| Read Time: 11 minutes |
Attorney Portrait

It’s No Accident is a podcast about the challenges of personal injury and wrongful death law in Florida – one of the nation’s most complex legal environments. Attorneys Mark Nonni and Jaeson Homola share compelling stories about real cases from their Tallahassee-based law firm, that will help you better understand your rights and protect yourself from the negligence of others. In our first episode, Mark and Jaeson share the Nonni Homola origin story and delve into the complexities of a recent electrocution case they handled. If you or someone you know is in search of a personal injury attorney, please visit NoHo.law.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to It’s No Accident, a podcast about the challenges of personal injury and wrongful death law in Florida, one of the nation’s most complex legal environments.

You’ll hear compelling stories about real cases from our law firm in Tallahassee that will help you better understand your rights and protect yourself from the negligence of others.

I’m Mark Nonni

And I’m Jaeson Homola 

And this is, “It’s No Accident.”

How you and I got together in terms of practicing law and, you know, our marvel comic book origin story, so to speak. You know, like how did we get teamed up, you know, how long we’ve been doing this together? And now that I say that I’m thinking about it and I can’t believe it’s been I mean, what, 13 years since we thought 13, 14 years since we’ve been working together.

So can you talk a little bit about, you know, how we met and how we got together and how we started working together?

Sure. Yeah. Know, it’s been it’s been a while is kind of one of those things where, you know, time flies by, you know, it’s fun. It’s crazy to think it’s been that long.

But it’s not always fun, though.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. You know, I mean, we both obviously went to FSU, Florida State University Law School. You know, I was a few years ahead of you. And when I got out of law school, I started working at a personal injury firm here in town. And I think you ‌started working there as a law clerk, right?

I initially, when I was still in law school. Yeah.

Yeah. And so, I mean, that was the beginning, I think. And you started working as a law clerk and I think, you know, you and I were working a lot together initially. And then once you graduated, you ended up, you know, getting a job there and continuing working there as well. And I guess you and I worked there together for what? I mean, ten or up until 2018.

I was just trying to figure out what year that would have been. I think I started working there in 2009 as a law clerk, and Mark was an associate there. And I mean, as a law clerk, you think you know everything. You know, you’re in law school, you know, you think you know everything. But really, you know, nothing. So, yeah, I worked as a law clerk there and, you know, kind of meandered my way through doing, you know, law clerk work, you know, writing demands and sifting through medical records and doing that kind of work. And I got hired on there after I graduated in 2011.

So, yeah, 2011, when I got hired on there as an attorney. And it just so happens that my office was right next to Mark’s office. And our listeners may not know this, but I’ll tell you a little secret. When you go to law school, they actually don’t teach you anything about practicing law, So, you know, when I started practicing law, you know, I was given a caseload.

And I think that the same was for you. Like we were just I was given a caseload like, I guess, sworn into the bar and I had a caseload and, you know, the partners at that firm were just kind of like, go for it. You know, if you have questions, come ask us. And I had lots of questions.

And Mark’s office was right next to mine, and I was in there a lot because he had been doing it for two or three years. And he had some answers to the questions that I had about what I needed to do, because every time I got something filed, I was, you know, you know, almost had a heart attack because I didn’t know what the heck it was that got filed and I didn’t know what to do with it.

But, yeah, I mean, it was a great learning experience for sure. You know, I’ll forever be grateful for the fact that they just threw a caseload at me because it was the best way to learn. 

I agree. I agree. It’s kind of sink or swim. And it’s scary and terrifying, but it also kind of motivates you ‌to learn stuff faster, you know? And so I agree it works out well. And it is like you said, it is kind of funny that and I didn’t really even completely realize it until about the end of law school or when we first got out of law school that, yeah, like, great, I graduate from law school. I got a law degree, But I don’t know the first thing about how to practice law or file a lawsuit or any of that.

I mean, you know, it’s funny, I know when I first got out, I remember older attorneys would say, like, you know, when you first get out of law school, when you first get hired at a law firm, you’re pretty much worthless for like three years or five years or something like that, because that’s how long it takes to really learn how to actually practice law.

Because you don’t learn that in law school, you know, which I mean, that’s a whole separate topic the way the law school does that. I mean, as compared to like medical school where you graduate medical school and you have a residency where you’re basically doing all the job training right before they actually put you out there and let you be a real doctor.

They don’t do that for lawyers. You know, you got to do that by getting a job somewhere and kind of doing the groundwork for a while. Yeah. So but anyway, so yeah, we practiced there for, you know, years until 2018 when we decided to kind of, you know, break out on our own and do our own thing and start this firm.

Right. And Vinse Barrett. He is kind of the godfather of this firm, so to speak. He was a partner at the old firm we were at. And he was one of those partners that gave us the opportunity to just work the cases. You know, he was one of the guys, you know, just do it. You know, if you’re going to learn, you’re going to have to do it.

So, you know, he gave us the cases to work on and, you know, we worked there at that firm that he founded. That firm as well, has been in Tallahassee for over 30 years. He founded that firm. And, you know, some things happened and he left that firm and there was a split that happened there. And he gave us an opportunity.

And here we are.

Yeah. Yeah. And we’re definitely grateful for it.

Which is crazy that that was already five years ago now. I find it unreal.

One of the things we want to talk about with this podcast is some of the complexities in Florida law and I think probably the best way to do that is to talk about some of the cases that we’ve had. And one of the more recent cases that we resolved was an electrocution case that, Mark, you were the the lead attorney on. And there were some complexities in that case and it resulted in a substantial multimillion-dollar recovery.

And I know it was not easy to get to that point. So can you kind of tell us a little bit about that case and some of the challenges that you had during that case?

Sure. Yeah. No, it was definitely a tough case. And, you know, it’s funny, too, because, well, not funny, but it’s you know, like over time we’ve talked about different cases that we have and, you know, lots of car wreck cases or trip and fall, or some fall cases.

But I guess what I’m trying to say is this one kind of you know, it shows that the types of cases we handle just run the gamut. You know, they’re not always just car wrecks and slip and falls and trip and falls, like you said, in this case, it was an electrocution where a guy got electrocuted by a power line on his own property.

You know, And it was definitely complex, too. And it’s one of the reasons I like doing this type of law is because we’ll get cases like this that are a little outside the norm. It’s not just like a normal car wreck ‌or a fall case. It’s something that you know, you don’t see all the time. And it’s in kind of a technical area, like in this case, you know, electrical engineering is what, you know, the main focus of the whole case was how these power lines were strung up in the air and how they were connected to the poles and all the electrical engineering that was behind that.

And so it’s kind of like, you know, obviously we’re lawyers and we have our lawyer hat on and we know all the law and all that kind of stuff. But you also have to, in these different types of cases, almost to‌ become kind of an expert in these different areas. Right? Because you know, in order for me to know whether what the other side is saying is legit or not, you know, the defense when they’re trying to throw their defenses out about, well, it’s not their fault.

In order for me to know whether it’s legit or not, I got to know something about the electrical engineering behind it. You know, in the right how to hang the wires and everything. And so it was definitely complex in that regard. And, you know, of course, it’s something where, you know, and especially a case like that, it becomes very expert-intensive.

We had our expert who was an expert in electro-engineering. They had their experts. And so, of course, that’s how I was able to learn a lot of that stuff. But, you know, like I said, it was really all came down to, you know, there’s a whole book of laws that and rules, I should say, not laws, but rules that electrical engineers and electric companies are supposed to follow when it comes to how to safely hang these power lines out.

You see, you know, going all across above our heads throughout the city and throughout, you know, the counties how to safely do that, because those you know, those live wires are carrying a lot of electricity and I mean, can be super, super dangerous, and super harmful to people. And, you know, it’s a situation where they didn’t follow the rules.

You know, they hadn’t hung the wires properly. And you know, one of the lines ends up coming down and electrocuting a guy on his own property and, you know, killing him and stuff.

And talking to you about that case, it’s wild to me because when you start digging, when you start digging into that case and you started looking at the electrical engineering component to it and you know the rules behind how these lines are supposed to be hung, you know, you go over to that county and you look at I don’t remember what you told me.

It was like it was a significant percentage of the lines that are still existing in that county today are not hung correctly. And you’re like, well, you can start looking at it. You’re like, well, there’s there’s a reason why this happened. I mean, if they really were hung correctly, it probably never would have happened.

And that was our whole, our whole case.

If they were following the rules, it wouldn’t have happened. And like you said, it’s crazy. I mean, it’s literally, you know, I’m going to use the word again, but it’s an accident waiting to happen, you know what I mean? Literally, where they have these lines that are improperly hung miles and miles and miles of them, you know, and it’s, you know, unfortunately, you know, one of those things where because of the way the regulations are, they’re essentially like they’re able to get away with it until someone gets hurt or dies.

Right. You know. Right. And like I said, that was a substantial recovery on that case. But at the same time, I mean, there was somebody that that died.  And those are some of the most difficult cases for us to handle because, you know, you’ve kind of got to wear your counselor cap for the clients, the family, the ones that are left behind.

And then you’ve got to you know, you’ve got to fight for them on the legal side. And then, as you said, you’ve got to put on your other cap and, you know, do other research and teach yourself about the interplay between, in this case, electrical engineering and the law and how that all applies. But I say that to bring up the point that in a wrongful death case, how do you come to the point where you’re valuing a case like that?

Like, I mean, because the medical bills are obviously not going to be that much. I mean, you know, obviously there was he passed away pretty quickly. So there wasn’t these ongoing medical bills. So really, you’re looking at what are called noneconomic damages, your pain and suffering, loss of ability to spend time with this individual. How do you come to a point where you’re able to at least try to get in the ballpark of what something like that’s worth?

Sure. Now that it’s tough, like you said, I mean, it’s definitely difficult. You know, there’s no formula like, you know, that just tells you what a case is worth, especially a case like that. I mean, for any case, there’s no form that tells you what is a fair amount of money, But especially a case like that where, like you said, it’s all just based on the pain and suffering and, you know, emotional, the emotional harm, basically, of losing a loved one.

And it’s tough. You know, it takes a lot of really getting to know the people and getting, you know, getting to know your clients, getting to know the survivors, the ones who were left behind, and really digging into not only that but also their relationship with the deceased. You know, a lot of times it’ll be a spouse or, you know, in this case it was a parent.

You know, it’s my clients were the kids of the guy who died. But you really get into that relationship because that’s ultimately what the whole case becomes about. Right. You know, what was the survivor’s relationship with the deceased prior to the incident happening? How close were they? Were they estranged? Were they the type of people who, you know, had, you know, Sunday dinner every Sunday kind of thing or and giving in to that.

And then ultimately, it’s you know, just trying to you know, a lot of times will also to try to figure out the value compared to other similar cases. I mean, like I said, there’s no magic formula. Really. What we’re doing is it’s almost like, you know, an appraiser figuring out what your house is worth.

They’re looking at the cost of the other sales, the cost of a down the block of the other properties have been sold recently and using that to figure out what your house is worth. And we’re doing the same thing with other, you know, cases that we’ve handled over the years in our firm and, you know, the settlements of the verdict that we got there, and then also doing research on the Internet for that kind of stuff.

Like there’s software out there that we can actually tap into and we can look at databases of what cases got with similar facts, similar injuries in a what they got as a verdict at a trial and what they got as a settlement prior to a trial. And, you know, you’re always looking for cases that are similar to yours and what the outcome of those were as far as a recovery.

And that’ll give you at least a ballpark of where you should be starting or are looking to get the case resolved now, for sure.

And then I guess, you know, in terms of just real quick and, you know, go and take in a wrongful death case to trial and when you’re in front of a jury, I think one of the biggest difficulties there that’s not there in a lot of other, you know, injury cases is the thought that a lot of people are going to have that this person’s that dead.

Yes, it was terrible. It was negligent. It was horrible. What happened to this person, but if I give you a bunch of money and get to bring him back. why should I give you a bunch of money? It’s not going to bring him back. It’s not going to change anything. Kind of “it is what it is” kind of an attitude.

And that’s where it gets tough for, you know, us as the attorneys for the victims to explain to the jury the reason behind, you know, awarding noneconomic pain and suffering damages in the fact that it’s you know, the focus is on the lost relationships. Right. The lost time that you, the family member would have had with the deceased that they no longer have anymore.

Our legal system has been around for several hundred years now. And, you know, I think everybody can agree that you can’t bring somebody back in. You know, a lot of times you can’t change the injuries that somebody has. And the best thing that anybody’s been able to come up with in our legal system is monetary compensation.

And it’s just the way ‌it is. And, you know, we have to try to come up with a reasonable value as to what the injuries are worth or what the loss of that loved one is worth to the family.

Author Photo

Mark continued his studies at Florida State University College of Law, graduating cum laude in 2008. While in law school, Mark was a member of the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law and the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy, as well as a certified legal intern with the FSU Public Interest Law Center, where he assisted low-income clients with a wide range of family law issues. He also served as a law clerk intern to The Honorable L. Clayton Roberts of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal.

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