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Chaney Law Firm donates life jackets during Summer Safety program at Perritt Primary School

Perritt Primary School invites members of the community to speak to students about safety during the last week of school. As part of this year's safety week, the Chaney Law Firm spoke to two groups of pre-K, kindergarten, and first graders about water safety. Together with Wal-Mart, the firm gave away 20 life jackets to kids in the school.

First-grader River Chaney led off the program by introducing the members of the firm. Nathan asked the kids who was excited about summer vacation, and we still don't know who waved their hands harder — the students of the teachers. Nathan asked the kids to tell their summer plans, and there were a wide range of responses: visit the lake, beach, river, or water park; travel to Costa Rica, Sea World, and Magic Springs; and stay in a hotel. All these things involve water, so Nathan spent a few minutes telling the students about his own experiences with water safety. Nathan told of getting fishhooks in his head not once, but twice, as a youngster. The kids suggested he wear a hat and sunglasses while fishing. He also told of getting a bad case of poison ivy on the banks of the river, and how to identify poison ivy.

Hilary went next, and had River tell the kids about a few pictures:

L to R: The Chaney family; River and Sue E. in the family boat; and River and Nathan blowing bubbles across the water.

Hilary discussed the importance of wearing sunscreen, and told the kids to look for SPF 30 or higher. She asked the kids if they knew about the buddy system, and why it was important to have a friend around when you swim. The kids responded that a friend can tell an adult or lifeguard if you get in trouble in the water. Hilary let the kids know swimming lessons are available this summer at the Arkadelphia Aquatic Park and Henderson State University. Finally, Hilary explained that kids should never swim after dark, since you can't see how deep the water is.

Terri "Manners" Chaney spoke next about keeping safe in the sun. She put on three hats, and asked the kids to tell her which one was best to wear outside. First came an elf hat, which the kids knew wasn't good because it didn't have a bill. Next came a baseball cap, which was a little better. Finally, she donned a wide-brimmed hat, and the kids all could see that was the best choice for the sun. Terri also talked about the importance of drinking plenty of water, and how to identify heat sickness. She also talked about not diving headfirst into water except from a diving board.

Uncle Taylor served as the surprise guest, and came out in dressed for the part. He went through several steps of getting ready to go out on the water. The kids told him he shouldn't wear long clothes on the water because they might get heavy if he fell in. They also told him to wear his life jacket and to make sure it was cinched tight. They told him to apply sunscreen, which Terri did (because in primary school, your mom needs to rub the sunscreen in). With his hat and glasses, the kids helped Taylor get fully ready for a day on the water. I think he might've left the office early today...

Don "Granddaddy" Chaney went next, and he explained the legal reason why kids need to wear life jackets: because water safety is important, parents can be ticketed if kids aren't wearing life jackets around the water:

The next segment of the program was a joint effort between the Chaney Law Firm and the local Wal-Mart. Together, we donated 20 life jackets and held a drawing to see which children won. River passed out all the life jackets to the winners.

We had a great time presenting to the kids at Perritt Primary, and wish everyone a safe and fun summer vacation!  

Several anti-consumer bills introduced at the Arkansas Legislature

Yesterday was the bill-filing deadline for the Arkansas Legislature. Several anti-citizen bills were introduced. These bills are designed to increase profits for insurance companies and other major corporations at the public's expense. Please reach out to your legislators and oppose anti-consumer bills.

For example, under current Arkansas law, an injured person must be "made whole" by settlement or jury verdict before that person's health, worker's comp, or car insurance company has the right to recover any money from the at-fault party (or his or her insurance company). The reason for this law is this — as between the customer and the insurance company, the insurance company was paid to assume the risk of injury to its customer. This "made whole" doctrine is an issue of fundamental fairness because it helps Arkansans play on a more level field with insurance companies, who already get to hide behind their insureds and rarely get called to account for other bad faith tactics.

HB1907 would repeal this "made whole" doctrine, which would result in a windfall to insurance companies at the expense of Arkansas citizens. Several federal laws are already like this, and many Arkansans already receive nothing — zero — when injured because their federal insurance program gets paid first. The federal law is good for major corporations but bad for consumers, and HB1907 is a bad bill modeled on a bad federal law.

Please call your representatives and senators and tell them you oppose "tort reform" in any form or fashion. Conservative financial magazine Forbes recently declared that tort reform didn't reduce defensive medicine, but rather resulted in record profits for insurers. Forbes also noted tort reform had the unintended consequence of slowing down new patient safety initiatives to correct the 44,000-98,000 needless deaths that occur each year in hospitals. A list of legislators is on the Legislature's website here, and UALR has a district finder here if you need to identify your own legislators. 

Remind your legislators that the U.S. Constitution's 7th Amendment preserves the right of juries to make decisions about disputes between citizens exceeding $20. Under the Arkansas Constitution, this requires full compensation for any wrongs. Juries are the ultimate check on the power of government — they represent constitutionally-established local control of our own communities. Let's keep the power in the hands of the people, and out of the hands of the insurance companies.

Remember this: if legislators can take away your 7th Amendment right to a full and just award by a jury because an insurance company wants them to, they can take away your 1st and 2nd Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and to bear arms as well.

The Power of Perseverance

All of the Chaneys except my wife, who's from Virginia, are University of Arkansas alumni. Those in Razorback country know well the struggles of our football team. For those that don't, here's a recap:

  • 2010 – BCS appearance in the Sugar Bowl, where we were defeated by a bunch of tattooed (and ineligible) players from Ohio State. Bobby Petrino's third year. The game was close, and we all looked forward to Petrino's recruits maturing.
  • 2011 – A dominating Cotton Bowl victory over K-State in Bobby Petrino's third year. 10 wins on the season. Truly, a cause for celebration and optimism.
  • 2012 – Ah, 2012. Truly, this was a year to forget. April Fool's Day brought a headline worthy of the day but, alas, it was no joke. Coach Petrino had a wreck on his Hog-red Harley with a woman not his wife on the back. He then lied about it to his boss, repeatedly, who fired him during a press conference televised on national TV. A bankrupt interim coach took over for the season. 3 players were charged before the season started with nine felonies EACH, making the Hogs the winner of the 2012 Fulmer Cup (an offseason tally of criminality, so not something you want to be winning). Still, we carried a top-10 ranking into the season, but many fans were uneasy. They proved to be right, as a lowly directional school in Louisiana-Monroe beat us in overtime the second game of the season and we tumbled out of the rankings. We finished 4-8. One of the four was against Kentucky in what would be the last SEC win for a long while.
  • 2013 – Athletic Director Jeff Long hired Bret Bielema to take over the program. The fanbase collectively said, "Huh"? Reactions were of two varieties when fans learned of his track record at Wisconsin (three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, but no wins in two coaching appearances). Some fans thought he'd be great at putting together a running team like he had at Wisconsin with Russell Wilson, who won the 2014 Super Bowl at Seattle. Other fans thought he was only good playing with the players of his mentor, Barry Alvarez. The season was a long one, ending with a 3-9 record and 0 wins in conference play.
  • 2014 – A long offseason saw quarterback Brandon Allen's name besmirched daily on talk radio and his truck torched before the season started. The schedule was brutal. Most of Petrino's recruits were gone, and the ones that stayed were losing jobs to more talented youngsters. Every SEC school played through last weekend ranked in the top 17, and five of six were in the top 10 at game time. The season picked up where last season left off — a slew of conference losses. There were bright spots, to be sure, in dominating non-conference wins over inferior opponents and close games against superior opponents.

This 5-year history brings us to the present. Last weekend brought LSU to town, a team that is usually in the top two of the SEC West. LSU was ranked 17. Arkansas was on a 17-game SEC losing streak. Arkansas dominated from start to finishing, winning 17-0. The 17-degree windchill* didn't stop jubilant fans from rushing the field to celebrate with the players.

Who has been kicked in the teeth 17 times in a row by their peers? How does that affect one's psyche? Most folks would really be down on themselves after such a long period without success. It really says something for the leadership abilities of Coach Bielema to keep his players motivated during such a long losing streak. The players haven't quit this season and have played most teams close with the exception of Georgia. They have broken the cycle. #WPS

There is a corollary to trial work. People like me who represent individuals against insurance companies and other big corporations often face repetitive and distasteful behavior. A common tactic of insurance company lawyers is to ask questions to clients about things that happened 17 years ago, then try to find a piece of paper from a doctor to make the client out to be a liar. For example: "Have you ever been treated for neck pain or headaches?" If you went to the doctor 17 years ago after a waterskiing fall with headaches and neck pain, you better believe the insurance company will point to it in denying your claim. Nevermind the hypocrisy of arguing, on one hand, that soft-tissue injuries should heal within 6-8 weeks, but, on the other hand, the treatment 17 years ago was to the same body part so the defendant couldn't have caused the injury.

The toughest clients are the ones willing to take their case to a jury of their peers. A jury trial is grueling on clients in its own right: everything in the client's life is placed under a microscope — work history, social life, tax returns. However, a jury is sometimes the only way clients are ever able to persevere after a life-altering injury. A jury has the power to make right all the things that went wrong for the client. The jury is the difference between what could have been, and what is.

*I may or may not have made the windchill up, but it was in the 20s during the game.

Nathan speaks to college students about intellectual property

I spoke to a class of upperclassmen at Henderson State University today about intellectual property. These students, all business majors, are preparing business plans for course credit as well as several local and statewide competitions that have cash prizes for the best plans.


Using the Coke bottle analogy, I taught them about the different forms of intellectual property, and I fielded questions from the students about how intellectual property fit into their business plans. The students were curious about the different forms of intellectual property fit together, what type of patent and trademark procurement costs they could expect to report in their business plans, and how to search for software patents using free tools.

Good luck to Professor Lonnie Jackson's students on the upcoming business plan competitions! 

We are more alike than different

It has been a strange two weeks. I went to the first Razorback game and stayed with the best man at my wedding. We had a great time at the game (other than it being a scorcher). I took my 5-year-old to our first game together and I was a proud papa at how interested he was in the game. 

The next day, a rubber oil hose busted on my wife's car. It had been not recalled, but whatever is right below a recall that gets you a free replacement. We always get her car's oil changed at the dealer (I do my own), but no one ever told us about the technical service bulletin. We wound up staying an extra night with my friends, whose toddler was sick; they cheerfully accepted the turn of fate. 

Do things happen for a reason? When I picked up the car, I dropped by my friend's house to pick up a Hog foam finger and Hog nose my son had left there. As it turns out, my friend got curious about his own car, found three recalls (including for airbags), and made an appointment to get them fixed. 

My younger son started school Tuesday of that week, and Hilary is now taking a more active role at the firm. She's been a real help to the whole firm, although getting used to the change in schedules has been an adjustment that has required some serious effort at getting straight. 

A friend of ours from law school had a pretty dark depressive episode earlier this week. Hilary was able to use her mental toolset to intervene and help out from across the country. 

Meanwhile, in the world, we have the potential for conflict in Syria, a third war in a decade halfway across the world. Facebook tells me my friends have wildly different and polarized views on this as well as other political issues.

However, the point isn't that we're having a weird month — that's just backdrop. As I was driving to work from my son's school today, a thought popped into my head: as Americans, we're all more alike than different. Growing up in Arkadelphia, I went to public schools along with just about everyone else regardless of race or creed. I went to law school with a Muslim Egyptian from California, a Jewish guy from Philadelphia, several folks from overseas, and just about everything in between. And we all got along for the most part. There were times of trouble, like the deaths of classmates, stress of getting good grades and good jobs for the summers and after graduation. We came together in times of adversity.

Example: When I was 17 and a senior in high school, a tornado hit Arkadelphia. I vividly remember a few days later when this kid, who had been picking on my little brother and I had confronted a few months earlier, showed up at my house to help clean up. I don't know if that guy ever learned how much I appreciated him, how truly brave it was of him, to show up despite our differences.

Another example: I found out recently that a college scholarship I received after the tornado was in honor of a friend's 8th-grade sister she lost to the winds at 22, along with her mother and stepfather. Although we were both from Arkadelphia, I didn't meet this friend until I moved back in 2009 and never made the connection until now. Here this girl was, losing her immediate family, yet still making an effort to help others. I was really overcome when I found out last weekend — it brought back of flood of memories about all the people in my life who took the time to care and keep me on the right path when it would have been easier for them to let me veer off.

As ordinary Americans, we know how to come together. Our morals come from creeds more ancient than written history has recorded. For the most part, the beliefs of everyday Americans are focused on family, health, and prosperity, usually in that order. In my view, different religions offer slightly different lenses through which to view those morals — it is like changing a spice in a recipe, rather than a major ingredient. Democrats, Republicans, hippies, suits, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindi, atheists — every American I know wants the best for their families and their friends. The tie that binds us is that we're American and we believe in the power of humanity to do the right thing (even if our politicians want to try everything else first). 

So, thank you for helping. Thank you for coming together with your neighbors and perfect strangers to offer your presence, gifts, and guidance. Your help may be the most important thing a person ever receives.