Over the last 15 years, Kip Scott has set aside his law practice on three separate occasions, packed up and gone to work as a disaster relief volunteer. His latest sojourn was to an area around the city of Tacloban in the Philippines where thousands of people were left homeless and in desperate need after Typhoon Haiyan ravaged part of Southeast Asia last November.
“Some people ask ‘why don’t you just send the money’?” says Scott. “The answer is you don’t know how much those people appreciate seeing an American face there. It tells them ‘we have not forgotten about you’.”
Scott has trained as a volunteer disaster relief worker with the Salvation Army and had real-life on-the-job experience in New York during 9-11 and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
“I actually had never been to New York before 9-11,” says Scott who heard the news and within days was on his way to the site of the Twin Towers attack in Manhattan. “I was attached to the New York Medical Examiner’s Office and my job was to be a driver and deliver supplies to different locations around ground zero.”
“It was very difficult,” says Scott. “They considered the area to be an open grave and people were very angry that their friends and family had been murdered basically. Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan were natural disasters but there was still a lot of hurt and sorrow and loss.”
Kip Scott specializes in personal injury law. Although the situations are profoundly different, his clients are often being tossed about in a firestorm of devastating personal circumstances. “Many of the people I see in my practice in Irvine, California are going through the worst time in their lives. Many of them can’t work, they have huge medical bills, and they are in emotional pain or physical pain. We try to find them a way out and help them rebuild their lives.”
In the Philippines, three months after Typhoon Haiyan, search and rescue teams continue to look for bodies of the missing and dead. Typhoon Haiyan (which translates to Typhoon Yolanda) killed more 6,000 people and hundreds of thousands are still without running water and electricity. It was the strongest typhoon ever recorded with sustained one-minute wind speeds of 195 mph.
On the ground for several weeks last November, Kip Scott and others from his church group at home in California hooked up with the Philippine Red Cross, Unicef, local community groups, and hundreds of other relief workers from around the world.
“We just said, ‘what do you need’?” says Scott.
The community they arrived in had water—but shelter was in short supply. Scott and his group got a hold of hundreds of sheets of roofing material, provided a truck, a driver and two haulers and began distributing the building materials to 73 families in a small out of the way place called Barangay San Jose.
“It was very inspirational to see people from countries around the world coming together to help,” says Scott. “In other ways it was difficult to hear the stories of the survivors and the stories about those who didn’t survive.”
Scott’s group helped hundreds of people recover from a devastating storm by providing food, clothing and shelter.
“These people have gone through a tremendous ordeal and you want to be respectful. In our disaster recovery training we were taught to never say ‘I understand what you are going through’, because you really don’t,” says Scott.
All in all, Scott and his team were able to serve 870 individuals including providing new roofing for 73 families. Reflecting on his experience Scott says, “There are just overwhelming needs. We worked every day we were there from 8 a.m., getting back to our place about 8-9 pm. We all wish we could give more and do more but our time was up.”
Kip Scott is a senior partner with the Personal Injury Law Center in Irvine, California. The firm serves southern California from Santa Barbara down to San Diego. The firm has recovered millions of dollars for persons injured through no fault of their own. Scott has been recognized for his volunteer work with homeless children, Hurricane Katrina, and the Ground Zero Recovery Team.
Sometimes, the simplest of messages we receive say the most. Here, our editorial team received an email from attorney Cyrus Rajabi, at Jones & Keller, P.C. in Denver, CO, after he read our weekly newsletter. His message to us said,
“In response to your email newsletter which requests information on lawyers giving back, please see the attached [news clip]. I am hopeful the story will inspire others to be more involved and give back.”
As you view the video, you’ll see it was a very traumatic experience that led Rajabi to become a firefighter—and to give back, or as he says in the clip above, “pay if forward.”
As we begin the holiday season, amidst the frenzy of post-Black Friday shopping and paying for all those gifts, maybe we should remember to pay it forward a bit, too.
Thanks to Attorney Cyrus Rajabi for reaching out to us!
Attorney James Kowalski, Jr. saw his first “robo-signing” case ten years ago, and it’s fair to say he’s been a pioneer in the fight to save thousands of Americans from illegal lawsuits launched by the mortgage and debt service industry. Much of that work Kowalski has done on his own time.
In 2002, Kowalski was handling a foreclosure case for client. The bank had rejected his client’s cashier’s check—and claimed he was in arrears.
Kowalski was surprised when he solicited a routine affidavit from a GMAC bank employee who was supposed to have firsthand knowledge of the client’s case. “She had not reviewed any of the documents,” he says.
As it turns out, Kowalski had found one of the first known cases of “robo-signing”.
“What typically happens in a robo perjury case is that the witness reviews a computer screen that is usually populated by some other department—and the numbers on the screen match the documents they will sign,” says Kowalski. “And in many cases they actually don’t look at the screen, they just look to see their name is printed correctly.”
Two years ago, Kowalski was asked to address the House Judiciary Committee in Washington. As he waited for his turn, Kowalski sat dumb-founded as he listened to a panel of regulators testify.
“Every one of them said that they were not aware of the practices,” says Kowalski. “We were there to talk about things we had been living with for most of a decade—as just a normal part of any litigation in foreclosures in particular. So it was odd to hear these government regulators that are charged with supervising the servicing industry and compare that with those of us that actually litigate against the servicing industry—I just thought that was interesting.”
Kowalski was recently named as the winner of a Florida Bar Association Pro Bono service award. He was also named as the Consumer Protection Lawyer of the Year in 2011.
“I don’t track my hours,” says a very modest Kowalski. “I do a mix of cases involving foreclosures, credit card collection defense and some other legal aid someone may ask me to look at.”
“Especially with the foreclosures it is nice to make a change in those cases—because it is an enormous amount of stress that these people go through,” Kowalski adds.
Despite Kowalski’s efforts, and the efforts of others, robo-signing still continues. “It will take change by the regulators to end the practice,” Kowalski says.
James Kowalski is a former death penalty prosecutor now in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida. He handles serious personal injury cases, consumer litigation (including mortgage foreclosure defense cases, credit card and other debt collection defense cases), class actions, and business-to-business issues.
Lots going on in legal news that you might’ve missed this past week–starting with our latest Lawyers Giving Back profile of Attorney Ed Susolik who took on a big insurance company on behalf of an 80-year old man—all because Susolik read about the situation in the newspaper! And he took on the man’s case pro bono. Nice to know there are some guardian angels out there willing to help folks when they least expect it.
We also covered Purina Waggin’ Train Yam Good dog treats, Hurricane Katrina FEMA trailers and an Allstate car insurance settlement in our Week Adjourned update on the latest class action lawsuits and settlements—followed by Asbestos News Roundup (with the focus on asbestos drilling mud and oil rig workers).
Finally, last week some of our team made a pilgrimage to Philadelphia–birthplace of our nation’s Constitution and, of course, the Declaration of Independence, for the 225th anniversary of the US Constitution. Lots to see—you can check out some pics on our Facebook page, too—and in the midst of it all, the spring return of Occupy Philly.
If you want a fight, attorney Ed Susolik is the kind of guy who will give you one. Not long ago, Susolik was so outraged when he read a newspaper story about an 80-year-old man who was getting the runaround from a big insurance company, that he offered his assistance, pro bono. “I just wanted to help. I just thought it was such a gross miscarriage of justice,” Susolik says.
One of Southern California’s top insurance lawyers and a partner at the big name firm of Callahan & Blaine, Susolik has handled more than 1,000 bad-faith lawsuits. Although he’s known for insurance claims, Susolik’s real specialty is winning cases.
Ken Carrier had been battling with a security company for well over three months and he’d been getting absolutely no where. One phone call and a letter from a lawyer like Susolik and it was all over. The security company agreed to pick the expenses.
Last December, Carrier was out on an errand in Lake Forest, Orange County. He pulled his SUV into a parking lot near an AT&T store that had just been robbed seconds before. Suddenly, a pistol waving security guard, who claimed to be a police officer, was at the passenger door and ordering Carrier and his daughter out the vehicle. The security guard took off in Carrier’s vehicle, in hot pursuit of the AT&T robbery suspect. Shortly after, the security guard crashed the SUV into a pickup truck.
Through absolutely no fault of his own, Ken Carrier, retired and living on a fixed income, was suddenly out thousands of dollars. His insurance would pay the first $9,000—but not the rest which totaled another $15,000 for storing his vehicle; car rental until he could fix his SUV; doctor bills for headaches and dizzy spells; and the sheer stress of having a gun put to his face—and so on. The security company that commandeered his vehicle was refusing to take any responsibility.
“That, essentially, is what they told Mr. Carrier. They said we have a lawyer and we are big company and you are an 80-year-old man and we aren’t paying,” says Susolik.
“They took Mr. Carrier’s SUV and they crashed it,” he adds. “Why don’t you make the man whole? What is the problem?”
“Once you get into a certain age category, companies and people can take advantage of you,” says Susolik. “And I really felt that Mr. Carrier was being taken advantage of.”
“I said, “Look,” recalls Susolik “all the resources of our firm are going to come down on your head because this is financial elder abuse.”
This is not the first pro bono case Susolik has handled. “There are various reasons that people need pro bono assistance. Sometimes it is financial. Sometimes you lose your job or otherwise. Sometimes people just don’t have the background to handle legal issues,” he adds. “We are seeing more and more people who are elderly who are victims of financial abuse. Obviously on the real negative side you see the scams and everything. But with something like this—this should have been a very simple issue.”
Susolik just got a letter from Ken Carrier thanking him for his efforts. “It says, ‘I just got my first night’s sleep in months. Thanks’,” says Susolik. “And it has three exclamation marks!,” he adds, with a a smile in his voice.
Attorney Ed Susolik is a partner with Callahan & Blaine and is in charge of the firm’s insurance department. Attorney Susolik is an adjunct professor at USC Law School where he teaches Insurance Law. He is also a contributing editor to the leading insurance book in California, the “Rutter Guide treatise on Insurance Litigation”. Attorney Susolik was chair of the Orange County Bar Association Insurance Law Section for over 10 years. He was born in Czechoslovakia and earned his law degree at the University of Southern California. Susolik has recovered more than $1 billion for clients over the last two decades.