In the 2006 issue of Georgia Super Lawyers magazine magazine, we profiled Don C. Keenan, a Personal Injury-Plaintiff attorney with The Keenan Law Firm in Atlanta. Keenan, a past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates, and author of the book “365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe,” specializes in child injury and wrongful death cases.
He suffered through his own personal tragedies when he was young:
His father was killed in a boiler explosion at the plant where he worked when Keenan was just a year old. Though his father — and his supervisor — had asked that the boiler be fixed, the plant ignored their requests. “There was no such thing as a lawsuit for negligence,” he says. “Just, ‘Here’s $1,000 in death benefits, and see you later.'” His mother moved in with his grandfather, who became Keenan’s hero and role model, and who encouraged him to go to law school. When Keenan was 19, his grandfather went to the doctor several times complaining of chest pains, but was sent home. The night after his last visit to the doctor, he died of a heart attack. Keenan keeps photos of both his father and his grandfather on the table in his office.
But he doesn’t rely on his personal history when it comes to his clients’ cases:
One of Keenan’s more unusual practices is to live with his clients before trial. He does so, he says, to truly connect with them — and to know how to convey to a jury the emotional devastation caused by a child’s death or injury. “There’s something about sitting at the breakfast room table with a bathrobe on that plugs you into the chemistry of that family,” he says. “Pretty soon it’s not ‘Mr. Keenan’ anymore.”
He also insists on visiting a child’s gravesite. He recalls one West Virginia mother whose 5-year-old had died; when Keenan wanted to visit the gravesite, she was reluctant to let him go. He prevailed. At the cemetery, alone, Keenan spied something beneath the snow; as he brushed away the powder, he discovered wrapped Christmas presents. “I just sat down on the ground,” he remembers. “Something made me keep brushing the snow aside, until I got to the second layer, the presents from the Christmas before. All the wrapping paper was gone; there were just the presents and a bow.”
He put some of the gifts in his bag and returned to the mother’s house, where she was waiting, embarrassed. Keenan reassured her that he thought more of her, not less, knowing that she’d left the presents for her child. “I didn’t talk another word of it,” he says, but when the mother was on the witness stand, Keenan took the presents out of his bag and asked her to talk about what her child meant to her. “I don’t know if it was 20 minutes or 40 minutes, but I didn’t ask another question,” he says. “Not one word of what she said did we go over, not one word had I recommended. That’s why I live with my clients. When it comes time for trial, I’ve been in the home and I’ve seen it.”
The hospital agreed to settle the morning after the mother testified.
The full article can be read here.