In June 2010 we commented on this famous quote about publicity, attributed to P.T. Barnum and others: “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.”
We took exception to Barnum’s nonchalance, pointing out that bad publicity “can be damaging even for a celebrity” and “positively deadly” for a business or community.
What prompted our concern was the city of Beaumont’s “reputation as a venue of choice for forum-shopping plaintiffs and their attorneys,” and the recent highlighting and reinforcement of this reputation by scathing criticism from an attorney defending international paper company Kimberly-Clark in a series of asbestos suits filed in Jefferson County.
“Our bad-boy reputation has undoubtedly benefited numerous plaintiffs attorneys, homegrown and imported,” we conceded, “but it’s done incalculable harm to the rest of us. As taxpayers, we’re obliged to underwrite this circus of chicanery. As citizens, we suffer the consequences of an unwelcoming business climate – fewer job opportunities for us and our children, a smaller tax base to support civic institutions and services, etc.”
Now, just shy of two years later, comes a Wall Street Journal article about the rise in claims against asbestos trust funds and increasing concern that fraudulent claimants will deplete resources meant for legitimate victims.
And who is featured in the article but Beaumont’s own Brent Coon, “who plays guitar in a rock band and is known for Christmas parties featuring performers such as Foreigner”?
A guitar-playing attorney throwing parties with Foreigner may seem cool to some, but Coon is also mentioned as having clients who make conflicting claims in court and in trust fund applications. That is not cool.
The Journal quotes Coon as saying: “What we try to do with our clients is get them what we can, where we can.” That should do wonders for the reputation of our region.
At least, the paper spelled Coon’s name right – instead of, inadvertently, substituting a "G" for the "C," as some might suggest.