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OPINION

Work is disrupted, but we keep at it

The Examiner

I am not only one who says or thinks this, but this epidemic is very much like the movie “Groundhog Day,” a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell.

Murray plays a cynical weatherman covering the annual Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania who becomes trapped in a time loop forcing him to relive Feb. 2 repeatedly. It is farcical and funny with a message that we do not get to live each day over so we should avoid the mistakes and utilize the opportunities that come each day.

Bob Buckley

I can honestly say that the only one in our house who has benefitted from the pandemic is our dog, Sage. Sage has separation anxiety and wants to be with my wife constantly. I am good company for a few minutes, but when Kim is a block away in her car, Sage knows she is close and runs to the door and waits for her. She has been doing this for nearly a dozen years, so I am certainly accustomed to the neglect. Yet her anxiety increases with age, and so does mine.

We have not been to a restaurant other than to pick up carryout since March of last year. We went to spring training in Surprise and left there not knowing that it was closing the next day. That was the last time we have been out of town unless you consider Overland Park out of town. We are committed to living safely. We have not attended our church since last March. We were regular prior to then. We have not been to a movie theater since February.

We have signed up for the vaccine, but we are not naïve to think that the vaccine is a “get out of jail” card. Social distancing and masks will continue indefinitely.

We closed our office for seven weeks on March 23. We were supposed to work at home, but I am no good at it. I have a nice place to work at home and could, but there are too many distractions. I did work, but not very well. We came back to the office May 15 and have continued to work since then, although when there was an upswing in the virus, some of my co-workers opted for working at home. We don’t wear a mask at our desks, but when we leave our workspaces the mask comes on and no one comes into our office without a mask. We are not taking any risks.

At our office, only one of us got the virus and she stayed home for a couple of weeks and did what she was supposed to do. All but three of us have quarantined at home because of exposure to the virus.

Every day is the same. We come to the office, work a few hours and then return home to our abodes. My wife has been a champ preparing meals. We do an occasional carryout, but we try to limit it.

We had 45 at our house on Christmas in 2019, but only three this year, including the dog. My wife decorated our house better than ever and it helped.

We have become familiar with Netflix and Prime and our favorite shows are on the Game Channel. Steve Harvey is our man and he always has a good one on “Family Feud.” “America Says” is a fun show as contestants try to fill in the blank on various topics to vie for $15,000. “Master Minds,” “Jeopardy,” “The Weakest Link,” “The Wall” and “Who wants to be a Millionaire” are also favorites.

In the meantime, the legal world has come to a screeching halt. There are no jury trials, and some say they have no idea when that will change.

When jury trials do begin, criminal cases take priority. There have been people in jail waiting for a trial for almost a year. That will take some time to catch up. We have had trials scheduled, but they are being rescheduled in 2022. Our clients are frustrated, and so are we. A few cases have settled, but many law firms are struggling financially.

The effect the pandemic has had on our litigation practice was made more evident when we recently received our annual verdict report from the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service. We receive a report each week of jury trials conducted in Clay, Platte and Jackson counties in Missouri, Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas, and in the federal courts in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas.

There were a total of 29 cases or trials reported in 2020. For comparison, in 2019, there were a total of 181 verdicts. The 29 cases tried in 2020 were mostly tried in the first three months of last year. In the medical malpractice arena, two cases were tried last year. I was surprised that there were only seven malpractice cases tried in all of 2019. There were only 14 automobile collisions tried in 2019, and more than half of that number in 2020. There were only nine civil jury trials in Independence last year and 35 in 2019.

Someday, we will return to a normal life. Our dog likes the new normal, but me, not so much. I am working less and eating more, but also exercising regularly when the weather permits, so we are surviving. Depositions are being done by Zoom, and we talk to the judges through phone conferences. Hope springs eternal that this too shall pass.

Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com.