer came loose and crashed into her small pick-up truck. That crash was so needless, and could have been easily prevented with some reasonable care.
When Brooke came home that night, there was a note on his door asking him to call the police.
They told him that his wife was at Harborview Medical Center, and not likely to survive. He raced to her side, and held her as she left this world.
In my first meeting with Brooke, it was painfully clear that he had lost the one person he most loved. They had no kids, but they had each other, and together lived a simple life.
I have seen people in tremendous pain, but Brooke’s pain was raw and palpable, at the highest level of suffering. As he left our meeting, putting one foot in front of the other was a struggle for him.
We worked hard to obtain justice for him. After a long fight, several court motions, appeals and argument in front of the Washington State Supreme Court, we were victorious.
Death vs. the limits of the law
But what we could accomplish for Brooke was only a legal victory. No one could give Brooke what he wanted most—the return of his soul mate, the reason he loved life.
As I thought about Brooke over the past few days, I realize that as a lawyer representing and helping people, I have great limitations.
I can seek justice, obtain accountability and savor victory. I cannot do the one thing that my clients really want: change a tragedy that destroys the lives of those who are left behind.
Our legal representation was successful. We obtained the maximum dollar recovery available. But it wasn’t, and could never be, enough. No lawyer, no judge, and no jury can undo a death. We just do the best we can, with the tools that we have.
I am proud of my work on behalf of the people who call me and come to me for help. I also feel pain and sorrow for the limits of what I can do after a death.
My heart goes out to Brooke and the person he lost so many years ago, Leanne.
May they both now rest in peace.