On Wednesday, Feb. 16, WMU-Cooley Law School students had the opportunity to learn from lead attorney James White about the complex process that went into litigation against doctors Larry Nassar at Michigan State University and the late Robert Anderson, at the University of Michigan.
White, founding attorney of Okemos-based White Law PLLC, was a guest speaker in WMU-Cooley Professor Mark Dotson’s Torts II class.
White spoke to the students about how the statute of limitations and immunity played a major role in both the Nassar and Anderson cases, and how he is pushing for state lawmakers to expand the statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors.
“For me, one of the frustrating things about the statute of limitations is it doesn’t go to the merits of the claim and it’s simply just a shield of protection,” White told the law students. “Its intentions are good because there is a level of equity and fairness that defendants deserve; evidence disappears over time, and the idea is you can’t hold someone responsible for something so far in the future. The problem with that argument, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t address the ultimate issue, and that is the statute of limitations only opens the door to the courtroom, it doesn’t grant you the merits of the claim – so you still have to bring your evidence to court and you still have to bring your evidence to a jury and prove your claim.”
White, whose practice focuses on criminal sexual conduct cases associated with children, explained that he plans to work with legislators to introduce a bill that will broaden the statute of limitations and immunity in Michigan.
“We’ve had pushback for the last four years on this, which speaks to the volume of power of the insurance companies and the power of some of these agencies have,” White said during the class. “It’s a really important issue. It’s one we’re working on as we speak. I think you’re going to see introduction of bills that address immunity, address notice of claim issue and address the statute of limitations in the relatively near future.”
Additionally, White spoke with students about how the business of law is just as important as practicing law.
“Practicing law is easy; the business of law is hard,” he said. “If there’s ever been a time to understand the business of law, it’s now because branding is everything and it’s becoming more and more important, especially in the digital age and the day of social media. It’s not too early to start – start blogging, start podcasting, start working on imaging and your own personal brand. It takes time, but once you establish that, it’s a great tool for the business of law.”