Those who find themselves injured at the hands of a large organization have an uphill battle ahead of them, one that may take years to resolve without the proper assistance. These individuals need an attorney who will guide them through the process, protect them from meddling, and will go the extra mile for them, but it seems attorneys like this are few and far between. Morgan & Morgan is lucky enough to have some of these very attorneys, especially Rick Block, who has devoted his career to advocating for those who were harmed by the negligence of others.
Mr. Block, known to his colleagues as “Rick,” owned and operated his own firm out of Jacksonville before joining Morgan & Morgan in 2017. Whether it’s an auto accident case or a spinal cord injury caused by a negligent doctor, Mr. Block has more than enough experience and knowledge under his belt to help anyone reach the best possible outcome in their legal challenge. He’s found success in over 200 jury verdicts, with many of them worth more than $1 million, and represented clients who found themselves in some of the most difficult circumstances in their lives.
As a founding member of the Jacksonville Justice Organization, a group that provides plaintiffs’ attorneys with education and resources to enhance their trial practice, it’s easy to see that Mr. Block is a step above the crowd. We had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Block about his career, and the transcript is below:
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
Do You Feel the Move From Your Own Firm to Morgan & Morgan Was a Good Move Career-Wise?
Rick: It’s been a great decision on multiple levels. I had my own small practice for 27 years, and while it was a very successful practice, John Morgan and I became friends because I was winning some pretty large verdicts. It seemed like every time I would win one of those large verdicts, John would call to congratulate me and ask when I was coming to work with Morgan & Morgan. My response was to ask when he was going to pay me a ton of money, and finally, he asked, “What is it that you want?” I started naming off all this stuff, then he said, “What else do you want?” I continued to name off other things. Finally, I ran out of things to ask for because he said “yes” to everything. That’s a true story.
It’s been a great thing to do at this point in my career, which is in its later stages. The caliber of cases that we have to work with at Morgan & Morgan and the caliber of lawyers that I get to work with—it’s just something I never would’ve experienced had I finished my career having my own practice. So, it’s been a blessing.
Have You Always Wanted to Be a Personal Injury Attorney?
Rick: That’s a funny story, too. There’s a famous story in my family: I was a junior in high school, and my father, who was a fighter pilot, was in the Navy. He was a retired captain and passed away about three years ago, but at the time when I was a junior in high school, he asked me if I knew where I wanted to go to school and what I wanted to do. I said, “No, but I know where I don’t want to go to school.” I didn’t want to go to the University of Florida because there were a bunch of “rednecks” there, and I didn’t want to become a lawyer because they’re just a bunch of jerks. So, I immediately went to the University of Florida and became a lawyer. It just worked its way out.
People have asked me what the secret of my success is or what I find in my past that served me so well in the courtroom. When I got out of law school, I became a professional musician for six years and made my living six nights a week on stage. I was playing to thousands of people sometimes, so when I decided to get out of the music business and to start practicing law, talking to six people in a box was a day at the beach compared to performing for thousands of people at a time.
The truth is, it’s the same dynamic. I would be on the microphone talking to an audience that didn’t talk back on stage, but it’s more intimate and much more serious in a courtroom. The dynamic of being comfortable, having a conversation with someone who’s not talking back, all the way from jury selection, even though they are talking back somewhat, it’s really us presenting issues for them to decide, followed by opening statements, presenting the evidence, and closing. All of that is us talking to the jury and them not talking back, so it’s the same dynamic I had on stage for six years.
Could You Share Some of Your Tips or Secrets to Achieve Multi-Million Dollar Verdicts?
Rick: First of all, one of the great things that we get to do on our side is choosing which cases are going to be tried and which aren’t. I’ve often said in closing arguments that when a case brings in millions of dollars, the lawyer gets too much credit, and when a case is lost, the lawyer takes too much blame. One of the things I’ve been very smart about in my career is choosing good, solid cases to try. My record right now is 232 wins and 13 losses. By my own litmus test, I shouldn’t have lost the 13 that I did because they were winning cases. There’s an old saying: “If you haven’t lost some trials, you’re not trying enough cases.” In the end, you just never know what a jury’s going to do.
While I’m very proud of that trial record, the point is that I pick good cases with good facts and good clients. One of my beliefs is this: A jury is supposed to make its verdict based on the law and the facts. The truth is, if the jury likes your client, they’re going to rule in their favor. If they don’t like them or you, they’re not.
Now look, the law should not be a popularity contest, but the truth is jurors are people and people are more favorable to those they like. As lawyers, we know how to be charming, appropriate, and polite, but at the same time, we get our message across that this is not a TV show. This is about real life, justice, and real human beings, so we make sure the jurors understand that.
Do You Ever Get Jaded After Winning So Many Cases, or Is It Different Every Time Because It’s a New Client and a Different Situation?
Rick: That’s one of the blessings of what we do for a living. Again, music’s a great example of that because I am, by nature, into creative things. One of the things that Keith Mitnick and I share all the time is how much creativity we bring to what we do for a living. I’ve never met a better student of personal injury trial law than Keith Mitnick. We steal each other’s stuff all the time, and we’re constantly trying to think of more unique and powerful ways to deal with issues of personal injury law. Every case is different, and every client is different. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a personal injury case where someone got hurt through no fault of their own, but that’s about all they have in common.
Then, you’ve got to get into the uniqueness of your client, the particular facts of the case, and what it’s going to mean in that specific client’s life. We just won a $17 million dollar verdict last Wednesday night. In the closing argument, I spoke about how I have a 29-year-old client who got hurt three and a half years ago. Clearly, she had permanent injuries, and in fact, the court found she was permanently injured as a matter of law. The case isn’t about what’s happened to her; it's about what’s going to happen to her. Instead of focusing on the last 3.7 years, we need to focus on the next 53 years.
I know so many lawyers that are much smarter than me, but they can’t hold a candle to what we do in the courtroom because they’re too smart. They try to impress juries with their immense vocabulary and how smart they are, which goes right over the jurors’ heads. We know how to talk to jurors on a level that doesn’t pander to them, but at the same time, it’s a level they can relate to us, feel us, and know that we’re sincere.
How Do You Take What Other Lawyers Might Consider to Be a Weakness and Use It as Your Strength?
Rick: You know what? I’m proud to say that’s what I think Keith and I do best, and I’ll give you a couple of examples.
For years and years and years, if our client had a preexisting condition that occurred before the crash, many lawyers would run from those facts and sometimes not want to try those cases. Pre-existing conditions simply mean that the client was in a condition where they were vulnerable to a worse injury from less trauma. In my opening statements, I say to the jury, "We’re going to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that Mrs. Client suffered from a pre-existing condition." The defense is looking at us like we’re crazy, but we go on to say that all doctors will say that if there’s a previously existing condition, that rendered them more vulnerable to a worse injury from even less trauma, proving that it’s easy to get around a hurdle like this.
Another thing that lawyers freak out about is that people will very often reach maximum medical improvement, where the doctors tell them that they’re as good as they’re going to get. These people try to get back to their lives, and they won’t receive treatment for six months to a year. If they can’t deal with the pain anymore, they’ll come back for treatment, but the defense can call that a “gap in treatment.” They claim their gap in their treatment shows that they weren’t hurt that badly, and something else must have happened for them to come back for treatment now. None of this is true, and we present it exactly in the opposite way.
I’ll tell the jury, "This is why you’re here. We have a fundamental difference in how this should be perceived. Our client went back to work and tried to get on with their life, even though they were at maximum medical improvement and still injured. Maximum medical improvement does not mean cured, it just means they’re never going to get any better. Rather than treating themselves, they tried to get back to as normal a life as possible; isn’t that what you would have them do? They tried for six months to a year and couldn’t stand the pain. The point is we think our client deserves more and should be awarded more money for pain and suffering during that period of time. On the other hand, they think you should punish our clients for trying to get on with their life. Which are you going to do?"
It’s just another one of those perceived weaknesses that we see all the time. Another one we see is that if a client didn’t go to the doctor for a week or a month after a crash, they’d try to make a big deal out of it until we cross-examined their doctors. The doctors will admit that they treat people who are permanently injured all the time that didn’t go to a doctor after their injury, proving that there’s no correlation between when the person started treatment and their ultimate injury. It’s all meaningless, so we don’t run from these things. Instead, we embrace them.
What’s the Worst Advice You’ve Ever Received?
Rick: The worst advice I’ve ever received is to believe in expert witness testimony because they’re the experts and to believe in what the defense experts are telling you in terms of everything. As I got better at doing what I do and learned more, I found that defense experts will lie about their education, their professional pedigree, and even lie about the science. They will make things up.
Here’s a great example. We caught one radiologist in Florida who makes so much money by acting as an expert witness that he basically gave up his entire radiology practice. In one case, he was so busy that he didn’t realize he read the same MRI for the plaintiff as he did for the defense. He read it one way for the plaintiff, in another way for the defense, and still wasn’t aware he did it until we caught him.
Lawyers are like anybody else. We don’t know everything about everything, so we sometimes rely on experts too much. I’ve learned that the other side simply and sadly just can’t be believed.