The King of Torts

Wow, that sounds impressive doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled, my friends.

Written by John Grisham, one of my favorite authors, this book is a study in manipulation, greed, and untruth set in Washington, D. C. The main character, a Public Defender named Clay starts his career working for a pittance in an overcrowded, overworked atmosphere while trying to defend what some call the scum of the earth.

Complicated by the pressure to join the law firm of his long time girlfriend’s father, he rejects the idea of wealth obtained through shady deal making and greed. Another obstacle to advancement from the Public Defender Office to a more prestigious career stems from the collapse of his father’s successful law firm. Fleeing the United States, and living in the Abaco Islands, his father advises him to join up with the suspicious antics of his future father-in-law’s firm.

Clay, a principled man, refuses. He figured, “The money would come later, when he was a battle-hardened litigator at a very young age.”

Through an investigation into his most recent client, accused of a random street killing, he found himself in the midst of a complex case against a large pharmaceutical empire. He saw an opportunity to change his life by joining up with tort litigators and share in the enormous settlement. Soon after, he started his own firm, raked in millions of dollars from additional tort litigation settlements, and became the mirror image of those lawyers he originally hated and swore he would never become. In a very short time, Clay had become the king of torts.

Captivated by the wealth and prestige, he bought a private jet, a home away from home, and chose a sexy, gold-digging woman as his constant companion. Showing her off at social gatherings, he appeared uninvited at the wedding of his former girlfriend, Rebecca, hoping to make her jealous.

Riding high, Clay finds himself on the wrong end of a tort case that was unsubstantiated, and loses just about everything except Rebecca. After a life threatening beating, Rebecca visited him in the hospital, and rekindled their romance.

The moral value of books such as King of Torts is immeasurable. From the spiraling story of Clay, we learn about justice, the un-quenching desire for wealth and prestige, and the destruction that follows. The lesson taught in Grisham’s book is that when we place our faith in temporal things, there are severe consequences.

In The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer fleshes out the problem:

There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution (p. 22).

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