Life’s lessons can be very beneficial if you actually remember them and change your behavior according to what you have learned. I was lucky to watch my father as he lead various tours of duty in the Coast Guard. Both the ordinary seaman and the Chiefs that ran the ships seemed to respect him. He always treated everybody as important because they were. He always thanked them, and then showed his appreciation.

We had a settlement that had the Board of the Port Authority of New Orleans doing "high-fives" largely because the rank and file Port employees helped the legal team. As is customary in many of the cases we litigate, I cannot comment about the amount of the settlement even though this one is of public record. What I can say is that we held a very public "thank you" luncheon for the Port employees. Without their help, we would not have been as successful against some very fine and thorough litigators FM Global hired.

After the Port retained us in November 2007, it became obvious that those responsible for putting their claim together had not adequately discussed it with the employees out on the wharves, docks, in the maintenance departments, and those outside the main office building. One of the first things we did was to interview them and change the claim to make it more accurate.

A number of Port employees left their families before Katrina struck New Orleans because they had to work during the catastrophe. As a result, a number of them knew their homes had been destroyed and did not know for several weeks where their spouses and children went. A few broke down when they recounted their hardship and trauma. Many still have not rebuilt their homes. The Port Police Department helped us track down eye witnesses to the destruction. They told us of the numerous rescue efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward and how much flood damage had occurred along the Industrial Canal. They found video and photographs taken during and immediately after the storm, helping us prove our theories of loss and damage.

I often say that I am a "Johnny come lately" to the cases I get retained upon. We come after the fact and then pry into the business and past of our clients. We were a major disruption to the Port because we looked into every employee’s memory about what the Port was doing before and then after Katrina. We went through six million of their documents, invaded their computers, and took time away from their pressing jobs to get our own jobs done. We completely dislodged and stole office space from the marketing department. I am certain we were silently cursed.

The employees’ help and their understanding of what we were trying to do for them and the Port paid huge dividends in this case. We owe a great deal of thanks to the "rank and file." The people who work at the Port helped make their employer and my firm a lot of money. Saying thank you with good food and fine New Orleans music seemed the right thing to do.

A Port secretary wrote:

I wanted to thank you, your firm, and employees for the lunch you provided for Port of New Orleans employees this past Friday. It was appreciated by all—I only heard positive comments following the lunch and after being here for eleven years that was rare indeed!!! May you have continued success in 2009 and the coming years.

The Merlin Law Group’s Keona Williams and Kendra Kenney did a magnificent job arranging the affair. I wish all cases went so well.