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    In this episode of Settlement Nation we sit down with Olivier Taillieu, a partner of The Dominguez Firm and a distinguished and respected trial attorney. 

    He has tried and won multiple jury trials in his outstanding career, and has recovered tens of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for his clients, including a $29,000,000 verdict in a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) case involving a pedestrian. We discuss his expertise in this area, the factors he considers when choosing cases and why doing the work always wins.

    Courtney Barber:

    Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Settlement Nation. I am Courtney Barber, and I'm joined by my co-host again, Chris Bua, as well as our very special guest for this episode, Olivier Taillieu. Now, Olivier is a partner and the chief trial attorney at The Dominguez Firm with an extensive resume of jury trials in his career, recovering tens of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for his clients. Olivier has been nominated for CAALA's Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in 2017, '18 and '19, and is a distinguished speaker and expert on TBI cases, which we are going to cover today as well. So welcome, Olivier.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Well, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

    Courtney Barber:

    Absolutely. So we're going to jump straight into it. I did spend some time looking at your bio, and you do have such a huge list of verdicts and settlements under your name. As the chief trial attorney at The Dominguez Firm, how do you decide what cases you're going to accept or not?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Well, we have a pretty extensive intake process. And the firm itself probably has, at any given time, anywhere between 2,500 and 3,000 cases. I handle almost exclusively catastrophic injury cases, whether it's TBI, wrongful death, or major orthopedic type injuries. So cases that come my way we know are going to require a significant amount of time, investment, money. And so we dig deep, and we dig deep fairly early on in assessing both the severity of the injuries, but also the potential recourse for our clients.

    Chris Bua:

    So Olivier, as we mentioned, the traumatic brain injury cases are definitely a focus of you and your firm. What led you to focus so much on those types of cases?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    A little bit of it was chance. I switched practice in late 2014. I was a commercial litigator for most of my career working... First clerking and then at a large firm, and then I had my own firm for the better part of 10 years. And in late 2014, I had sort of an awakening, made a decision to completely switch and moved over to personal injury. So when I started, beggars can't be choosers, in a sense, and I began just trying cases. And my pitch, if you will, at the time was, "Any case, anywhere, anytime." And I started trying a pretty large number of cases in a fairly short period of time.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And I was introduced to The Dominguez Firm through a very good friend of mine, Paul Zuckerman, who's Nick Rowley's partner over at CZR, and began working on some of their cases. And one of the cases that was given to me fairly early on, a case that nobody really knew what to do with, was a mild TBI case. And that's when my interest and sort of my practice in that field began, in learning about what a TBI was, how to work up a TBI case, how to try a TBI case, and ultimately how to get a verdict and collect on that. And so it was a very, very informative process through that case. I learned a lot about the injuries, learned a lot about the type of experts that are involved, worked and got a lot of help from a lot of lawyers as to how to properly work on these types of cases and ultimately try them.

    Chris Bua:

    Yeah, I was going to ask you that. So as a trial lawyer, how much do you need to know about how the brain functions versus how much do you rely on the experts that you're retaining?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Look, I think any time that you're going to do something and expect credibility from your audience, and whether it's a panel, whether it's a jury, whether it's whomever, I think it's incumbent upon you to learn as much as you can about the subject matter, because you're going to go in front of a group of people, and you're going to have to present facts in a case relating to a specific issue. And you have to speak from a position of authority.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    My sort of philosophy in trial, but also in life, is if you're going to do something, do it all the way. Learn everything there is to learn about it. And so I began to read a lot about the brain, learned about the different injuries to the brain, how they affect people's lives. I mean, I went to basic sort of neurology. I went to basic neurology school essentially to start reading medical treatises, medical books on the brain, on the effects of the brain, on the effects of injury to the brain, and met for countless hours with the experts that were involved in the case to learn about all of that. So it was a crash course in the brain, and it's really the only way I can put it.

    Courtney Barber:

    Olivier, with... I've looked at some of your videos, and you seem like a very confident person, and obviously, you would need to be to have so many trials under your belt. But what do you think are some of your greatest strengths, and how have they helped you as an attorney?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    I have a saying, is that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. So I think that obviously there's an innate... There are innate advantages, or I should say innate characteristics that can help somebody be a good trial lawyer. But I think ultimately it comes down to the work, and ultimately it comes down to the level of preparation, the attention to detail, and the knowledge of the subject matter that you're going to present, and also the techniques that you're going to use to present them. So I think, if anything, it's just work harder, learn more, be more involved, be more engaged in what it is that you're doing. And I think ultimately, success follows on that.

    Chris Bua:

    A lot of the attorneys that we speak with, they usually always have a mentor that helped them kind of go up the ladder and learn everything that they need to know as a great trial attorney. So who was your mentor, and then how have you kind of paid it forward, and how have you mentored other attorneys?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I had a... I was lucky early on. I came out of law school and clerked on the federal district court here in Los Angeles and also in the Ninth Circuit. And I clerked for two judges who were outstanding jurists. One was Judge Lourdes Baird in the district court, and the other one was Judge A. Wallace Tashima on the Ninth Circuit. And what I learned... And I don't know that this is necessarily for trial purposes, but what I learned from these experiences is that both of these judges had a great sense of respect and civility towards people who didn't agree with them. And it really taught me that, as a lawyer, you can disagree with somebody without there being animosity. Or you can disagree with somebody, but still remain civil and respect the other person's opinions.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And I think as I moved on to my career, I've obviously had other mentors. And being that I've sort of switched practice areas halfway through my career, it's given me the opportunity to see a lot of different types of lawyers at play. But really, sort of the baseline started there. As I moved into the personal injury field, a lot of people have helped me. I mean, I have had countless conversations with people like Eric Dordick, Nick Rowley, Arash Homampour, Steve Vartazarian, and a lot of the other members of CAALA that have helped me sort of become a better lawyer.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And as the years have gone on, sort of my way of paying it back is to provide complete access, whether it's through email, telephone calls, webinars, Zoom meetings, to anyone who really has a question about any of the issues that come up in their cases. So I've been pretty active in the listserv, which is a message board here that CAALA runs, answering questions and providing insight into some of the cases that people have.

    Courtney Barber:

    And it is a small world because we just had Arash on Settlement Nation yesterday, so your episodes will be coming out close to each other. But this is another great way that we find that attorneys get a lot of insight and advice from the guests that we have, when we speak about their verdicts and settlements. So I wanted to chat with you about possibly two cases that you've had. They might not be your biggest multi-million-dollar verdicts, but starting with one that really sticks in your mind as a memorable case, maybe how it came to you, how you worked it up, and then the outcome of that.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Yeah, sure. So the case that I was talking about earlier is one that obviously meant a lot to me for a lot of different reasons. So I had recently joined forces with The Dominguez Firm and was essentially given a case that nobody really knew what to do with. And this involved a 16-year-old kid who had been struck crossing the street by an oncoming vehicle. And on presentation sort of early on, none of the ER records or the EMT records necessarily indicated that significant of an injury. And what we had seen is we had seen that there had been an impact to the head. We had seen that there was some prolonged sort of deficits that he was experiencing, but very little objective evidence of any type of permanent brain trauma.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    So the case was sort of handed to me. I think the top offer from the defense at that point had been somewhere around like $15,000. But like I do in every case, I met with the client. I met with the family of the client. I met with the friends of the client, and started really getting a picture of what was going on in that kid's life. And what became apparent to me was that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury that had been largely misdiagnosed. And it had been misdiagnosed primarily because of his lack of access to medical care. Unfortunately, he did not have the type of resources that one would necessarily need in order to really identify these types of injuries.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    So we had him evaluated by a neurologist, performed some testing, some 3T MRI testings, which indicated some brain lesions, and then ultimately worked the case up and brought the case to trial. And what was really interesting for me, at least from a personal standpoint in that case, was that this was one of the first cases that I was working with with The Dominguez Firm. So it came at a time in my life where there were a lot of stresses, right?

    Olivier Taillieu:

    I had recently switched practices. I was brought on to deal with this case. By the time we got to trial, I mean, we had invested more into this case than any other case The Dominguez Firm had invested in before. So there was a lot of internal pressures from the firm. There was a lot of internal pressure from myself because obviously I wanted to do well, but also there was a lot of insecurity associated with it because I'd never tried a traumatic brain injury case before. I'd never worked up a traumatic brain injury case before. And so going into trial with both that external and internal pressure made for a very dramatic moment.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And having had... I think by the time we tried the case, I had been in the personal injury field for about a year, and it was still sort of... There's a financial impact, obviously, associated with completely switching over your practice. I essentially had been relying on savings and litigation funding for a lot of things. So there was this internal pressure from myself, external pressure from all the outside forces, but there was obviously a financial component to it. So a lot of it went into the case.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    I think before trial, the best offer we got from the defense was about $150,000, which obviously is very little for a mild traumatic brain injury case. We ultimately tried the case. I've got to say everything went right. A lot of times, things don't go your way. A lot of times, things do. In that case, most things went our way. Some were by chance. Some were by design, and ultimately ended up with a $29 million verdict on the case. I cried when the jury read the verdict. I was bawling. I was bawling, because it's funny... I don't know. For me, this was sort of a time in my life where even though I knew deep down that this is something that was possible, I certainly didn't expect it, and I certainly didn't expect it so early in this aspect of my career.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And the jury came back, and they started reading the number. And the clerk initially made a mistake because we had asked for something like 14 or 15, I forget, 14 or $15 million in economic damages. The jury ultimately awarded somewhere around $12 million in economic damages. But the clerk read it; it was like 1.2 million. And then she goes, "Oh wait, no. $12 million."

    Chris Bua:

    Oh, wow!

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And like I said, I mean, I was crying like a little baby, to the point where the client, who was sitting next to me, leans over and says, "Did we lose?" I went, "No. No, we didn't. We won." I mean, look, for me, this was... There's no question that this was a pivotal point in my career. I mean, there's sort of everything I did before this case and everything I've done since. And it's really marked a big milepost in my career and sort of a very... It put me on the map and created a lot of opportunities for me in the future.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    So that was a cool one, and it's a cool story. And the client was obviously very happy that the case proceeded and we ultimately ended up resolving the case. What makes the story even sweeter is this was on a half-a-million-dollar policy that had been opened as a result of our demands. And so we got the carrier to pay a lot of money out of their own pocket. It's always sweeter.

    Chris Bua:

    Well, I'm glad they got that decimal place right.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Yeah, no, I know. I was like... Well, look, and here's the irony. I mean, before the trial, if they had offered anywhere near seven figures, I think we would have taken it.

    Chris Bua:

    Wow!

    Olivier Taillieu:

    It just shows you what you don't know. And I think one of the lessons is have faith in yourself and have faith in your beliefs. And if you think... The plaintiff's attorney is always in a better position, I think, to value and evaluate the strength of a case because we have better information. We know everything there is to be known about our claims. We may not know about the defenses, but we know our client. We know the story. We know the truth. And so believe in your truth. Don't delude yourself, but believe in your truth.

    Chris Bua:

    So switching gears a little bit, I'm always fascinated by what really successful people pour themselves into outside of whatever they do. And I know in researching you, you have a passion and love for cycling and skiing. So I was hoping you could speak a little bit about that and how that helps you as a human and then how it helps you as an attorney being able to have passions like that.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Yeah, sure. So I got into cycling a little bit later in life. Well, not that much later, but I mean, I was in my 30s. And the thing that I love about it is it's a... Obviously, you compete, and I've competed in amateur races, what they call masters, which means 35 or older. But at its core, cycling is the competition within yourself. And it's really mind over matter because you never truly know what you're capable of until and unless you push yourself to those limits.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And the best way that I can... The best story that I have to really demonstrate that is I took a guided tour. Well, they call it a guided tour, but essentially, you go to the Alps for a week with a group of people. And I think the total amount of mileage was like 650 miles in six days, over which you do about 60,000 feet of climbing. And on the fifth day, they have this ride, this famous ride in France called [foreign language 00:19:33]. By the way, I'm originally from France. And this is a... It's a full-day ride. You go over five peaks in the Alps. It's a total of about 15,000 feet of climbing. And it's really sort of the pinnacle of the trip. And that's the ride that I really trained for.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    And by then, you've already done something like 40,000 feet of climbing, so you've got some heavy legs. And when we got to that day, the organizers of the tour sort of give us an option. Like, "We can drive you over the first peak and then you can start there, or you can start from here and do the full thing." And there's only about three of us who decided to do it from the beginning. And having trained for it, I was sort of determined to do it. Now, I will tell you, it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

    Courtney Barber:

    I really take my hat off to you because you run a very successful legal practice and you have time to do these extreme cycling events, so it definitely puts the rest of us to shame. We're getting to the end of our interview now, Olivier. So I have one last question for you, which is about imparting some words of wisdom to our listeners. It could be anything to do with confidence in the courtroom, how to get better verdicts, or just how to relate to the jury. I'm sure you have some great insight that you could share. So a few little tips to finish this off would be fantastic.

    Olivier Taillieu:

    Look, I think part of what makes people good trial lawyers is a diversity of experiences, is understanding that life doesn't happen in an office. And if you want to be able to relate to people, if you want to be able to talk to people, whether it's in the jury box or any other situations, to broaden your life's experiences as much as possible. Engage in conversation with as many people as you can, people who have the same opinions as you, people who don't have the same opinions as you, because ultimately part of being a good trial lawyer is... One of the big aspects of trial is jury selection, is the ability to engage in conversations with people that you don't know and determine very quickly whether you think these people can help your case or not help your case. And so I think to broaden your experiences and be a student of people, be a student of life, and engage in as many activities, as many different types of people out there in the world, I think will benefit you.

    Courtney Barber:

    Well, thank you so much, Olivier, for this interview. I think it's one of our best, and it was truly a pleasure to have you on Settlement Nation. For all of our listeners, if you love our podcast, make sure you interact with us. Send us messages. Give us guest advice, recommendations, and also like, subscribe, and comment on your favorite episodes. We can't wait to share with you the rest of the episodes we have coming this year, and we look forward to sharing Settlement Nation with you.

     

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