Anuj Thapa wanted the American dream. A college student from Nepal who came to the United States to pursue mechanical engineering, Anuj had big dreams of getting his degree and becoming the breadwinner for his family members at home in Nepal.
But his aspirations were destroyed by a leg injury that led to a painful condition called compartment syndrome. Due to the neglect of his doctors, the damage that Anuj suffered after his surgery left him disabled.
Luckily for Anuj, he got one of the most esteemed medical malpractice lawyers in the country to try his case, Ciresi Conlin’s Brandon E. Thompson. With 17 years of experience in the medical malpractice law arena, he was able to win Anuj $111 million in damages. The defense’s argument? They claimed that Anuj — a 19-year-old in the U.S. on a student visa — was lying about when and where he developed compartment syndrome.
“That was a gift to us that they framed the case that way because it allowed us, throughout the case, to paint this as a credibility contest,” Brandon said. “Find me another case where you’ve got somebody who truly has had their American dream torn away from them in the way that his was.”
For Brandon, presenting cases to the jury with empathy is the key to success — and he’s had a lot of it. Tune in to this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation as host Michael Cowen talks with Brandon about all things medical malpractice: from the weaknesses of liability arguments to the secrets of getting a jury on your side.
Name: Brandon E. Thompson
About: Brandon Thompson’s entire legal career has been dedicated to representing individuals and families who have suffered from the negligence of medical professionals. There is no greater professional honor for Brandon than being asked to help people when they are facing the darkest times of their lives.
Brandon is one of the foremost trial lawyers of his generation. He has won numerous multi-million jury trials — including some of the largest-ever jury verdicts in the State of Minnesota for clients harmed by serious medical malpractice — and has negotiated many millions of dollars of settlements for his clients. He is a member of a number of elite national and international trial organizations, and in 2018 was invited to be the youngest-ever Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious organization of trial lawyers in the world.
Brandon’s work ethic and compassion were a product of his blue-collar upbringing; his grandfather was a mechanic, his dad was an electrician at the Ford plant, and he was the first person in his family to go to college. The father of three children, including a young daughter with extraordinary medical needs, he empathizes with his clients in a way few lawyers truly can.
Company: Ciresi Conlin, LLP
Top takeaways from this episode
- Look beyond liability. When choosing which cases to defend, one of the biggest mistakes lawyers can make is choosing a claim based on liability claims alone. Liability is not always as strong as it seems, so the first criterion should always be the seriousness of the injury or damages.
- Differentiate your case. One of the best things medical malpractice lawyers can do to win over a jury is to differentiate their case and show how it is an outlier.
- Avoid credibility arguments. In the case Brandon won for Nepali student Anuj Thapa, the hospital’s biggest mistake was using credibility as their primary defense. In this case, it was deeply improbable that someone like Anuj, who risked everything to pursue his “American dream,” would lie about his injury.
[01:43] Meet the expert: Brandon E. Thompson talks about how he went from insurance defense at a corporate firm — a job he hated — to one of the country’s foremost personal injury lawyers.
[04:42] Humble beginnings: Brandon’s upbringing in a blue-collar family influenced his decision to help people through law.
[06:06] Right place, right time: When Brandon decided it was time for a job change, he was given an opportunity that would shape the rest of his career: a job with one of the nation’s best medical malpractice lawyers.
[10:59] Picking the right cases: In a field that has no shortage of potential cases, how do medical malpractice lawyers choose which ones are worth defending?
[15:17] The chance for success: When so much of a case’s success rests on the jury — and luck — here’s what medical malpractice lawyers can do to boost their chances of victory.
[17:19] Differentiate the case: One of the strongest things lawyers can do to strengthen their case is to differentiate the situation from the norm and show how it is an outlier. Brandon offers examples of how to do this successfully.
[21:27] The $100 million case: Brandon tells the devastating story of his client Anuj Thapa — a Nepali college student who was the victim of a botched surgery — and how Brandon won his client $111 million in damages.
[32:53] What went wrong: Brandon explains how he framed — and later won — the case against the hospital and who was to blame for the permanent ailments Anuj was left with after his surgery.
[38:04] What drove the verdict: The lucky combination of Anuj’s strong story with a good jury helped Brandon win the case.
[45:49] Making the ask: How do medical malpractice lawyers decide how much in compensation to ask a jury for? Brandon explains why asking for a specific number may not always be the best choice.
[51:45] Rejecting the reptile strategy: David Ball and Don Keenan’s 2009 book “Reptile” presents a strategy that uses fear and anger to get jurors to sympathize with a plaintiff — but the approach may not work for everyone.
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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.