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The Dishwashing Liquid Case

Welcome back. FM Talk, 165 Mobile Mornings, Dalton Orwig here.  And pleasure to be joined again by Desi Tobias with the personal injury law firm Tobias and Comer Law. Desi, thanks for coming in again.

Dalton, great to see you again. Glad to be here.

Yeah. And you've been coming in for a while now. We've talked about a number of different cases. We've had some really interesting cases you've told me about over the last few months, and I said it as I was introducing you, the personal injury law firm, although that's not all you do, but it certainly makes up a lot of the work, and we've never really delved into what got you started in the first place. Why do you like so much being a personal injury lawyer?

I like helping people, Dalton. Ultimately, you're helping an individual with a problem. I also find the law very interesting, and it can be competitive. You want to do the best you can for your client, but often every case that comes in is different, and you got to look at the law. There may be things that aren't there to begin with if you do your homework and work hard for the client. And you mentioned that I've talked a lot about all of my cases, but not all of them - have been doing this for quite a while. And there's always cases that we, as senior lawyers, like to talk about. But there's one about the cases, the dishwashing liquid that I don't think I've told you about.

That one dishwashing liquid case. It's not ringing any bells. I don't think you've told me about that one.

Yeah. And that's what we call it, the dishwashing liquid case, but it involves a certain area of law. A man came home one night from work. He had been called by his wife and said, somebody just took our car. And so he comes home to protect his family, and he slips on dishwashing liquid that is on the carport, and he broke his back. So that sounds like a personal injury case, and it is a personal injury case, but it involves the area of self-help repossession. And it goes back to some of our laws that we take from England. You have private property, and people don't have a right to trespass. However, if there's a creditor who has a security interest in whatever property you have and you're behind on your payment or whatever, they have the right to come on the property and repossess without being a trespasser, as long as they do not breach the piece.

Yeah. There's a whole industry of shows made about the repossession. The repo man. Yeah. So how's the dishwashing liquid getting involved here with the repo?

Well, the family had been told that they had another month to make the payment, and instead the creditor sign this out to repo. I remember deposing the repo man, and he said, I have a rope and an attitude and that's how he went about his work. But they used the dishwashing liquid to quietly come in the night and to not damage the car so they could pull it out, even though it was a front wheel drive and take off. But that, in addition to being negligent, was a breach of the peace. Those laws that allow the self-help repossession say that you cannot do anything which would be considered breach of the piece, like open a gate or break anything or change anything that's there. And in this instance, they did by putting the dishwashing liquid there. And we tried that case. My former law partner, who's now a judge, Mike Windham, and I tried it back in 2000. And anyhow, we got a verdict. And I always remember that case because the headline of the paper the next day read, Jury Sticks Repo Company. And so that case was appealed up to the Supreme Court, and there was an opinion in our favor on it. And there were some other cases that I had involving self-help repossession. There was another Alabama Supreme Court opinion on that issue, but unfortunately, all of the creditors went to arbitration agreements. And so that included the repo man. And no longer are those cases something that a jury would get to hear, which is the best place for them.

And that's one of the signs, I'm sure, that, you know, a case has made its mark whenever it's important enough that it makes it to either the state Supreme Court or the ultimate National Supreme Court, the US Supreme Court. And this started just with what appeared to just be a personal injury case.

Yeah, that's right. And ultimately, the repo company paid, but the finance company felt like they shouldn't have to pay. And that ruling was reversed. They were held to be liable for it as well. And that was why the case was appealed to the Supreme Court in that instance. There's often a disagreement about the law, and we have a good Supreme Court. And what they do is they make it clear for future generations about what the law is in certain instances, if it's not clear already.

So since we've been talking over the last few months, when you come in or when Bryan Comer comes in and we talk about all these different cases you've worked over the years, which, like you said, you've worked so many of them and have won so many of them, it would take a long time to get through them all. But I think some people kind of misunderstand or are unclear the span of things that could be considered when you're talking about personal injury cases, I won't say wide open, but there's been some that are ridiculous all the way to somewhere. I have a family member who I felt should have gone after one of these personal injury cases, and they didn't. I don't know if it's a pride thing or what, or they thought they'd lose the case. I'm not sure what they thought it was, but kind of when you have a personal injury, talk about that and how many things that can encompass.

Yeah, often there'll be an injury and people sometimes it's their first thought, like, oh, it was my fault, and sometimes it is. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes it is exactly your fault. But when there's an injury from a product, I recently had something a pressurized vessel that came off and hit somebody in the face, and it turns out that there were problems with the design of that product. It could be a product's liability case. Another interesting thing is we get now into the spring and people out in the waterways and things like that. There are injuries out there in the water. And we just recently had a case that we filed where somebody was injured. Both he and his young daughter were run over by jet ski and that involves the ancient law of Admiralty and maritime law. The courts in the United States Supreme Court have said that. The federal appeals courts have said this, that a jet ski is a vessel, and if it's on navigable water instead of an inland Lake or waterway, the federal law, the common law about the maritime injury and accidents going way back to England is what applies. Well, we handle a lot of those type cases as well.

So if someone does have a case, they think maybe rises to a personal injury case or another kind of case you've worked, or they just want to see if they have a shot, they can call you at Tobias and Comer law, right?

Exactly. Call us anytime. Our number is 251-432-5001. I have been at the Dauphin Street address in the old house there goes back to 1852, but I've been there 26 years, and I'll be there for another number of years as well, along with my partner Bryan Comer. And those consultations are free. If someone wants to give a call there, they can call us, and that's free or come in, and that's free as well. Until we recover for a client, we have no fees.

And also, your website isn't just a place where you throw the phone number and address up. There are all kinds of really fantastic information on there that I talk about actually, pretty often here on Mobile mornings. And that's Desi, again, I really appreciate you coming in and always enjoy when you tell us some of these old war stories, as you could say.

Well, I love to tell them and thank you, Dalton. Glad to see you again.

All right, Desi Tobias with the personal injury law firm Tobias and Comer Law, and that does it for Mobile mornings.

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