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Eric J. Hertz was so confident he should win punitive damages for a man who allegedly was struck by a car that he told jurors he would turn in his bar license if they didn’t find for his client. They didn’t. Apparently, the unorthodox wager was only for dramatic effect — Hertz said he has no intention of turning in his bar license. Hertz, of Hertz, Link & Smith in Tucker, Ga., said he makes similar wagers frequently to jurors — it’s his style. According to a court transcript of the trial, which took place several weeks ago, Hertz, the author of “Punitive Damages in Georgia,” told jurors in closing remarks he would turn in his bar license if they didn’t grant punitive damages to his client. “I’m going to tell you something about myself — and it hasn’t happened yet — and I always pull my wallet out when I do this because I mean it, as God as [sic] my witness,” Hertz said. “If y’all do not go back there — this is my Bar license (indicating) … and mark that this guy needs to be punished … I will turn my bar license in; I will quit the practice of law, and I can do that because I’ve already made a lot of wealth. … I do this now to help people,” Hertz said, according to the transcript. Clayton County State Judge Linda S. Cowen, who heard the case Oct. 14-15, said the jurors “kept poker faces” when Hertz threw his bar license on a table to emphasize he was serious. The transcript shows Hertz went on to say he would turn in his bar license if he later reads in the paper that the defendant went “back out on the road with either a gun or his car … and kills someone. … I will have that on my chest because I already told you today that I’ve been outlawyered.” The judge said Hertz’s wager surprised her because she’d never heard an attorney do that before. She added that the facts in the case were complicated. The jury didn’t find for the plaintiff’s main injury claim, and therefore didn’t address the punitive damages issue. It took the jury two hours to issue its verdict for the defendant, the judge said. PARKING LOT EPISODE The complaint said the accident involving defendant Jason Smith and plaintiff Paul Arenz occurred on Feb. 9, 2000, in a Clayton County parking lot. Arenz v. Smith, No. 01-CV-061440 (Clayton St. Dec. 19, 2001). Smith turned into the complex and lost control of his car, striking two parked cars, according to the complaint. Arenz, the owner of one of the cars, the complaint continues, heard the accident from a nearby apartment and ran after Smith, who sped off. Arenz was struck by Smith’s car and knocked to the ground as Smith left the scene, the complaint says. He sued Smith for $3,348.56 to cover medical bills, and unspecified punitive damages for personal injury, lost wages, disfigurement, mental and physical pain, and diminished earning capacity. Hertz, who worked pro bono on the punitive damages part of the case with lead counsel William A. Parker Jr., said he knew they didn’t have a strong claim for compensatory damages, but wanted to get punitive damages. The defendant has a criminal record that includes convictions for driving under the influence, reckless driving, aggravated assault and theft by taking, according to Hertz. Arenz even told the jury he wasn’t hurt by the accident, Hertz said. But if Hertz could persuade the jury to grant just $1 in compensatory damages, then, under Georgia law, the jury could consider punitives. Hertz explained that the goal of the trial was to get the defendant in court to teach him a lesson. Lead counsel Parker added that the defendant had skipped court appearances twice before this trial, so it was important that the defendant be held accountable and hear the charges against him in court. DEFENSE DISPUTES ACCOUNT The defendant’s attorney, Daniel C. Prout Jr., of Atlanta’s Harper, Waldon & Craig, successfully argued the plaintiff was not injured, Hertz said. When Smith drove from the accident scene and Arenz ran after the car, Arenz’s hand was struck by the vehicle, but he wasn’t knocked to the ground, the defense said, claiming that Arenz lost his balance and fell. Apparently, the jury believed the defense’s explanation. When the jury decided in favor of Smith, Hertz was not in the courtroom. Cowen asked Parker if his co-counsel intended to turn in his bar license. Parker said he couldn’t speak for Hertz. Hertz has said he doesn’t intend to appeal the case, and that he will not be turning in his bar license.

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