Attorney ignores heart attack

August 20, 2009
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I’ve heard of coming to work when you don’t feel well, but going to court while having a heart attack is taking it to the extreme.

A defense attorney in California woke up with severe chest pains. A normal person would either call 911 or go to the hospital; attorney Michael Lukehart, 55, decided to go to court to deliver his closing arguments because he was in the “zone.”

He told a local television station, “You get focused if you’re a real serious litigator, at some point nothing gets in the way of finishing the trial or doing your job and it’s not bright.”

“It’s not bright” is an understatement.

I admire his dedication to his client, who’s on trial in an attempted murder case, but to ignore a heart attack to go to court is foolish. I’d hope most attorneys, even those that are “real serious” litigators, don’t ignore the signs of a heart attack or some other major health issue just because they have to be in court that day. How could he focus on delivering arguments with massive chest pains? What if he dropped dead during closing arguments?

The news article doesn’t say if the case went in the favor of his client. Lukehart is expected to recover. He went to the hospital after arguments.

Journalists are probably a lot like attorneys when it comes to calling in sick: we usually don’t. We know our job has to go on and I bet attorneys think the same way. It’s not like you can just call in sick when you’ve got a trial going on. But again, if you’re having a heart attack, I’d hope the judge, jury, and other parties would understand.

I bet our readers have their own experiences of either coming into work sick or seen opposing counsel show up in court looking like they should have stayed in bed. At what point do you decide you are too sick to go into work?
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