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Pro Bono, Bilingual Legal Counsel For Separated Immigrant Families

"Two months ago, border authorities began to jail undocumented immigrants charged with crossing the border illegally, a sharp change from previous administrations' policy of releasing such accused misdemeanor offenders until their deportations could be handled administratively. Because children can't stay with a jailed parent, thousands were transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Many of these detainees are asylum seekers."

If you know of a family or child being detained, please contact Wayne Powell with more information. Mr. Powell along with a network of Immigration lawyers in Virginia are working diligently to provide pro bono, bilingual legal counsel to reunite these children with their families, and help all involved understand their rights.

Having built a multicultural legal practice for both English and Spanish speakers in need of justice, the horror of today's border situation strikes me at my core as an attorney, a father, and a grandfather. With background in helping both documented and undocumented workers manage complicated personal injury and workers' compensation scenarios for three decades, I'm confident that I have the experience necessary to help these parents obtain due process in our asylum system and safely reunite with their children. There is no place for prejudice in the justice system.

Whether you need to be reconnected with family members victim of this current situation or you're suffering an injury that is also unjust, English or Spanish speaking alike, contact Powell Law Group today to see how we can help you. From on the job accidents to defective product and auto accidents, our track record for three decades stands strong for the people we fight for. 

Wpowell@ewplg.com
(804) 794.4030

Please share this post to reach as many people as possible, and help us find the children and parents who need representation. We want to help. 
-Wayne Powell & The staff of the Powell Law Group

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621065383/what-we-know-family-separation-and-zero-tolerance-at-the-border

You can also share a similar article I posted on LinkedIn, if it is a social channel you use.

5 Trial Tips I Learned from my Years as a Deputy Commissioner at the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission
 Wayne Powell

Wayne Powell

I spent from March 1985 until March of 1991 as a Deputy Commissioner of the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission (VWCC).  I was selected for this judicial post by the three commissioners of the VWCC who were elected by the legislature of Virginia. I left the Commission in 1991 to pursue opportunities in the private sector.  

1. Objectivity

Before my appointment to the VWCC, I had been practicing for approximately five years, three years of which as an Assistant Attorney General. During that time, I was fortunate to learn from a series of challenging trials in state and federal courts.  As an advocate for state defendants, I would become so focused on my clients’ side of the case, that I would fail to adequately consider for the weaknesses that created in my own case. This affected my perspective on the case which sometimes created obstacles for me at trial. As a Deputy Commissioner, I was required to approach every worker’s compensation case objectively without any sort of bias. I had to remain open to consider the evidence from both sides of every claim. This included weighing the evidence and considering the credibility of the testimony as well as the arguments of opposing lawyers in order to give a fair hearing to the litigants. During my time as a Deputy Commissioner, I attended the National Judicial College in Nevada where I took courses to further develop my skills in areas such as judicial writing. This helped me better express my objective reasoning in deciding cases. By opening my mind to both the claimant and defense perspectives, the cases were much easier to resolve. It also became easier to evaluate all the documentation submitted as evidence in each case as well as the oral testimony. I would say that applying objectivity as a judge for six years is a skill that I have carried from the VWCC.  In fact, in my subsequent practice as a defense lawyer and as a plaintiff lawyer, it was easier to place myself in the position of either party in order to better my case. Objectivity is a valuable asset for any trial lawyer in order to more adequately represent his or her client.

2. Thoroughness

During my five years of trial experience before beginning work as a Deputy Commissioner at the VWCC, I had several paralegals and secretaries assigned to assist me in preparing for depositions, motions practice, and trial. At the Commission I had one secretary and was also assigned a bailiff to drive to jurisdictions. and I was expected to issue my opinion where I presided in my circuit within eight weeks of the hearing date. On average, I presided over cases for several days in different jurisdictions, so there was a limited time within which to prepare and formulate my opinion. My territory spanned from Richmond, Fredericksburg, Winchester, on to Harrisburg, Staunton, Charlottesville, and sometimes to Clifton Forge. Essentially, I was on the bench 11 days of a 20-workday month. This required that I needed to be very thorough in how I ruled on evidentiary issues at the hearings, and I needed to be thorough in reviewing all the records submitted by both sides. After a hearing, I would have to review the medical reports submitted by both sides in the hearing and I would have to consider opinions rendered by the opposing doctors and healthcare practitioners as well as the doctor’s treatment notes taken in the emergency room.

I developed a technique to preserve the significant evidence presented at the hearings. While everything that I had heard was fresh I dictated a summary of the evidence presented at the hearing and some of the conclusions that were reached. This included a summary of the medical documents cited in the hearing as well as a summary of the various testimonies of the witnesses. If the issue was straightforward and easily resolvable by this summary, then I'd sometimes sketch my findings, but they were always subject to my review. If the cases were complex, I would review a typed transcript of the testimony that I "recalled" after the hearing. In the late 1980s and early 1990s when I served at the Commission, it was not routine to request a transcript of the hearing, although all hearings were on the record. So, requesting a transcript was unusual, hence the taking of thorough and copious notes was essential as a Deputy Commissioner. 

3. Respect

Since I began practicing law in 1980, I have consistently felt that respecting your opponents, their counsel, and the presiding judicial officer, as well as the process itself, was essential to obtain justice. My experience at the VWCC confirmed my belief in the basic need for respect for the process, the rule of law, and the judicial system. As a Deputy Commissioner, regardless of how a lawyer acted, I never engaged in emotional exchanges with lawyers, parties, or witnesses, or in any other behavior which might express my dissatisfaction in the conduct of a lawyer or witness. I maintained a calm and professional demeanor, regardless of what my ruling might be for any particular motion or for any litigant while in court. In a trial context, there is a certain solemnity and a natural tendency for restraint and respect. However, in my experience, as a judge, one realizes that both sides are looking at the person who is supposed to be making independent judgments based on the facts and evidence without emotion in the case. That respect for not only the litigants, their representatives, and the process, is something that has reinforced my prior belief and has helped me maintain a high level of dedication to the rule of law and the respect that I have for other lawyers. With few exceptions, I found the respect to be reciprocal. 

4. Professionalism

Professionalism is the foundation of any career. My prior experience as a military officer before going to law school prepared me for the type of conduct which I felt was appropriate in my legal career; this was further buttressed by my experience as a judicial officer. The professionalism of a judge has to permeate the court and the location where the hearing is held. The judge must establish that atmosphere of professionalism that inspires not only fellow deputy judges to act professionally themselves, but the attorneys, parties, and the witnesses.  This is based on the solemnity of the occasion when parties are in court, and the way in which the litigants are expected to act when they are present. In the now 38 years I have been practicing, I have noticed in recent years a lack of professionalism on the part of some of the younger members of the bar. Perhaps my view of this is the result of my own experience in the military. Regardless of the reason, my experience led me to conclude that professionalism is essential to exhibit not only to the judge when you're in court, but the lawyers, witnesses, and other litigants when you're out of court as well. It has often been said that a person’s ethics can be judged by how one conducts himself when no one is looking. I've always remembered that adage, and I've always tried to act that way whether I was in court or simply on a telephone call with an opposing counsel. Professionalism will permit a more objective consideration of all the evidence adduced at the hearing over which I presided. 

It is essential that all participants show themselves to be professional at all times in the litigation process. 

5. Curiosity and Creativity

Creativity is closely aligned with curiosity. In my profession, one has to be curious about the law and take a creative approach to obtain justice. Curiosity and creativity are essential to properly consider how the facts lend themselves to interpretation by certain precedent, and how they fit into a legal context.  One of the things that I was always fascinated by as a Deputy Commissioner was the fact that every case that you thought had a certain fact pattern which would fit in a certain case precedent, did not always fit in that precedent.  In fact, there are always unique aspects of every case -- either by medical report, or by a factual anomaly that would make the case not fit into one category, but perhaps fit in another category.  In order to determine which category a case would fall into, it would take research skills, and it would take thinking of or defining the issues such that you could look up other precedents, which might change the way you viewed a certain case or a certain fact pattern.  Because of curiosity and the creativity that comes with it, frequently when I was faced with a certain fact pattern that appeared to fall into a certain category of cases, but by the time I considered all the facts, medical records, and the law, I came up with a different decision than I started out with.  This frequently happens in appellate cases as well. I participated by designation in a few appeals at the WCC when a Commissioner was unavailable, and I have been in various continuing legal education seminars in which the appellate judges frequently will talk about how a case comes in and appears to fall into a certain category, but after due consideration, the disposition of the case changes. I also have found that in the many appeals I’ve filed anticipation of adverse ruling have helped preserve unlikely issues at final that we effective in everything adverse rulings below on appeal. 

Curiosity and creativity apply in active practice. I have engaged in cases which other lawyers have refused to take on. In one case, I received more than $1M in settlement brought about by an inexplicable exploding multi-part wheel of a commercial vehicle. My curiosity led me to research multi-part wheels developed for commercial vehicles. The average driver is only familiar with the one-piece wheels on their vehicle. As it turned out in that case, not only did I find out that there were multi-part wheels still in the market from the early 20th century, but I was able to find a lawyer who won a settlement when an identical wheel exploded in a similar accident in Tennessee.  He gave me the name of the experts I needed in order to develop a large liability case while representing my brain-injured client in the claim related to the defective multi-part wheel which exploded under high pressure.  In that case, curiosity was a very valuable asset, to the client and his family, but also to my legal expertise and my firm. I opened a new specialty area in my current firm and I continue to win cases such as these based on the skills that I have developed from years of applying curiosity and creativity to problems or obstacles that come up in cases.  

The Long Road to Justice
Heavy Machinery

In late April of 2014, a man was riding on a large construction vehicle on the farm owned by his employer.  He was working on a Saturday, which was not his normal workday. This weekend workday became an issue after he suffered a catastrophic accident, which left him a quadriplegic. Not only were the facts which led to the injury contested by the employer, the nature of the work the client was doing also became an issue.  If he was working for the employer when his injury occurred, then he would be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, but if he was working for his own benefit, then this would be a basis for denying benefits. If he was in fact working for their mutual benefit, then it would be a compensable accident. At the hearing level, the Deputy Commissioner found that he was working for his own benefit, and also that he failed to prove how his injury occurred, since his back was turned to the large boom that he claimed was lowered onto his head.

In addition to the assistance of an expert mechanical engineer at the evidentiary hearing, Mr. Powell successfully developed the facts at the hearing that showed that the client was moving his personal items so that his employer could sell the land on which a trailer he rented to the client was located.   The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the Deputy Commissioner when it found that the circumstances were such that the client was working for the mutual benefit of himself and his employer.   The Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the Full Commission’s decision.  Further, the Commission and Court of Appeals found that the employer's testimony that the boom on the heavy construction machine did not lower therefore crushing the client’s neck, was not credible. The mechanical engineer who had testified on behalf of the client stated unequivocally that the accident had to have been caused by the boom being lowered on the client’s head as he was getting up to get off the machine. In this case, the retention of an expert engineer was crucial in finding the employer’s testimony not credible.

The client was awarded back compensation for the almost 4 years of his incapacity and medical benefits for life.  These benefits together have been estimated by experts to be valued between $8 million and $18 million dollars. After almost four years of litigation, the options at this point for an individual such as the client are the following: 

  1. To try to remain in the US in order to attempt to seek treatment by obtaining a hardship VISA.

  2. To remain where he was hospitalized or to be moved to long-term care, without the benefit of rehabilitation.

  3. To be rehabilitated, preferably in his home country, in a specialized hospital where he could receive the same level of care as he would receive in the US. Also, he would be in a location where he would have access to his family who could assist in his rehabilitation and repatriation.

Mr. Powell chose option three (3).  He had been serving as the client’s attorney, guardian and conservator for the client since shortly after he was retained, and felt this would be the best option and would enable the client to be able to improve his condition the most for his well-being.  Over the past 19 years, Mr. Powell and  Powell Law Group have handled several of these multifaceted cases involving foreign workers who have suffered catastrophic injuries while working in the United States. Regardless of immigration status, often it is wise to consider assisting these severely injured workers to return to their home countries to live out their days close to their families.

Fortunately, given the experience from past cases, Mr. Powell and his firm have developed relationships with a group of Life Care Planning experts, as well as governmental and medical contacts, particularly with foreign consuls and embassies, and healthcare providers in other countries, particularly from Mexico, Central and South America.

Once the client decided to return to his native country, the firm arranged for his transportation through these contacts with transportation companies, which provide door to door as well as air service, he will become one of a half dozen other clients who have benefitted from the expertise and contacts of Mr. Powell and Powell Law Group.   He is expected to be transported with his new electric wheelchair, to a special accredited rehabilitation hospital in Mexico in the coming weeks, where he will be treated by healthcare providers in Mexico. 

Further, as he has done in other cases previously, Mr. Powell will travel to Mexico to ensure that the client has been placed in a facility properly managed to fit his needs, as he will be cared for there for a period and will ultimately live in a specially designed house close to medical care to live the remainder of his life with access to his family.

The challenges of repatriation are significant and require specialized experience. Working together, Mr. Powell and the Powell Law Group workers’ compensation team accomplish what others might view as too challenging to undertake.  With the expertise described above at his fingertips, Mr. Powell has also succeeded in fashioning a unique full and final settlement in this case which should fulfill the client’s special needs for the rest of his life. The work on behalf of the client will not end when the settlement papers are signed, since there is continuing concern for hiring the appropriate caregivers in Mexico to provide continuing care for the remainder of his life.  This will again be set up with the assistance of Mr. Powell and his law firm and also with the help of retained experts in Mexico. Certainly, this is not an easy process to follow, however experience and success in doing this mean everything to a catastrophically injured worker and his family. 

General Negligence: Estate Administrator's Negligence Against A Widow
General Negligence | Insuarnce Money Mismanaged By Estate Administrator | Wayne Powell | Powell Law Group | Richmond VA.jpg

 

 In 2015, attorney Wayne Powell filed a lawsuit against the administrator of an estate who had been qualified to distribute the estate of her deceased brother-in-law. The brother-in-law had died as a commercial seaman and left only a surviving spouse as his beneficiary. The sister-in-law became the administrator of the estate, as the widow lived out of the U.S.  Pursuant to Virginia law, the spouse was the only person entitled to the proceeds of his estate, since he died without a will. 

After the accidental drowning, an insurance company issued a check for $300,000.00, which the administrator deposited into the estate account. The administrator failed to report the proceeds to the Commissioner of Accounts and never paid any of the proceeds to the widow.  When the widow learned about this, she consulted with Powell Law Group, and Mr. Powell was retained to represent her. 

Mr. Powell filed a lawsuit against the administrator for failing to disclose where and how the money had been spent. The court entered a summary judgment for $300,000.00 against the administrator for the entire amount of the insurance proceeds based on her failure to do what she should have done as administrator.  This is an example of a favorable result as the result of the administrator’s negligence committed against the widow.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an unlawful estate or trust administration process, attorney Wayne Powell can help you get justice. Contact Powell Law Group today for a free consultation. 

Personal Injury Laws

Personal injury claims arise from the “common law.” The common law develops through history by traditions rather than legislation.

The basic doctrine is that individuals who live in a civilized society have a duty to act reasonably toward one another so as not to cause injury, whether physical or damage to property.

When there is a question about whether there has been a breach of the duty of one person (tort-feasor) to act reasonably to a victim (injured party) by act or omission, a jury (trier of fact) can be called to determine if there has been a violation and, if so, the jury will be instructed by the judge about how to determine liability, and the jury will determine resulting damages, if any. Sometimes the victim may want the judge to be the trier of fact.

We think that learning how state laws and national laws impact a case can help our clients understand the steps we at Powell Law Group take to make sure our clients get the best possible legal representation.  If you think you have a Personal Injury case, call us today for a FREE legal consultation.  (804) 794.4030

Auto Accidents | Truck Accidents | Premises Injuries | Product Liabilities

Personal Injury: $2,800,000

In 2015, attorney Wayne Powell was the trial lawyer for a tragic case where a tractor trailer collided with a private automobile resulted in the tragic death of a Virginia resident and large car pile up with multiple injuries. The accident occurred close to a construction area where the careless truck driver failed to apply brakes and yield to traffic that had the right of way.  Ultimately, the truck driver did not move over to another lane in sufficient time to avoid the collision with the client and other cars on an interstate highway.

 

Workers' Compensation: $854,000

In 2014 attorney Wayne Powell was able to resolve a claim regarding a client who fell three stories from a manufacturing machine at the factory where he worked, causing him permanent brain damage which required continuing care for him.

SIGNIFICANCE:  This is another case where Mr. Powell and the firm arranged for a lump sum and annuity payments for 20 years which included repatriation by the client to his home country and arrangements made by Mr. Powell  through the client’s embassy to receive adequate housing and continuing treatment upon repatriation.

Workers' Compensation: $940,000
Personal Injury | Fall from Roof

In 2013, attorney Wayne Powell resolved a workers' compensation claim in which the client fell two stories from a roof, suffering a serious brain and spinal injury, which caused hemiplegia. The settlement amount combined a lump sum payment and annuity payment to the client and his family, which would pay his cost for treatment and living expenses for 20 years.  

SIGNIFICANCE:  The calculation of the settlement was based on the cost of living in the client’s home country.  Resolution of this case is significant, since Mr. Powell arranged for the client to be able to return to his home country, through the client’s country’s embassy.  In addition, the Powell Law Group was able to assist in obtaining a suitable retrofit of his house in his home country before repatriation, and also resulted in the appointment of a guardian and conservator to assist in the client’s repatriation.

 

Personal Injury: $2,550,000
Personal Injury | Toxic Fumes

In 2012, attorney Wayne Powell successfully settled cases for several clients who were office workers exposed to the inhalation of toxic fumes which infiltrated below a roof replacement site above their offices.  The inhalation caused various degrees of brain damage in six employees of the business where the roof replacement was taking place.  

Personal Injury: $4,500,000
Personal Injury | Gang Attack

In 2009, attorney Wayne Powell successfully tried a negligence case in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia in conjunction with attorney Patrick Regan.  They were successful in receiving a jury verdict in favor of the client, a patron of a Washington night club.  The plaintiff suffered brain damaged after he was assaulted by a criminal gang outside a club in Washington, DC while there was no security stationed outside to protect the patron as he was leaving.

Significance:  As in Virginia, Washington, DC, does not normally allow a cause of action against a premises owner for injury received by a patron outside of the premises.  In this case, the evidence showed that the club and premises owner normally had security stationed outside of the club since there was a high level of criminal activity outside of the club. The Court allowed evidence of this lack of security on the night of the attack in the context of criminal activity in the neighborhood of the club.   Prior to the assault on the client, there was routinely security offered by the club, both inside and outside the club, to prevent criminal activity from affecting the patrons.

Personal Injury: $1,000,000
Personal Injury | Brain Injury |

In 2006 attorney Wayne Powell successfully resolved a personal injury claim which had begun after a worker's compensation claim that arose from the plaintiff’s catastrophic brain injury which occurred at work. The case was rare in Virginia, since it arose as the result of an exploding multi-piece commercial wheel rim system designed and marketed by a major international manufacturer.   The client was changing the commercial tire when the three piece rim system exploded, causing serious brain damage,  removing part of his skull and brain, leaving him irreversibly brain damaged.  [NOTE:  The client, who was single, died before the settlement was distributed, so travel overseas was necessary to distribute the settlement funds to the client’s parents and siblings in accordance with Virginia law.]

SIGNIFICANCE:   This was one of the first cases in Virginia which resulted from the widespread manufacture of multi-piece wheel rim systems by several American and international manufacturers, which had previously resulted in successful multi-district litigation against the manufacturers.

Personal Injury Case: $200,000
Personal Injury | Murder

In 2004 attorney Wayne Powell successfully resolved a personal injury case in which our client was killed by a bounty hunter, contracted by a bonding company, which had hired him to retrieve a fugitive who had not returned to court when ordered.  The plaintiff’s decedent was falsely identified by the bounty hunter, who shot him in cold blood.  The case was brought against the bonding company for negligent hiring.  The murdered man left a widow and six children without a husband and father.

SIGNIFICANCE:  The case settled with the bonding insurer, but if it had been tried, this would have been  a case of first impression in which a bonding company might have been forced to pay a judgment to a family because of a criminal act of a third party actor.   [NOTE:  Shortly after the settlement, new statutory requirements of bounty hunter licensing in Virginia which had been enacted at about the time of the client’s husband’s death, became law.]  

Leah MuhlenfeldMurder Case