My Life Story (7): Fire-Part 2

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Another coincidence took place that boggles the imagination. I had sold a smaller motel in Phoenix so I’d have enough money to buy the larger, more expensive Dallas motel. My younger brother, who managed the Phoenix motel, stayed behind for a short time to help the new owner. Then he drove to Dallas. He was driving back and forth on the street where our motel was located, looking for it, when he finally realized the building he was looking for -was on fire.

People’s evil nature, which we can’t always see …

I had felt buying this motel was a smart move because I could see potential in it. The location was excellent, since it was right across the street from the headquarters of Texas Instruments. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to see through people’s evil, and I also overestimated the impartiality of the judicial system.
Misjudging the fairness of the court …

I was naïve enough to think I would get justice in court. When I entered the courtroom, one attorney told me there was no way I would get justice there. He said that if the defendants offered me a dollar, I should take it and run. Also, a friend introduced me to a reputable realtor who told me I would never win the case – that even God Almighty wouldn’t be able to help me. He said the attorneys who represented the real estate agent, title company and real estate attorney (Frank) were from those firms’ insurance companies and that they were friends of the judge. In fact, they played golf with him. How did he know? He was in the same group! I ignored his suggestion because I thought I had enough evidence to win the case and didn’t know whether he was trying to help me, a stranger, or his friends the defendants. So I went ahead with my lawsuit.

The lawsuit lasted five years, and it affected a lot of people. The impact to my family was so enormous that if I could start all over I would never do it again. I would accept my bad luck and move on with my life. It was a huge lesson. Everything that happens has its reason. Still, I hope I can find the answer.

The Lawsuit …

The trial took only 10 days, but it required years of preparation. Many people were involved. My attorney took depositions from 23 people. Everyone had a thick book filled with pretrial materials. I took it on myself to study all the material because I didn’t think my attorney would have the time to do so. It took me half a year to read through all the information word-by-word and page-by-page. During those six months, I experienced a miracle. Every day I fasted and did not eat until 4 p.m. I was able to see through the thinking of those people. My attorney told me that one of defendant’s attorneys said that he would tell him the truth after the case was over. By reading all those depositions, I discovered the truth, which was that we had been caught in a conspiracy. Through fasting, I gained enlightenment. Analyzing those 23 depositions, I saw the picture clearly. No wonder my attorney told me that usually he was the driver in all the cases he handled, but for my case I was the one in the driver’s seat.

In the court …

I sat next to my attorney in court. I took out my analysis chart and helped my attorney. The jurors and the other people involved could not understand how we were naïve enough to fall for that gangster Charles’ trap. The same question arose when my brother and I went to the Taiwanese Association meeting to tell the members our story and warn them not to be deceived by this realtor, who was from our hometown. Our problem was that we trusted people, and did not realize we had to keep our guard up. It was a shame that our trust and love led to such a terrible loss.

My attorney told me that in court we should behave like an English gentleman. If inside your heart is breaking, outwardly you still have to be calm. We must not express sorrow and pain. I disagreed. After all, we had lost half a million dollars. That was quite a lot of money which we had worked hard for years to earn. It was a huge blow. As a result, my husband fell ill, and I developed a fatty tumor on my left shoulder. No matter how solemn the court might be, I believed I had a right to express my emotions.

Conclusion of the lawsuit …

For 10 days in court, the defendants tried every possible way to weaken us mentally and psychologically. For much of that time, they tried to get me to agree to a settlement. At one point we had an agreement, but then they changed their minds. Again and again they tried to sap my strength. At times I could not take it any longer and wanted to throw myself down the stairs and commit suicide. Fortunately, I remembered the story of the bitter cup that Jesus asked God to take away, but which he swallowed anyway because it was God’s will. I found strength whenever I thought of this.

I will never forget the statement one of the defense attorneys made at the end of the trial. He said, “If an American makes a mistake, he will admit his wrongdoing, but a Chinese will shift responsibility to others.” What an absurd statement. When we came out of the courtroom, I went straight to him and said, “ I hope God forgives you.” He was shocked and backed up several steps.

In the end, two black women in the jury were on my side. A white American female juror came and apologized to me. She said she was sorry she hadn’t insisted on taking my side because she was under so much pressure from the other jurors. According to the law, if the jurors cannot move past a 9 to 3 split in their decision, the judge must declare a mistrial. She realized that she could have given me another chance to fight again in court if she had been brave enough to hold fast to her opinion. I was grateful and moved by her honesty.


Intriguing verdict …

Several minutes before the verdict was announced, an incident took place. The defendant, Frank, the attorney who had “represented” me in the purchase of the motel, asked to negotiate with us. He said he was going to give us $50,000 and help me file a lawsuit against the other defendants. Indeed, just minutes before the verdict was announced, it felt as if things were going our way. The jurors had invited my attorney to a post-trial picnic. Nobody expected we would lose. Losing was totally contrary to what people expected.

We were later told that all the defense attorneys were afraid they would lose the case. For instance, Frank’s attorney, who was defending him on behalf of the insurance company that would be required to pay his share of a judgment in my favor (My recollection is that I had sued for $10 million at my attorney’s recommendation; if we won the suit, “triple damages” would have kicked in, making the defendants’ collective liability $30 million, which their insurance companies would have had to pay) offered Frank $100,000, on behalf of the insurance company, if he would take responsibility.

Later, my attorney appealed the verdict, but although the appeals judge refused to reverse it, he ordered the case sealed.

I believe the judge held the key to the verdict in his hand. He did not allow one-third of my evidence to be presented to the jurors. Every day he kept shouting “overruled” to my attorney. There was only one exception. It was a day when we had a well-known, highly regarded lawyer as an expert witness. I still remember what a nice day we had without hearing “overruled.”

A case outside of our case …

A year later, I received a phone call from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS agent asked if I had given Frank the $50,000 that the court had awarded him, in response to his counter suit, when I lost the case. I told the agent that I did not have the money to pay him, but that even if I had it, I would rather throw it away than give it to Frank.

The IRS agent confirmed that on the day the verdict was announced the insurance company that represented Frank had indeed offered Frank $100,000 if he would take responsibility.

Frank had failed to include it in his reported income. The agent was trying to find any additional unreported income. To me, this confirmed that the other defendants were worried they would lose the case. The question was who turned our winning case into a losing one …

To be continued…


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