The jury was back too soon. After a weeklong trial in a personal injury case where the plaintiff had asked for millions in closing argument, jurors had deliberated only four hours before announcing they’d reached a decision.

Lawyers for both sides could smell what was coming: a defense verdict. They hustled into the hallway for last-minute settlement negotiations. On one side stood Beverly Hills plaintiffs attorney C. Michael Alder, his co-counsel and his client, a developmentally disabled man who suffered brain injuries in a fall from an ambulance. On the other was defense lawyer James Siepler of Pasadena with an insurance claims adjuster on his cellphone. Alder, the president of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, shuttled back and forth as a series of offers was made and rejected. $1 million? No. $750,000? No.

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