A Change of Heart


Former medical malpractice defense lawyer now fights for individual rights

by Jeanine Matlow
Legal News

From the age of 12, John M. Perrin spent most Saturdays and summers with his father, an attorney, at work.

“He had handled several high profile criminal trials and I became fascinated by the courtroom work lawyers did. My father was the inspiration for going to law school,” says Perrin, principal at The Perrin Law Firm in Mount Clemens.

He attended the State University at New York Brockport for his BA and then went on to receive his J.D. from Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley Law School After graduating, he was hired by a firm that specialized in medical malpractice defense work.

“For the next 14 years, defending doctors and hospitals was the focus of my practice,” he says.

Over time, however, his interests would shift. 

“In 2004, I was contacted by a man whose wife had died in a nursing home. She had suffocated when she became trapped between a bedrail and the mattress,” he says.

Initially, the husband was told she'd had a heart attack, but anonymous calls to police from the staff indicated a cover-up. Someone later sent the man a photo showing his wife's body as it had been found. 

When Perrin represented the man in a wrongful death action, the experience would change the direction of his practice.

“After that case, I focused much of my time on representing seniors and handicapped people, often in cases where they had been injured or abused in long-term care facilities, financially exploited, or in probate disputes where they were fending off someone's attempt to impose a guardianship,” he says.  

“Through the relationships that developed with my senior clients, I've been asked to litigate many different types of disputes, including business conflicts, real estate disputes, and consumer protection claims.”

Perrin admits it can be very emotional to work with these clients.

“It’s a collection of people who often times have no voice. Their mental or physical capacity might be impaired, so people don’t find them credible,” he says. “They are often victims of misconduct because they’re the wealthiest segment of the population and the largest-targeted consumers with assisted living, home care and medical care.” 

Still, he feels compelled to help while maintaining a positive attitude.

“You take the energy and you turn it into zeal,” he says about the strength of the advocacy.

Perrin says his professional rewards often come in some of the simplest forms, like receiving a thank you card from someone even if he couldn’t take the case, but took the time during a phone conversation to explain why and help the person get some closure.
Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his family and working on his 1959 Sunbeam Alpine, an uncommon British sports car he has been painstakingly restoring from the ground up. 

As he explains, this particular model was the car driven by James Bond in Jamaica in the movie “Dr. No.”

Though Perrin says the complex restoration has taken on a life of its own, it seems to yield a different kind of reward.

“When a lawyer does something that turns out well, there’s nothing to actually see that’s physical,” he says. “When you plant a garden, fix a walkway or restore a car, there’s a certain sense of tangible activity.”

The Perrin Law Firm also handles trucking litigation, trademark litigation, birth-trauma-related injuries, legal, medical and accounting negligence, and civil litigation around child sex abuse. About the latter, the firm website (www.theperrinlawfirm.com)says, “We advocate for survivors of sexual assault and help them find the correct resources, whether it be shelter, medical attention, therapy or all of the above.”

With so many talents, it’s no wonder James Simasko, an attorney with Simasko Law, specializing in elder law, whose firm occupies the same building as Perrin’s, has a great deal of respect for his friend and business associate.

“He’s absolutely brilliant. The amount of research he does on each case is incredible. He looks at every single angle,” he says.

“He’s also very handy. If my car is broken, I can ask him about it,” adds Simasko, who can just as easily go to Perrin with a medical question. “With his med-mal background, he knows almost as much as the doctors do. He often knows as much about the subject matter as the experts because of the amount of research he does. He knows all the facts and all the evidence.”

Still, there’s a lighter side to Perrin who remains humble and kind.

“He has a good sense of humor and he’s very caring about people,” Simasko says. “He’s always willing to help a fellow lawyer, not just me.”