Just prior to the beginning of 1991, Jim Hewson and Jerry Van Hellemont combined their practices to form Hewson and Van Hellemont (H & V). It was founded on a handshake, because that was all you ever needed with Jim. I know there are some of you working at H &V that never met Jim. He was of those “bigger than life” people who positively affected not only those in the insurance industry but many other areas, not the least of which was Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) where Jim’s sobriety exceeded 40 years. He was a “go-to” person for those having sobriety issues and his phone was available 24/7 for those needing help. Those who attended his memorial luncheon know that there were countless people who spoke and uniformly stated “Jim Hewson saved my life”. What greater worth be of a man when one can say that they saved the lives of countless others. His door was always open to anyone that had a problem or concern and he was always trying to help solve the problem.
As an attorney, he was a titan in the industry. As a trial lawyer defending insurance companies against fraudulent and excessive claims, there was none better. Jim always promised that this firm would grow to in excess of 50 attorneys. It has more than surpassed even his dreams and expectations.
The firm’s success was due to a large extent to the incessant pledge to fight fraudulent and excessive claims and defend claims that were not meritorious. This fight first started in the auto theft/fire arena. Believe it or not, in the late 1980s and 1990s, auto theft was a burgeoning problem for insurers and there was a significant problem with individuals destroying their vehicles and often setting them on fire to get out of a upside-down loan or a payment they could not afford. Jim was instrumental in solving that issue which to date is no longer much of a problem. The solution was to investigate, take EUOs, deny those claims that were non-meritorious and then, if there was a subsequent lawsuit, try the case to conclusion. When it became known that a trial was going to occur on almost every case, the cases no longer were filed and the problem was solved.
Jim used this same recipe in the no-fault area. Back then, most insurers and attorneys always said that no-fault claims could not be defended. Jim thought otherwise and utilized methods from the auto theft problem and applied them to the no-fault catastrophe. Applying those methods, most of which are still used today, the no-fault fraud fight began in earnest led by him. He likely tried more no-fault cases than any other attorney practicing or retired. He was the toughest and strongest of men, never backing down in the face of adversity, both in court and personally. He once tried a case in federal district court that was a combined case of several different no-fault cases filed by one attorney and consolidated for trial. Plaintiff’s counsel asked for several million dollars. After a two week trial, Jim achieved a no cause on each case!
Jim always said that if you go to trial for a client, they will always admire that you were willing to fight their battle, even if a contrary result occurs. This was particularly true when it seemingly was 2 against 1 (the plaintiff attorney and the Judge). It is that strength and resolve, coupled with creativity and genius that made him a feared but respected opponent. If Jim were to give one last piece of advice as to the practice of law, it would be that you should not fear defending your client or position if there is a logical basis for it. He held fast to the Aaron Burr adage that “law is that which is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained.” Keep his memories and his teaching in your heart and your practice and you will become better for it!