Sometimes I hear that you have to be tough and strike back when a scoundrel tries to take you for a ride. I read Donald Trump’s book Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life. His advice is to strike back as hard as you can. I don’t think I fully agree with “The Donald.” I think that sometimes the crap just has to stop.

Why? Because crap begets more crap. Here is a different way of looking at this issue. I once heard someone giving a presentation, and he described the choice you have as follows. You come to a burning house. You have a bucket of gasoline in one hand, and a bucket of water in the other. Which one do you pour into the fire? You decide. You can make things better or make things worse with your choice. Your natural choice should be to make things better.

Let me illustrate this with an – unfortunately – true story. In March 2000, at about 10:30 p.m., a 15-year-old girl named Minjin Lee, who had just immigrated with her family from Korea, had an argument with one of her brothers in the family van. Her mother stopped the van on the shoulder of Route 123 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Minjin got out of the car and began walking on the shoulder. Along came a Mercedes-Benz driven by 33-year-old Meredith Miller, a lawyer who had just attended a client meeting for the large law firm where she worked, Gowley Shepherd LLP. Miller was allegedly talking on the phone with a client and may have had a few drinks too many (Miller contested the latter). She swerved onto the shoulder and hit Minjin so hard that she was thrown over the guardrail and down an embankment. Miller continued driving. Minjin died shortly thereafter.

The law firm Gowley Shepherd fired Miller, who eventually pleaded guilty to hit-and-run and served one year in jail. She started serving the sentence in March 2001, two months after giving birth to her first child. She also lost her law license. She later moved to Illinois. Gowley Shepherd settled with the family for an undisclosed sum.

The circuit court ordered Miller to pay more than $2 million in damages to Minjin’s family. To protect herself from liability, Miller, as a shrewd lawyer, filed for bankruptcy in September 2003. The bankruptcy court in Illinois held that Miller could discharge the wrongful death judgment against her in the bankruptcy proceeding. Minjin’s family appealed. The United States District Court affirmed that Minjin’s family could not collect money from Miller.

Now picture yourself as:

– The mother of Minjin
– The father of Minjin
– The brother of Minjin
– The sister of Minjin
– The husband of Meredith Miller
– The child of Meredith Miller
– Any one of the lawyers who got involved to defend Gowley Shepherd or Meredith Miller (well, alright, someone might say that those guys were probably screwed up to begin with and it does not matter whether they made any more misrepresentations… I leave that to the reader to decide)

You can continue this list indefinitely. Many questions remain. What if Minjin and her brother had not argued? What if her mother had not stopped on the shoulder of Route 123? What if Miller had not been talking on the cell phone? What if Miller had stopped at the accident site? How many lies do you think were told by various people in the course of these proceedings? Can anybody who lost a loved one really be compensated with money?… As you see, crap begets more crap. Just look at how many lives have been affected by this continuing saga, and the impact will still be felt decades from now.

By the way, I adhere to the maxim of “crap begets more crap” myself in retelling the story. That is why I changed the names of all participants in this unfortunate matter. Hopefully Meredith Miller’s child will not end up reading about Meredith’s misdeeds, and hopefully all people involved can eventually leave it behind.

By Mike Meier
This is an excerpt from Are You There Where You Always Wanted to Be? By Anonymous & Mike Meier. For more information, see There is a video on this subject.