The Litigators – John Grisham

The Litigators is John Grisham’s 25th book and one of his best. And that’s saying quite a lot as he has lots of page turners and some real classics. The master author makes this a David vs Goliath legal novel (and coincidentally  as the lead character’s name is David) an interesting read and you will find yourself unable to put the book down as you root for the underdogs.

David Zinc leaves a high pressure job in one of the biggest law firm in Chicago and the nation having had enough of the place after 5 years. The 31 year old leaves the office building without warning one morning and heads straight to a bar where he proceeds to drink his first day of freedom away. He somehow manages to find a small  two-partner & two member law firm, Figg & Finley of the ham & egg, ambulance chasing variety. David promises to pull in some business and joins them as an associate. Oscar Finley and Wally Figg are two different type of lawyers; as Figg mops and moans through the day, wishing he could divorce his wife of 30 years, a 4 time divorced and recovering alcoholic Wally dreams of the cash cow.

Wally’s various schemes have never brought in the high payoff case but he seems to have found one in Krayoxx, a drug that lowers cholesterol and manufactured by pharmaceutical giants Varrick Labs. Hoping to hitch a ride on a mass tort case done by much bigger firms, Wally convinces Oscar & David that they need to round up clients in Chicago. At first the case seems to be a simple opportunity to sign up patients who took the extremely popular cholesterol reduction drug, Krayoxx, which was the number one prescription for obese patients. Wally finds 8 death cases of heart attack victims who used to take Krayoxx. Convinced that the drug is responsible, Wally signs up the 8 including the first case and joins mass tort lawyer Jerry Alisandros and his firm.

Varrick hires David’s former employers Rogan Rothberg who assign the case to Nadine Karros, a legal ace who has never lost a case in her career. As the trial date approaches, Wally’s dreams of milking in the big bucks vanish when Alisandros backs out as reports of the drug being quite safe come out. However the judge wants the first case to be tried and the trio of Figg, Finley with David go to court. However Figg suffers a heart attack on day 1 and needs surgery leaving Wally as lead counsel. In 3 days the pressures of trying a losing case gets the better of Wally and he starts drinking and disappears on David. Now it falls on David to try the case and he does a fine job on the final day, creating dents in the armour of Varrick but the jury finds the pharma giants not guilty. Not that David or anyone else expected them to rule in favour of the plaintiffs. The case is over and all future cases against Krayoxx are pulled. David helps Wally get to a rehab center as Oscar recovers from his surgery.

The secondary story is about David & his wife Helen finding a Burmese immigrant family whose son suffers from illness & brain damage after playing with a toy called Nasty Teeth – fake fangs. The paint chips in the fangs and he ingests the lead used to manufacture it, which causes the damages. David uses some of his own money to help the family and finally traces the company that now owns the toy makers and represents the boy’s parents. He settled the lead poisoning product liability case for $6.5 million, including $1.5 million in legal fees, which he uses to pay off the firm’s debts and include a bonus for their secretary. The rest is split between the 3 lawyers. He attempted to become equal partners as Finley, Figg & Zinc.The partnership did not work out as 63 year old Oscar retires and Wally is unwilling to try big cases and was dissolved after twelve months. Zinc opened his own product liability practice, David E. Zinc, Attorney-at-Law.

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