June 2013 MAJ Pacesetter
“Both my father and brother worked for corporations and would tell me to ‘be a professional…try to work for yourself and be your own boss’,” said Southfield attorney Matt Curtis. He took their advice and began taking business law classes in both high school and college. Once he decided to become a lawyer, he knew that he wanted to be in the courtroom. “I have played competitive sports all my life and there is nothing more competitive and challenging than taking an expert’s deposition or trying a case in a courtroom. When a client has been victimized by the defendant, their world has been turned inside out. They put all their faith and trust in your ability. This can create a lot of pressure, much like the pressure many athletes experience. The client wants you to ‘win’ their case. The same nauseous adrenaline-type feeling I used to experience playing sports is the same type of feeling I experience every time I step into the courtroom,” said Curtis.
Curtis joined MAJ as soon as he started working at Sommers Schwartz out of law school. “Norm Tucker, Stanley Schwartz, Dave Getto and others from my firm were very involved in the organization. MAJ is an invaluable tool and resource for anybody who calls themself a trial lawyer. It is impossible for one person to remain on the top of his/her game without assistance. I have been fortunate to work at a large law firm with many great attorneys where the exchange of ideas that we provide to each other is a tremendous asset. For those that do not work in a large law firm, MAJ provides that benefit. I look at MAJ as our ‘coach.’ MAJ has the ability to lead each one of us to become excellent trial lawyers.
“I have two sons who are active in sports so I am unable to give MAJ a significant portion of my time. Therefore, I feel that it is important to contribute to JUSTICE PAC as much as possible. The forces that try to erode the rights of our clients have tremendous financial backing. If money is what it takes to win the ‘game,’ then I’m willing to contribute because I know it’s for the right reason and for the right cause. As a trial lawyer representing injured clients, I feel it is my duty to make contributions to the PAC that are necessary to maintain and protect our civil justice system.
“I have a personal injury practice with heavy emphasis on complex medical malpractice cases. One client that I will never forget was a 17-year-old national gymnast who was going to have scholarship opportunities throughout the country. She was the victim of admitted negligence and suffered a very significant injury, yet there was nothing that I nor my partner could do for her. She tore a tendon near her elbow while performing a routine, requiring a simple repair. Unfortunately, the orthopedic surgeon whom she saw was not experienced in repairing elbow injuries, and on the day of surgery he actually brought a textbook into the operating room to learn how to do the surgery. Rather than taking out a tendon near the wrist area to utilize as a graft to repair the torn tendon in the elbow, the surgeon removed my client’s median nerve in her forearm and used the nerve to graft the tendon. Once the median nerve was stripped from the forearm, my client lost significant strength and function in her hand and arm. As a result, her gymnastic career was over as well as her scholarship opportunities.
“The surgeon in question was an MSU employee and at that time, MSU physicians had governmental immunity unless it could be demonstrated that the physician engaged in conduct constituting ‘gross negligence.’ In our eyes, there was nothing more grossly negligent than what the surgeon did, but unfortunately, neither the circuit court nor the court of appeals agreed with our position. The doctor involved destroyed my client’s life and the fact that the defendants were able to hide behind their cloak of immunity while celebrating their win is something that has stuck in my craw ever since. I never felt worse for any client and we were helpless to do anything about it. Fortunately, however, by the time another MSU case came across my desk, the law giving MSU physicians immunity had been repealed and no longer could these physicians hide behind the wall of governmental immunity.”
Outside of the practice of law, Curtis loves sports and watching sports. “Nothing is more satisfying than going to various sporting events to watch your kids perform. I am an avid racquetball player and golfer, so any free time that I have I try to be as active as possible either playing sports or watching my kids play the game.”