Dallas, TX trial attorney Jeff Tillotson talks about a huge case he worked on representing a client who became famous for debunking claims about Lance Armstrong not taking substances win winning the Tour De France.
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About a dozen years ago, a client came to see me who couldn’t find a lawyer anywhere else in town, everyone he talked to turned him down. It wasn’t because they thought his case lacked merit it was because they were scared of riling up his opposition. His opposition was he wanted to challenge Lance Armstrong. He owed Lance a substantial amount of money for a bonus payment for Mr. Armstrong winning a Tour De France race and the client believed that Lance had cheated in connection with that race and didn’t deserve the bonus.
Well, I could not turn down such a challenge to represent such a client and what began was a 12-year odyssey of chasing Lance Armstrong, ultimately, catching Lance Armstrong and debunking his claim that he had never used performance enhancing drugs and securing my client a $15 million award that Lance Armstrong paid personally as a result.
That case spawned at least 12 or 15 books talking about the legal path that we pursued and also at least two movies about what we did and how we pursued Lance. And so that case above all others in my career showed me two things, one is you may not win the first day, the first year, or maybe even in this case the first 10 years but if you stick with it, have a game plan you will win.
And second, it taught me the power of celebrity and the power of the media because Mr. Armstrong for 10 years was able to dominate the discussion and simply was able to convince everyone he had never cheated when we had both scientific and medical testimony showing otherwise. And it took us awhile to ultimately prove that, but we did.
So we did this, they did this move about the case and about Lance Armstrong. And they didn’t actually really ask us for permission they just did it but they used our real names in the movie. And so, we go see the movie as guests of the producer. Well my client was portrayed by Dustin Hoffman and my client looks nothing like Dustin Hoffman but he gets this actor. I get a giant guy that weighs about 300 pounds with a big curly hair and that’s me.
And so, I complain why am I being played by this nobody who, you know, is twice my size and my client is Dustin Hoffman? Well it turned out my client had been talking to the movie producer and had negotiated very carefully who would portray him but had just sort of left me out there alone. And so, I’d sue the guy for taking my name in a movie but I’d have to claim he looks like me, which I refuse to do so I just let it be.