DAVID J. HOEY
I chose to concentrate my career in nursing home abuse and neglect cases in Massachusetts for a couple reasons. One — there was a need for it. Nobody else was making headway in our courts with efforts to protect the elderly residing in these facilities at the time. Two — my mother encouraged me to do it. Having run a nursing home as a director of nursing for over 30 years, she recognized the industry’s ominous, but steady movement from an emphasis on hands-on care to wholesale pursuit of corporate greed, accompanied by a predictable decline in the quality of care. So, I decided that’s what I’m going to do — I’m going to focus my energy on protecting the elderly from abuse and neglect, specifically in nursing homes.
Back in those days, I did a little bit of everything, including medical malpractice, products liability, auto wrecks, and other catastrophic injury matters, but the bulk of the work became the nursing home cases. Although personally rewarding, the work was very difficult and very time consuming. Litigation was very expensive, deposition heavy, and required several experts per case. Massachusetts was, and is, one of the most difficult states in the country to obtain plaintiff verdicts. And if you did, it was the 49th cheapest jury verdict state in the country. In 2010, there was no attorney conducted voir dire, no audio/visual depositions, and a prohibition on suggesting numbers to the jury in closing arguments. Essentially, we were trying our case to the blind – an old, archaic process where you couldn’t get results worth making change. The flip side is that I was winning my trials, my motions, summary judgements, all of it! However, not in the way my clients deserved. The numbers weren’t right.
I had to look around and figure out better ways of trying to change these laws in Massachusetts and prove that elderly people are worth justice and good verdicts. I traveled all over the country watching trials, learning the skills, and gaining knowledge. Fortunately, my search led me to Don Keenan. I read The Reptile. I attended one of Keenan and Ball’s two-day sessions in Boston in February 2010. I was one of two attorneys in the room of 20 attendees. I was blown away by the presentation and the motivation for the education efforts – to take back our courts, to put Black Letter law back into preeminence, and to thwart the insurance industry and defense bar efforts to take advantage of bad law. The system was designed to simplify everything and see things from the point of view of the jury. I knew this approach was much needed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and also much needed to take my own practice to the next level.
So, on the second day of that Boston seminar, I humbly approached Mr. Keenan and apologized that I had to duck out early to attend the Connecticut chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame dinner at Foxwoods Casino.
”You were a wrestler?,” Keenan asked.
“Yes, sir,” I answered. “Both in college and high school.”
There’s an unspoken understanding among wrestlers who share the common experience of dedication, determination, and discipline needed to succeed at both the sport and in life – and Don and I made that connection quickly.
“I’ll tell you what,” he replied. “We’re doing this seminar again in a couple weeks down in New York. Why don’t you join us and we’ll do dinner.”
And I did. I attended the seminar again, and afterwards joined him for dinner at a restaurant of his choosing. Over a bottle of scotch, we spoke for hours about the law, cases, our careers, and life in general. The following Monday morning, I received a call from Keenan’s office inviting me down to Atlanta to explore my interest in working with him on some nursing home cases.
I flew down and spent a few days with Don and his office. We enjoyed an immediate respect for each other – knowing how difficult Massachusetts is to win good verdicts in, he was impressed with my accomplishments to that point yet rightly felt he could help me do better. He took me under his wing and became my professional mentor. My verdicts all increased, to the point where I obtained a verdict and collected 16 million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for a 93-year-old female resident with Alzheimer’s Disease who was neglected to death in a Massachusetts nursing home.
Don had long dreamed of taking his 30 plus years of knowledge and somehow educating other lawyers and the masses, with that same goal of taking back the courts, controlling the insurance industry and defenses, changing the law, reasserting the authority of Black Letter Law, and then teaching others how to do the same.
In 2012, he launched the Keenan Trial College. Out of the respect he had for me for “doing the impossible” in Massachusetts, he extended to me the invitation to serve as Dean. And he wasn’t going to launch the College until I said yes.
I knew it was a tremendous commitment to make. There’s no compensation associated with what we do. It is a true labor of love for the law, of respect for past, current, and future clients, and out of necessity to change bad laws. After lengthy discussion with my family and securing the commitment of my wife, Debbie, we were on board and the College was born. I have been the Dean now for almost 10 years, and that is my “Why KTI.” There have been innumerable late nights, cigars, and Bob Seger’s greatest hits on the beach, long strategy sessions, and many more war stories. It has truly been a labor of love, as well as a lot of fun. I wouldn’t change it for anything, and I’m excited and ready for the next 10 years as Keenan Trial Institute Dean.