Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
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Death of Innocence: Chapter 5

The Bumbling Attorneys

When my son was killed on Feb. 4th. 2001, I hired an attorney named Walt Moreno. I hired Walt because he came to Lake County to discuss my sons death with me, the day of my sons death. After expressing his sincere condolences to me, he told me that he too had a 7 year old son and he could only imagine the grief that I was obviously suffering. After examining the collision scene and looking at the skid marks, Walt and I both agreed.....the vehicle that struck and killed my son was over the double yellow lines by a foot when the collision occurred. Walt and I both wondered whether or not the driver was cited or arrested for this obvious vehicle code violation that clearly caused my sons death. I went to Walt's office in Santa Rosa 2 days later and hired him to represent me in a wrongful death lawsuit. This turned out to be a big mistake.

On the initial visit to Walt's office, we talked about and exchanged photos of our sons. Sobbing and weeping with my heartbreaking and tears in my eyes, I explained to Walt that I raised my son from when he was 3 1/2 months old, and that my son was my whole life. Walt told me that he would do everything in his power to help me through this. After signing papers with Walt, he said that he would get a copy of the CHP collision report as soon as the CHP finished compiling it. I called the CHP office every day for several days asking if the report was ready. The office clerk got tired of me calling and promised that she would contact me as soon as the report was ready. It seemed like an eternity but after a while I was able to pick up the report, which I began to study. After reading the CHP report entirely, I discovered on the last page under, "other factual evidence", that there were four rolls of photographs taken by the CHP the day of my sons death. I immediately contacted the CHP office and requested copies of these photographs. It took several days for me to obtain the photographs.

After studying each and every photograph taken by the CHP the day of my sons death, it was obvious that the CHP should have arrested Mark Shiflett for reckless driving and manslaughter. After about a month I had not heard from Walt, so I called him to see how things were going. Walt told me that he had planned on bringing in another attorney who had more experience with wrongful death lawsuits. This attorneys name is Fred Hirschfield. Walt also told me that he felt it was necessary to bring in an accident investigator named Dr. Liptia, because it was obvious that the California Highway Patrol did not properly investigate the collision that took my sons life. Walt and I agreed that it was important to get Dr. Liptia to do his investigation of the collision scene, as soon as possible..... before the accident scene deteriorated. I explained to Walt that I had obtained the four rolls of photographs from the CHP office. Walt's reply was "what photographs". Walt was not even aware that the photographs existed. I was shocked to find out that he had not even read the police report entirely.

After informing Walt of the existence of the photographs, he ordered a set of his own from the California Highway Patrol office in Kelseyville. Over the next several months Walt and I had many conversations regarding my sons death. Several times Walt and I analyzed the photographs that we had obtained from the CHP office in Kelseyville. Walt and I both agreed that the photo evidence indicated a cover up by members of the California Highway Patrol of the Lake County division. The proper thing for Walt to do at this point, would have been to find out any information he could about the driver and why the CHP allowed this criminal to drive away from the scene of my sons death, when he was clearly guilty of driving over the double yellow line in a reckless manner, when he struck and killed my son. Walt Moreno did absolutely nothing. Month after month Walt stalled me about the accident being reinvestigated by Dr. Liptia. Finally, after seven or eight months of being stalled by Walt Moreno, I was told by Walt, that Fred said it was not necessary to reinvestigate the collision. By now it was obvious that Walt Moreno had lost interest in representing me.

At this point, I had not even talked with Fred Hirshfield. I looked up Fred Hirshfield's number in the phone book and called him. Fred and I briefly discussed my son’s death over the phone. Fred asked me to meet him at the scene of my sons death. In the early part of February 2002, a year after my son’s death, I met with Fred Hirshfield and the accident investigator, Dr. Liptia. I brought with me to this meeting, a witness, (Timothy Ingram), and all of the evidence and information that I had gathered over the previous year. This included the photographs taken by the CHP the day of my sons death. Now the reason that Fred had come to the scene of my son’s death with the accident investigator, was to take photographs of the scene of my son’s death. Fred was not aware that photographs already existed of the accident scene. So Fred Hirshfield also failed to read the CHP report in its entirety and in turn did not know that CHP photos existed! What this also means is that Walt Moreno did not even bother to give Fred Hirshfield the CHP photos when he turned the case over to Fred Hirshfield. Not only did he not give Fred the photographs,he didn't even bother to tell Fred Hirshfield that the photographs existed! So Fred Hirshfield and the accident investigator drove all the way from Novato, to take pictures of the accident scene in Lake County, not knowing that pictures already existed that were taken the day of my sons death! Timothy and I were both shocked that Fred Hirshfield didn't know the photos existed! Sooo... I gave Fred Hirshfield my copies of the CHP photos. This included photos that I had enlarged. Dr. Liptia took out his measuring tool and did a quick measurement on the roadway and took some of his own photographs. After meeting with Fred Hirshfield and the accident investigator, I became very disillusioned with these two bumbling attorneys. A short time later, I decided to hire another attorney and fire Fred Hirshfield and Walt Moreno.

The third attorney that I hired was Julia Parranto. Early on I explained to Julia, that I did not want to pay Fred Hirshfield for the terrible job that he did for me. The only thing Fred Hirshfield did in the first year was to petition Workman's auto insurance to pay the $30,000 auto insurance policy limit. And he didn't even do that correctly! I explained to Julia Parranto that I wanted the case to go to court to expose the cover up the California Highway Patrol had perpetrated. After several months of dealing with Julia Parranto I became disillusioned with her. Julia Parranto formed an opinion about me as a person, and allowed that opinion to cloud her judgment. Several times in her office, she became extremely irate with me. Julia Parranto herself told me that because Fred Hirshfield failed to disclose my sons mother Libby as an heir, that it would be extremely difficult to take this case to trial and suggested that I settle out of court. At this point, I began calling other attorneys. After contacting numerous other attorneys, I discovered that because of the mistakes that were made by Fred Hirshfield early on, involving statute of limitations and disclosing all of the heirs, no other attorney would get involved.

Julia Parranto took several depositions before the case was settled. One of the depositions that was crucial, was the deposition of Mark Shiflett, the man who struck and killed my son while driving over the double yellow line. Julia Parranto flew to San Diego to take the deposition of Mark Shiflett who was incarcerated for felony DUI. About a week after Julia returned from San Diego I met her at her office. Julia explained to me that her secretary had made a mistake and failed to stipulate that the deposition would be a video deposition. Frustrated, Julia came back from San Diego without the deposition. This fact bothered me as it was important to me to have Mark Shiflett's lies on paper, or in this video deposition. Not only was it important, but it's also necessary to have this deposition to help prove my allegations against the California Highway Patrol.

After the case was settled and I read the settlement agreement, I discovered that Julia had charged me for this deposition that she did not deliver. I feel this is extremely unfair to charge someone for a service that you do not deliver. Besides that, Julia charged me 40% and the case did not go to trial. Julia also paid Fred Hirshfield several thousand dollars when I specifically ask her not to pay Fred Hirshfield any money. For the rotten job that Fred Hirshfield did, he does not deserve to receive any money. Julia Parranto did not take the case over from Fred Hirshfield, I fired Fred Hirshfield and hired Julia Parranto to take on the case, independently of Fred Hirshfield. This was the agreement between Julia Parranto and myself when she agreed to take on the case. The final settlement for my sons death was $3892.06 of which I received half.

As I mentioned earlier, I raised my son as a single father from when he was 3 1/2 months old. I explained to Julia, that my sons mother was never a part of his life and never paid any child support. Julia went out of her way to contact my sons mother, and pay her half of the settlement, so I ended up with $1946.03. Originally, my sons mother Libby was not named on the lawsuit. When Fred Hirshfield made the demand for payment to Workman's auto insurance he made several crucial errors. First he failed to include Libby as a possible a heir. The second error Fred made was that he failed to include copies of the photographs, when he made the demand for payment of the policy limit to Workman's auto insurance. Had Workman's auto insurance saw the photographs, they would've known that Mark Shiflett was driving over the double yellow line, and it's likely they would've paid the the policy limit immediately. Because of these errors the case dragged on unnecessarily. We ended up settling for the original $30,000 policy limit which Workman's auto insurance would have paid had they been submitted all the facts by Fred Hirschfield. Because Workman's did not know that Mark Shiflett was driving over the double yellow line when he struck and killed my son, Workman's auto insurance at first refused to pay the claim. If Fred Hirshfield had done his job and include Libby as an heir, the policy limit would have been lifted and the case could've went to court after Workman's auto insurance refused to pay the claim, and I could have received a substantial amount from Workman's auto insurance, an amount far greater than the $30,000 policy limit. Because of Fred Hirschfield's incompetence, most of the $30,000 was squandered on unnecessary depositions, etc., etc.

My sons death is the subject of many injustices. It was an injustice for Jim Carreker to deceive me about my son’s safety. It is an injustice for Jim Carreker not to be questioned as to why he gave my son permission to ride his bicycle on a dangerous highway, unsupervised, without a helmet. It's an injustice that Mark Shiflett was allowed to drive away from the scene of my son’s death without being cited or tested for drugs. How could they allow a habitual drug offender, who had just been cited twice, six days earlier, for driving under the influence of drugs, to drive away from the scene of my son’s death, without being tested for drugs? When you look at how this all turned out, that's another terrible injustice. Here I am a victim who lost my whole world when my son was killed. The actions of the bungling attorneys, and the insurance company that didn't even bother to examine all the facts, and the highway patrol covering up my sons death to protect themselves from liability. Because the highway patrol, purposely failed to include pertinent facts in a fatality collision report, the insurance company at first refused to pay the claim. The bungling attorneys didn't present the case correctly. Three years later, the insurance company ends up paying the $30,000 they should've paid to begin with. And I end up with $1946.03!! I wonder how many other people this happens to? How many other people get taken by insurance companies and attorneys? That's not the way it's supposed to be. Attorneys are getting rich off of people's misfortune, and the unfortunate victims end up with nothing. This isn't the first time I've seen an insurance company refuse to pay a legitimate claim were people suffered losses.

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