Attorney helps Nassar victims on long road to recovery

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Attorney Thomas Waun has spoken for thousands of litigants in his 35 years of practice, but rarely has one gripped the public’s consciousness like the plaintiffs he recently represented – gymnasts who were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, the now disgraced former doctor imprisoned for life.

Waun, the managing partner of Johnson Law’s Flint office, represented siblings Jacob and Kamerin Moore, in addition to three others in their suit against Nassar. Jacob Moore is the only male plaintiff to have come forward publicly in the case against Nassar.

“Jake came to us through his sister, Kamerin Moore, who was one of the leading advocates among the young ladies who were discussing how horrible Nassar was,” Waun said. “Kamerin was one of the most horribly abused of the victims. Nassar was a family friend and a father figure to her after she’d lost her own father. He abused her for a long time.”

As a father of three, two of whom are still teen-agers, Waun found it disheartening to hear what the gymnasts and their parents experienced.

“The times where it really hit home were the times when we interviewed our clients with their parents. It was heartbreaking to hear what happened to the kids and it was also heartbreaking to hear what happened to the parents,” Waun said.

Since much of the abuse took place while the parents were in the treatment room with their children, they too were victimized by Nassar.

“Imagine that you’re a mom in a room with your daughter and you’re there to protect her. Nassar is a very friendly individual and while he is abusing your daughter he’s got his body between you and her. Your daughter is looking over at you with a pained look on her face and you’re telling her, ‘It’s okay, honey, he’s a doctor.’ Instead of protecting her, you’re unwittingly allowing this to happen,” Waun said.

“These parents just felt horribly guilty about what happened to their kids. It was really beyond their control. Then you get people who don’t know anything about it who say, ‘How could those parents let that happen?’ Then they feel doubly guilty about it. But it’s the kids who are the primary victims. They are horribly and permanently scarred,” Waun added.

Since the sport requires a high level of discipline, gymnasts are less likely to voice their complaints, Waun said.

“The one thing I’ve gotten to know about that sport is the kids are always injured. They are taught to do whatever it takes to be successful, to follow orders, and endure pain. So they probably didn’t complain like some other kids might have.”

A plaintiff’s attorney for most of his legal career, Waun said lawyers who put advocacy before financial gain are the advocates most likely to achieve a successful outcome for their clients.

“In my profession, I think the people who really get it, the ones who are most successful, are in it to really help people,” Waun said. “We make good money if we help people the right way. But lawyers who go in with the mindset that they are there just to make big fees don’t do the best job and don’t make the most money. You can’t convince juries how terrible something is unless you really believe you are there to help victims.”

Outside of his private practice, Waun, who is an alumnus of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, also has held a number of positions with the State Bar and most recently, assumed the presidency of the Michigan chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an organization that promotes education and civility in the legal profession.

“The ‘Civility Matters’ Program is very important to us and an area where we are very active. We take it to first year law schools two or three times a year, where we show videos of what not to do in court. Then, we take questions,” Waun said. “We want them to walk away thinking that the stereotypical lawyer they see on T.V. is not the way they are supposed to act – that you fight hard for your client, but you try to get along and act as nicely as possible to the other side.”

As Waun leads the Michigan arm of ABOTA into 2019, he is optimistic that the programs they champion will have a positive impact on the next generation of lawyers.

“I want them to look at the lawyers who they deem to be successful and come away with the impression that it’s a lot better to treat each other nicely. It’s a lot easier and the right way to do it,” Waun said. “Believe me, you can get a lot more accomplished by getting along with your opposition.”


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