Jeff Boyles, a fantastic lawyer who has represented Merlin Law Group as its Copyright and Trademark attorney, is the son of Jean Niven. He called me on Monday morning. I saw his name on my cell phone, knew what it was about, and I told him that I was afraid of what he was about to tell me.

I wrote this about Jean Niven nearly twelve years ago in Jean Niven Wins Leeds Sinkhole Case:

The people in a law firm will determine its success. I am blessed to have Jean Niven on our team and working directly with me. Without Jean, the Leeds would not have won their case. She made me look good at trial and saved my neck on appeal.

In my post last Sunday, Sinkhole Coverage and Losses are Extraordinarily Complex, I noted that Jean appeared to do a fantastic job at the appellate argument. This week, while in the Advanced Trial Advocacy Course, we received notice that the Florida Second District Court of Appeal affirmed our trial win. I wrote a note to our firm that I felt Jean won the trial and appeal because the insurance company alleged that I created error in the trial of the case. Jean did the trial preparation and presented the first part of the case. I came on towards the end to take on the experts and bring home the verdict in summation. Jean justified our positions and affirmed the win for our clients, the Leeds.

Eventually, every policyholder attorney must present a client’s case to a jury. This week’s program revitalized my belief in what we do and the importance of improving skills of advocacy–becoming better advocates for our clients’ position.

Litigation is not like television. The typical insurance company hires only good attorneys, experienced in creating significant obstacles to recovery. Those bright, tenacious, rascally, and well paid insurance company attorneys will find something to argue against recovery. Often, trying to predict the outcome of a trial and what proof will be necessary helps us get a better and quicker recovery for our client without ever having to take the case to trial in the first place.

I feel lucky to have an accomplished advocate, Jean Niven, working with me day to day, for the policyholders who place their trust with us….

Later in 2009, I wrote this about Jean Niven:

I am fortunate that Jean Niven works closely with me on my cases because she is extraordinarily thorough and prepared. She makes me look far better than what I am. We have a tremendously successful track record when working on projects together, primarily due to her efforts.1

I also must confess that I drive our Merlin Law Group attorneys really hard to be the best they can be and wrote this post, Jean Niven’s Long Island Insurance Working Birthday, in 2015:

Jean Niven is a beautiful and extraordinarily caring lawyer. Like many lawyers at Merlin Law Group, she also works long hours in places far away from home. She and I were in Long Island, New York last night preparing for depositions regarding a fire loss to a chicken egg manufacturing plant out of Texas. During a discussion about mitigation costs of a temporary manufacturing plant, she casually mentioned that it was her birthday and had to take a call from one of her children wishing her well. I instantly felt like the worst boss in the world because she should have been celebrating in Tampa with friends and family rather than diligently plying her trade in New York with me.

The truth, from my experience, is we give more credit and value to the work we personally do than the work and long hours others put into a project. I think this is human nature because we know what we do and can only guess about the effective time and effort others give. I also think we tend to overstate how effective our own time is versus others when working in teams.

Regarding Jean Niven, I’ve had the pleasure of observing her work and performance for over fifteen years. She understates her own work and effort. Unlike yours truly, she does not seem to suffer from an ego that needs reinforcement. She is just as concerned about the emotional aspects of a client following a catastrophic loss as the financial end result she is dedicated to obtaining. She truly cares first about her client and the quality of her work shown through the depth of preparation rather than publicly proclaiming how great of an attorney she is. It is an honor and a privilege to work with her, and for her to hitch her star to our law firm. All of us should learn from her noble humbleness.

Next year, Jean Niven should take off a couple of days before I get more anxiety filled about being a slave-driving boss.

Happy Birthday Jean!!

Jean Niven was a cancer survivor. Three and a half years ago, she had it really bad. While I was off racing Merlin in a record setting finish to Isla Majeures, Mexico, Jean was battling her disease. After the race, I was travelling past this angelic white chapel which just called me.

I told Donice that we should reflect and say prayers – and call Jean. Jean answered and told me that she had a miracle. The Mayo doctors were ecstatic that the treatment worked. She had survived.

As I have become older, I am much more spiritual than religious. I am convinced that, in the hereinafter, we will learn that there is some force that allows us to share thoughts. It might be a “Merlin” thing, but I told Jean that the positive and loving vibes from others to the Almighty and encouraging her, must have helped. Donice and I were in tears that day about Jean’s recovery. I have raced to a lot of places, but that chapel and that result for Jean will resonate with me for as long as I breathe.

Property insurance law can be a bit nerdy. I cried again while writing this post and watching this video of Jean explaining the Statute of Limitations and how that might impact policyholders:

At my request, Jean Niven eventually focused her legal career on expert witness testimony in insurance cases. In a world where you can know more and more about a subject matter of less and less, Jean Niven helped us beat insurance companies by showing that the insurance companies expert witnesses were often deceitful. Most people outside of our line of work fail to realize that this is a very real battle of good over evil. Insurance company experts often say whatever they have to in order to keep their gazillion dollar revenues coming in from insurance companies. Jean was a knight battling them. In Insurance Coverage Cases Can Be Won or Lost Based on Expert Witnesses and The Preparation of Their Reports and Testimony, I wrote this about Jean:

Yesterday afternoon, Jean Niven was presenting an in-house Merlin Law Group continuing legal education seminar about expert witnesses and the exacting standards for their allowance to testify in federal court. During the presentation, I thought about how a lost insurance coverage case could have ended differently if the policyholder’s expert witnesses had been allowed to testify about the damages. Jean is our firm’s expert witness authority. She works with our clients’ expert witnesses to make sure they are able to testify.

…the point of this blog post is that experts and the quality of their work, reports, and testimony matter a lot. Courts throughout the country have stiffened the requirements of expert opinion testimony. This trend has made our firm spend a lot more time to make experts work harder at their expertise so that they can present evidence to judges and juries…

Jean Niven is another secret weapon in our firm. In this day of legal specialization, it is obvious that having a specialist lawyer in this area of expert witness law helps us win more cases.

Jean always watched out for everyone’s feelings and hopes. A legal assistant in our firm shared a comment that Jean made to her that gave the legal assistant hope of a romantic future. “Chip, Jean told me that there is man out there for every woman. We just have to wait until he shows up.”

She was also the life of any party. I remember this Merlin Law Group party in Sarasota where she made me look good while I was trying to portray Willie Nelson:

For readers of this blog who help policyholders, and to all policyholders reading this, Jean helped and represented you 38 years of her adult life. In a world where pretenders advertise that they are “dedicated” to policyholders, Jean Niven stood the test of time as a true policyholder advocate and deserving of the utmost respect as a champion for policyholder rights. She wrote this in 2009:

The purpose of insurance is to provide peace of mind. When disaster strikes the insurer is tasked, pursuant to Florida law, with providing prompt assistance in the form of a competent adjuster who has the best interest of the insured as its first priority. Sadly, that scenario has become a fairy tale for many insureds. Instead of providing the friendly professional assistance advertised in TV commercials and on billboards, the insured is frequently faced with obstructionist tactics designed to wear down even the most stalwart of personalities. This at a time when a person is most vulnerable and frequently has limited financial capability.

Insurance was intended to be a partnership. The insured paid his premiums, kept his property in good repair, and filed a claim only when he sustained damage. In return, the carrier fairly and promptly adjusted the claim paying dollar for dollar the value of the claim. Reading the true-life stories of hurricane survivors, it is evident they are victims of more than a natural disaster. Having had the opportunity of handling the claims of numerous insureds during the past 26 years, it is all too apparent many are more distraught by the treatment they have received from their trusted insurer than from the destructive event itself.

I loved Jean Niven. And if you were lucky enough to spend time with her, I am certain you loved her as well. Jean did not look it, but she had the heart of a giant and courage of a lion. She made me a better lawyer and advocate—she did this for all of us because her clients deserved nothing less. In an era where some attorneys often think more about the measure of success as being how much money they make, Jean Niven was the real deal about success—helping win for the little guy with a fair shake against the insurance company and its “paid for” army. If there is one prayer you can make, it is that God give us more Jean Nivens and thanks for allowing her to be on our team.

Thought For The Day

Champions are not the ones who always win races – champions are the ones who get out there and try. And try harder the next time. And even harder the next time. ‘Champion’ is a state of mind. They are devoted. They compete to best themselves as much if not more than they compete to best others. Champions are not just athletes.
—Simon Sinek
1 Uninsured Loss Recovery for Policyholders and Subrogation Opportunities for Insurers: True Win/Win Claims Scenarios.