Trial by Fire

Letters to the Editor

Tourism terrorism: Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "Our Fair City," in the June 27 issue:

First the fires hit Colorado. Then Zacarias Moussaoui wants to move his trial to Denver. What's next? Bubonic plague-carrying prairie dogs taking over the grounds of the State Capitol?

Colorado may not get many tourists this summer, but look at it this way: That means less crowded highways and more water for the people who actually live here.

Jenny Pettit

Get a clue: Patricia Calhoun, please don't be so clueless regarding Moussaoui's request for a change of venue.

The scenario goes something like this, and the feds know it: Move would be made by air, flying past certain points Moussaoui wants to fly past. Confederates on the ground take action that will go unnamed here, and we get "Zacarias TV" for a full week and Zacarias gets 72 virgins in paradise.

There is a larger plan at work here -- one that was scripted to be used in case of capture. The terminus for that contingency: Denver.

Chris Long
via the Internet

Editor's note: Last week, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied Moussaoui's request for a change of venue to the "more neutral" city of Denver, Colorado.

Like a Bad Neighbor...

Going for Goliath: Kudos to Alan Prendergast for writing an article as compelling as "Hidden Damage," in the June 27 issue. It's not often that the little people prevail over giant corporations such as State Farm. The fact that a helpless, emotionally unstable woman and a fresh-out-of-law-school attorney can defeat a giant like State Farm is truly an amazing feat. In these days of terrorism plots and wildfires, it is refreshing to read such a well-compiled, feel-good article.

Brett Bartlett

The strong arm of the law: After fifteen years as a prosecutor, I wondered where else in the law an attorney could most often use his skills to fight for justice for victims. The answer is personal-injury practice performed properly, and Alan Prendergast's riveting "Hidden Damage" brilliantly confirmed the truth of this conclusion.

Colorado has lots of dedicated and talented lawyers laying it on the line for their injured clients. You wisely profiled two of the very best in telling the public about Greg Gold and Tom Metier's outstanding courtroom victory.

Craig Silverman

Adding insult to injury: I found "Hidden Damage" to be engrossing and stimulating. Alan Prendergast did a very nice job pulling together the voluminous material of a complicated case to form a compelling narrative. I had the experience of reading a condensed John Grisham novel. However...

Prendergast can't convince me that he himself actually believed Sunserea McClelland's claims, let alone lead me, a psychiatrist, to believe them.

In well-written fiction, the reader is made to willingly suspend disbelief. There really is a one-armed man who killed the protagonist's wife. Dead people really are talking to the little boy. The alien seen only by children really does exist.

In "Hidden Damage," on the other hand, Sunserea's claims simply involve too many holes. The disbelief-suspension contract is broken; the "heroine" is relegated to the McDonald's-coffee-spill-victim gold digger's status.

I, for one, am glad that companies like State Farm are trying to hold the line on bogus claims so that further premium increases aren't spent on society's most effective scam artists.

The following features of the story left me dubious:

How did a "very intelligent woman" (per the jury foreman) flunk out of high school unless she had significant emotional problems? Does an emotionally stable woman get married at seventeen, have two children and find herself divorced by age 21? What explains Sunserea's telling the ER physician in June that her symptoms suggestive of a head injury began only one week earlier?

Really, now, what type of injury, short of massive head trauma, could account for the severe symptom picture of migraine headaches (a vascular phenomenon), symptoms of focal seizures (brief periods of loss of time without full loss of consciousness), symptoms of generalized seizures (passing out for two hours on the bathroom floor) and tremendous cognitive decline? (One wonders how the innumerable soccer players who weekly incur greater trauma heading a fast-moving soccer ball ever survive.) Children's brains are felt to be more vulnerable to injury, yet there is nothing about any injuries to children in the car. Based on their mother's claims, one would expect they were rendered vegetative in this accident.

How, following the verdict in a trial in which she was barely able to testify, has she suddenly regained the capacity to establish an intimate relationship leading to marriage? How did such difficult-to-treat symptoms abate following the verdict? What of the admission by everyone in the case that this woman is not a reliable source of information?

Furthermore, why was no mention made in the story of the amount of money Dr. Woodcock has made over the past number of years providing expensive neurological "rehabilitation," at times for those whose only "injuries" are chronically damaged psyches and the desire for ill-gotten compensation?

One need only view the movie Primal Fear to understand how a good actor can effectively manipulate the legal system. I await a follow-up story describing Sunserea's next lawsuit for some other personal injury, coincidentally incurred as the money from the current verdict is running out.

Name withheld on request

Hit and myths: What an excellent article! I practice law in Wisconsin, and every tactic described in "Hidden Damage" has been used against me on numerous occasions. I have had judges treat my clients like trash, as well. I am surprised that more stories like this one aren't printed.

It is funny and tragic that the truth about how insurance companies treat consumers is often downplayed, while lawsuit myths are recirculated in the media. Thank you for spreading the truth.

John T. Schomisch Jr.
Appleton, Wisconsin

Hearts and minds: I am writing to let you know how shocked and amazed I was at "Hidden Damage." I cannot believe that a writer believed this woman's story and believed that it was not just "all in her head." I have gone though a similar hell, and I am so glad that Greg Gold and Tom Metier took her case on. My case settled out of court, and I was extremely fortunate to have gotten some of the help I did.

You have done a great deal to educate our community and to unveil eyes to the truth of what many go though on their road to healing after a brain injury. I am so grateful that Sunserea McClelland had the guts to tell her story and you had the courage to let that voice be heard! Thank you so much.

Name withheld on request

Header of the Class

Long-term goals: Eric Dexheimer's "Big Foot," in the June 20 issue, highlighted how parents' expectations, realistic or otherwise, greatly impact the different values placed on youth athletics and academics.

In my high school, students with athletic ability were driven to excel in sports but were given little incentive to excel academically. Honestly, none of these kids could have competed professionally; they should have received encouragement to make other long-term career plans, either through academic or vocational courses. The next-highest level of play-for-pay (i.e., college scholarships) was a reasonable goal in several cases. However, many of these students were not encouraged to develop the academic strength to make it through college, scholarship or no. There was little value placed on the academics that scholarships buy. While pressure to excel at sports came from peers and coaches, parents had the largest influence.

Conversely, standardized test scores for the Nike and Swoosh players on the Rush's Web site were commendable. Professional soccer is not yet lucrative in this country -- not on the level that Highlands Ranchers could boast about their professional progeny -- so kids are encouraged to have other career plans. It seems these parents have taught that academics are relevant for long-term success.

R. Davis

What's Up, Doc?

An unhealthy situation: As a former employee of Denver Health, I read with interest Stuart Steers's "A Healthy Paycheck," his June 27 article regarding the pay scale of DH executives. While I wholeheartedly support the mission of Denver Health and believe that the staff there is doing an incredible job, the ridiculous spending and mismanagement of resources has caused a lot of unrest among employees. For example, in one month in late 2001, Denver Health paid in excess of $700,000 to one vendor for IT consulting services.

Denver Health provides valuable services to the City and County of Denver. However, given the things that I witnessed in my two and a half years of employment there, I will be voting against any future requests for money that DH puts on the ballot. Until the executive staff members prove to the taxpayers of Denver that they are capable of managing their funds in a responsible manner (in addition to treating their employees with a shred of respect), my votes will remain in the "no" column.

Tracy Halasinski

I found "A Healthy Paycheck" very interesting. I am employed by Denver Health Medical Center and find the top dogs' wages out of control. We get a 4 percent pay raise every year; once we reach the middle of our pay scale, we are reduced to a 2 percent raise a year, which is less than a cost of living. I am dumbfounded to find out that in a matter of four years, the executives have received a more than 400 percent pay raise. It is really crazy that I, too, have a college degree and eight years' experience in health care but am not worthy of even a 4 percent raise.

How can the hospital demand that we cut budgets and not approve overtime because we are so understaffed -- but pay them thousands a year?

Name withheld on request


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >