Based on the book by John Grisham. This is a well-done fairy tale of an incompetent rookie plaintiff's lawyer taking on (and beating) a corrupt insurance company in a bad-faith action for refusing to pay for a kid's bone marrow transplant. Francis Ford Coppola directed and co-wrote the script.
Q:**************** direct of plaintiff's mother**************
Bailiff: Do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give in this cause will be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
A: Yes I do.
Bailiff: You may take the stand.
Judge: Please state your name for the record.
A: Mrs. Marjorie Black
Q: Now, Mrs. Black, you are the mother of Donny Ray Black, who recently died of Acute Mycyclitic Leukemia, because the defendant, Great Benefit--
Def. Atty: Objection. Leading.
Q: Your son, Donny Ray, needed an operation--
Def. Atty: Objection, leading.
Q: Mrs. Black did you purchase this medical policy because you were concerned about medical care for your son--
Def. Atty: Objection. I'm sorry, your honor. Leading.
Judge: Mr. Baylor. Why don't you show her the policy and ask her why she bought it?
Q: Okay. (Baylor walks up to the witness box.)
Judge: Mr. Baylor. You must ask to approach the witness.
Pl. Atty: Sorry, your honor. (Laughter from the Great Benefit lawyers.) Permission to approach the witness.
Judge: You may.
(In the background, a slide of the deceased with the words "Stupid, stupid, stupid" enlarged over it.)
Witness (reading): Great Benefit, July 7, 1996. Re: 7849909886. Dear Mrs. Black. On seven prior occasions this company has denied your claim in writing. We now deny it for the eighth and final time. You must be stupid stupid stupid. Sincerely, Evert Luftkin, Vice President, Claims Department.
Pl. Atty: Read it again.
Def. Atty: Objection. Repetitious, your Honor.
************** Cross ***********.
Def. Atty (to Baylor) Please remove that exhibit.
Q: Mrs. Black, why did you sue Great Benefits for 10 million dollars?
A: Is that all?
Q: I beg your pardon?
A: I thought it was more than that.
Q: Is that so?
A: Yes sir, your client has about a billion dollars and your client killed my son. I wanted to sue for a whole lot more.
Q: What would you do with the money if this jury awards you 10 million dollars? What you gonna do with the money?
A: I'm going to give it to the American Leukemia Society, every cent. I don't want a dime of your stinking money.
Def. Atty: You realize you are under oath, Mrs. Black. Approach the witness, your honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: Mrs. Black, I want you to read from the policy, Page 16, Section K, Paragraph 14, Item E, in which the insurance company has, in plain English wording, said that it will not pay for experimental procedures. Now, your lawsuit says that your son would have been saved if he had had a bone-marrow transplant. Isn't it a fact, Mrs. Black, that there are only 7000 bone-marrow transplants performed a year in the United States, less in 200 in Tennessee--
Pl. Atty: Objection, your honor, he's leading the witness.
Judge: This is cross-examination. Leading is allowed. Overruled, as to leading.
Q: So it was not covered by the policy. Now, Mrs. Black, who was it first diagnosed your son's condition?
A: Well, at the very beginning, our doctor, Dr. Page.
Q: That would be your family physician.
A: Yes sir, it would.
Q: Is he a good doctor?
A: He's a very good doctor.
Q: Is it not true, Mrs. Black, that this capable, truthful man told you repeatedly that a bone-marrow transplant would not do your son any good, because of the type of Leukemia he had?
A: Well, no. No, he did not. He didn't say that--not like that, to me.
Def Atty: Approach the witness, your Honor?
Q: Mrs. Black, is this not Dr. Page's letterhead, and at the bottom there, is that not his signature?
Pl Atty: Objection, your Honor. A letter from the Black's family physician to Mr. Drummond is inadmissible.
Def Atty: That is quite correct, your Honor, and I'm not asking for this letter to be admitted into evidence, I'm simply asking that this witness be allowed to read the letter under rule 612 of the Tennessee rules of evidence, so her recollection can be refreshed, that's all.
Judge: Mr. Baylor, what do you say?
Pl Atty: Uh, I don't know your Honor, I just object to this--and also, we were not furnished this letter in pre-trial discovery.
Judge: What do you say to that, Mr. Drummond?
Def Atty: Your honor, I had no idea this letter would be needed. I expected this lady to tell the truth about what her doctor told her.
Judge: Mr. Drummond, I'm going to give you a little latitude. But don't stray too far.
Q: Now, Mrs. Black, does that letter refresh your recollection as to whether or not Donny Ray's Leukemia was the kind that could be helped by a bone-marrow transplant?
A: Well, see now, he is not a specialist--
Q: But he is a licensed, experienced, capable physician, who lovingly told you time and time again what you quite understandably did not want to accept: that your son was going to die of Leukemia despite the best efforts of medical science, is that not true?
A: But he wasn't a specialist, I didn't believe him.
Q: Not only did you not believe him, ma'am, but you were less than truthful with me and with this jury moments ago when you told us, under oath, that Dr. Page never said that your son had the type of Leukemia that could not be treated by a bone marrow transplant. I believe your exact words were, "He never said that, not like that, to me."
A: He wasn't a specialist. I just wanted Donny Ray to have the best medical treatment available. You'd do the same thing.
Def. Atty: Of course, ma'am, of course. That'll be all, your Honor.
Judge: You may step down, Mrs. Black.
************* direct examination of Def's VP for claims **************
Q: Mr. Lufkin, you are the vice president of claims at Great Benefit, are you not?
A: Yes, I am.
PL Atty: Approach the witness, your Honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: You recognize this? Go on. Read that to the jury.
A: Dear Mrs. Black--on seven prior occasions this company has denied your claim in writing. We now deny it for the eighth and final time. You must be stupid stupid stupid. Sincerely Evert Lufkin, Vice President, Claims.
Q: That's you?
Q: How do you explain that?
A: It was a difficult time for me personally. I was under a lot of stress. We had declined this claim seven times before. I was trying to be emphatic. I snapped. I regret having written the letter, and I apologize.
Q: Don't you think it's a little late for an apology?
Q: Maybe? The boy is dead, isn't he?
Q: Now, Mr. Lufkin, who is Jackie Lemanczyk?
A: Jackie Lemanczyk is a former claims handler.
Q: And did she work in your department?
Q: And when did she stop working for Great Benefit?
A: I don't remember the day.
Q: How about October 30th?
A: Sounds close.
Q: And wasn't that just two days before she was scheduled to give a deposition in this case?
A: I really don't remember.
Q: I'd like to refresh the witness' recollection under rule 612 -- October 30th.?
Q: And that was just two days before she was supposed to give a deposition in this matter?
A: I guess so.
Q: And she was the person who was responsible for handling Donny Ray Black's claim?
A: That's correct.
Q: And you fired her?
A: Of course not.
Q: Well, how'd you get rid of her?
A: She resigned. It's right here in the letter you just gave me.
Q: Oh. Why'd she resign?
A: I hereby resign for personal reasons.
Q: So it was her idea to leave her job.
A: That's what it says.
PL atty: Nothing further.
Judge: You may step down, sir.
*********** direct of former defense employee Jackie Lemanczyk *********
PL atty: Call Jackie Lemanczyck
DEF atty: Objection your Honor. Approach the bench?
Judge: You may.
DEF atty: This is a complete surprise, your Honor.
PL atty: Why? She's listed as a potential witness.
DEF atty: We have a right to be forewarned. When did you find her?
PL atty: I didn't know she was lost.
Judge: It's a fair question, Mr. Baylor.
PL atty: It's my first trial, your Honor.
Judge: That's not good enough.
DEF atty: It is a matter of fairness, your Honor. We have a right to be notified about your witness.
Judge: I agree.
PL atty: What? You're telling me she can't testify?
PL paralegal: She's listed in the pre-trial order, your Honor. Pursuant to rule 26.06, we have a right to call her as a witness.
Judge: Objection overruled. State your name for the record.
A: Jackie Lemanczyk.
Q: Miss Lemanczyk, how long did you work for Great Benefit?
A: Six years.
Q: And when did your employment end?
A: October 30th
Q: How did it end?
A: I was fired.
Q: You mean you did not resign?
A: No, I was fired.
PL atty: Approach the witness, your Honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: I am baffled, Miss Lemanczyk, because I have this letter here, and it says you quit for personal reasons.
A: The letter was a lie. I was fired so that the company could claim that I no longer worked there.
Q: Would you please point out the man in this courtroom who made you write this letter?
A: Jack Underhall. He told me that I was leaving immediately, and I had two choices. I could call it a firing and leave with nothing, or I could write that letter, call it a resignation, and the company would give me $10,000 in cash to keep quiet, and I had to make that decision right there, in his presence.
Q: Go on.
A: I took the cash and I also signed a letter saying I would never discuss any of my claims files with anybody.
Q: Including the Black file?
A: Specifically the Black file.
Q: So you knew that that claim should have been paid?
A: Everybody knew. But the company was playing the odds.
Q: What odds?
A: The odds that the insured would not consult a lawyer.
Q: Now during that time you were a senior claims examiner?
A: Yes, that's correct.
Q: And during that time was there ever an occasion when you were given instructions regarding how you should handle claims?
A: Deny all claims for a year. Add up the money saved, deduct the amount spent on quick court settlements, and there's a pot of gold left.
PL atty: Approach the clerk, your Honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: Number six, please. This has heretofore been marked Defense Exhibit Number Six. Do you recognize this?
A: Yes, it's a Great Benefits company claims manual.
Q: Would you do me a favor and just flip over to Section U, please?
A: There is no Section U.
Q: But do you remember a Section U when you were a senior claims examiner?
A: Yes, I do. Section U was an executive memorandum in the Senior Examiners' Manual.
PL atty: Thank you. Your Honor, this is Jackie Lemanczyk's actual Senior Claims Manual. And within it there is an executive memorandum entitled section U. I ask that I might approach the witness--
DEF atty: : Approach the bench?
PL atty: Your Honor, we were not given a complete manual by the Defense.
DEF atty: Your Honor, this document contains executive memoranda that are stolen workpapers, may not be admitted.
Judge: Can you prove this Leo?
DEF atty: Your Honor, I ask that you instruct my colleague here, not to read from nor to make reference to any suspect workpaper until--
Judge: Assuming you cannot get this in at this time, do you have any more questions for the witness?
PL atty: No, your honor.
Judge: You may cross-examine, Mr. Drummond.
*************** cross ****************
Q: Is it true, Miss Lemanczyk, that you have recently been committed to an institution for various problems?
A: I was not committed. I am suffering from alcoholism and depression, and I voluntarily checked into a facility. I was supposed to be covered by my group policy at Great Benefit, and they, of course, are denying my claim.
Q: Is that why you're here, Miss Lemanczyk, because you're angry with Great Benefit? Miss Lemanczyk?
A: I hate Great Benefit, and most of the worms that work there.
Q: Did you feel that Mr. Lufkin was a worm when you were sleeping with him?
PL atty: Objection, your Honor. Mr. Drummond might find this fun to talk about, but, uh, this is not relevant, at all.
Judge: Overruled. Let's see where this takes us.
Q: You admit to having an affair with Mr. Lufkin. Miss Lemanczyk?
A: As long as I had sex with certain executives at Great Benefit my pay was increased and I was promoted. When I stopped, I was demoted.
Q: Miss Lemanczyk, as an employee of Great Benefit, you promised not to disclose confidential private claims information, yes?
Q: In fact, you testified that you sealed that promise by demand of payment for $10,000, didn't you?
A: That payment was not my idea.
Q: But you accepted it, didn't you? You put it right in your pocketbook, even though, in your mind, you never intended to keep that promise. In fact, you were very angry at Great Benefit and Mr. Lufkin, weren't you?
A: You know, they preyed on me because I was broke and I was single and I had two kids.
Q: So you told him you were going to go to his wife, and go to the newspapers.
And that 10,000, that was just a piece of blackmail, wasn't it, a way to extort money from the company you hated, isn't that right?
A: No, that's not--
DEF atty: In fact, your testimony here today is just a lie. You stole company workpapers, confidential reports as blackmail for revenge. Hell hath no fury as what, Miss Lemanczyk? A woman scorned. Your honor, I move that all documents provided the Plaintiff by Miss Jackie Lemanczyk be deemed stolen work papers and be struck from these proceedings.
Judge: Based on the evidence presently before the court, these documents are inadmissible.
******** direct examination *********
PL paralegal: The plaintiff would like to call Wilfred Keely.
Reporter: Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give in this cause will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
A: I do.
Judge: State your name for the record.
A: Wilfred Keely.
PL paralegal: May I approach the witness, your Honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: Mr. Keely, in this Great Benefit brochure, is that you? Is that your name
Q: And what do those initials stand for?
Q: What do they stand for? What does C.E.O. mean?
A: Chief Executive Officer?
Q: Chief Executive Officer. So you're the guy, you're the main guy, you're the cheese? The buck stops with you?
A: You could say that, yes.
Pl paralegal: Yeah, okay, thank you. Your honor, I'd like to turn the questioning of Mr. Keely over to my partner, Rudy Baylor.
PL atty: Sorry I'm late, sir. Approach the witness, your honor?
Judge: You may.
Q: This is the claims manual that was given to me by Jackie Lemanczyk.
DEF atty: Objection, your Honor, stolen workpapers, inadmissible. You ruled on this.
PL atty: May we approach? Your honor I have just this morning, found a case which has control in this factual situation. If you'll just take a look at this ruling. It's Club Ruby vs. Carmine Desoto. A copy for your honor and one for Mr. Drummond. Number 585, Southwest 2nd, page 431, argued by Bruiser--by J. Lyman stone, and it shows very clearly that stolen documents are in fact admissible, if the lawyers played no part in the theft.
Judge: Well, according to these head-notes, this case would overrule your objection. Sorry, Leo.
DEF atty: Oh, I'm sure you are, your Honor, but note my strong objection.
Judge: Objection noted.
PL atty: May I approach?
Judge: You may do so.
Q: Excuse the interruption, Mr. Keely. We were about to talk about the Great Benefits Claims manual. Is that a complete Great Benefits claim manual, sir?
Q: Does it have a section U?
A: It has a section U in it.
Q: Well, let's talk about this mysterious section U. Why don't we explain it to the jury. Take a look at it. Just read paragraph 3.
A: (reading) Claim handlers are directed to deny all claims within three days of receipt of claim. No exceptions.
Q: Now how do you explain this section U?
A: Well, sometimes we get some frivolous and fraudulent claims in our business. And sometimes we have to use this kind of language to focus in on the legitimate and more needy claims.
Q: Mr. Keely, do you honestly expect this court to believe that explanation?
A: Well, this chapter merely denotes in house processing guidelines.
Q: In-house processing guidelines? No, Mr. Keely, no it does not. Section U does a lot more than that.
A: I don't think it does that, son.
Q: Mr. Keely, doesn't it explain how claims should be rerouted and shuffled and rerouted, anything to avoid payment?
A: I admit nothing.
PL atty: Your honor, approach the witness?
Judge: You may.
Q: (Baylor hands Keely a huge book.) Now Mr. Keely, how many policies did great Benefit have in effect in the year 1995?
A: I don't know but let's see--
Q: Does the figure 98000 sound correct, give or take a few?
A: Maybe, that could be right, yeah.
Q: Thank you. Now of these policies, how many claims were filed?
A: Well, I don't know that.
Q: Does the figure of 11,400 sound correct to you, give or take a few?
A: That's about right, but I'd have to verify it, of course.
Q: I see, so the information I want is right there in that book? Can you tell the jury, of the eleven some-odd thousand claims that were filed, how many were denied?
A: Well, I don't think I could. That would take more time.
Judge: You've had two months, Mr. Keely. Now answer the question.
A: Well, I, I don't think (shuffling through book) Uh, 9141.
PL atty: 11462 filed, 9141 denied. (He hold up cards to the jury with those statistics.) Your Honor, I have yet another document. This is a report from Great Benefit medical committee. Request permission, under previous precedent, to present it to Mr. Keely.
DEF atty: Same objection, your Honor.
Judge: Overruled. Objection noted.
Q: Mr. Keely that is a report from Great Benefits own medical committee, which you chaired. Would you please read from line 18?
A: It says bone-marrow transplants have become standard procedure. Great Benefit would be justified in investing in bone-marrow clinics.
Q: Approach the witness, your honor. (Pushing microphone closer) There you go. A little louder.
DEF atty: Objection your Honor. Repetitious
Judge: Overruled. I want the jury to hear this.
A: Since bone-marrow transplants have become standard procedure, Great Benefit would be financially justified in investing in bone-marrow clinics.
Q: Financially justified. That's what it's all about at Great Benefit, isn't it? I tender the witness.
Judge: Mr. Drummond?
DEF atty: No questions. We rest on our objections.
Judge: You are excused, Mr. Keely.