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James H. Nance

James H. Nance
Status: Deceased

(1931 - 2021)

Jim Nance, whose lifelong nickname was "Booty" (given to him by his little sister), obtained the first $100,000 verdict and the first $1 million dollar verdict in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit which includes Seminole and Brevard Counties in Florida.

The $1M verdict was on behalf of Juliana Mason, a twenty-six-year-old black construction worker who fell through the floor of a new Sears Roebuck store due to faulty scaffolding. Juliana suffered paraplegia from the waist down. Jim recalled that the trial originally scheduled for two weeks ultimately took over a month. When in voir dire Jim mentioned that this was a million-dollar lawsuit, someone in the back of the courtroom responded that "there was no n!*#@#@ worth a million dollars under any circumstance." The trial was an uphill battle from there. During the first week of trial, Juliana's mother had a dream that she and Juliana were killed at the courthouse, and she refused to go back to the courtroom saying that they were abandoning the lawsuit and going home. While attempting to appease her, Jim ended up consulting a local "witch" that led him to a "root woman" who lived in a nearby trailer park. With a crisp $100 bill, Jim enlisted the woman's help. She was to throw 12 roots (some kind of small roots from a bush or tree) and by the way the roots landed, be able to tell Mrs. Mason their real future. After lighting a candle and throwing the roots three times, she was finally able to convince Mr. Mason that they would not be hurt if they stayed and continued with the trial. The mother still didn't fully buy it but allowed Juliana to stay while she went home to Tuskegee.

A couple of other events during that trial included a juror blowing a whistle during an argument between plaintiff's and defense counsel, and a bomb scare causing the courthouse to be immediately evacuated leaving Jim without his files for the entire weekend. This was all after the defense attorney, while chewing Tums and "foaming at the mouth," yelled at the top of this lungs that he wasn't getting a fair trial and that what Jim's experts had testified to was a lie. Foaming spittle spewed as far as the 2nd row of spectator seating. But the most dramatic part of the trial was when Juliana was testifying, and Jim asked him to get up and try to walk over to the jury box - a distance of 6 to 8 feet. Juliana had very cumbersome braces and by the time he got the braces on and shuffled to the box, 10-15 minutes had lapsed. The jury watched with total concentration as Juliana's struggles were apparent. It took the jury 1 and 1/2 days to come back with their verdict which the clerk stumbled and stuttered and finally read "One --- one --- one million dollars!" Jim and his crew made a beeline to the Holiday Inn and "happily spent some more of the workman's compensation carrier's money with a little party that evening."

Jim was also one of the nine Florida lawyers appointed by the late Governor Lawton Chiles who successfully sued the tobacco companies on behalf of the State of Florida, resulting in a remarkable 1997 settlement of more than $13 billion.

Jim served as Secretary of the Inner Circle for many years, and as President from 1981-1983.
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