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Negligence

“The Icy Chill Of Regret”

by Greg Glaser
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SCENE # 1

EXT. SKI SLOPE – DAY

(Surrounded by pine trees, just out of view of the


adjoining ski slope, raccoons lurk behind a tree near five
snowboarders, teenagers).

BARRY
(raspy voice)
How sweet would it be if our snowboards could
fly?

(long pause)

STEVE
(to Barry) Dude, I’ve had that dream… except my
snowboard is a dragon, but the dragon was more
like a serpent… er, is a serpent like a lizard,
or like a snake? I couldn’t tell, we were movin’
so fast…

MIRANDA
(laughs)
Hmmm, evocative.

(Dale and Miranda appear to share an intimate moment)

REBECCA
(to Miranda) You and your SAT words!

DALE
(to Miranda) I had a dream last night where I was
sprinkling dirt on top of this flower that was
growing out of a cloud.

REBECCA
That’s random.

MIRANDA
(to Dale) It’s actually just upside down.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. SKI SLOPE – LATER


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(View from bird’s eye zooms into the lack of a leash on


Miranda’s snowboard. A tiny bit of smoke wafts through the
air.)

MIRANDA
(Coughing)
Did anyone bring water?

REBECCA
I have gum.

(Miranda eats snow with shivering hands)

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. SKI SLOPE - LATER

(The raccoons lurking behind a tree draw nearer to the


teenagers, who are putting their boards back on. Rebecca
flirts with Dale. The group takes off down the mountain.
Music is punk rock. Miranda keeps falling, but only Dale
notices since Rebecca, Steve, and Barry have all gone ahead
and out of sight. Dale and Miranda then see a chairlift.
The lift operator is a scrappy male college student wearing
flannel over his uniform. They approach with Dale slightly
above Miranda on the mountain slope. In view behind Miranda
from Dale’s point of view is an orange sign reading
“Experienced Skiers Only.”)

OPERATOR
Sorry. Lift’s closed.

MIRANDA
What?

(Miranda takes off her board clumsily)

OPERATOR
You guys could get stuck up there if the chair
stops… I’m not controllin’ it...

DALE
What’s the easiest way down from here?

OPERATOR
Your legs broken?
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(Miranda begins walking with the snowboard held awkwardly


against her body, but almost immediately she slips and the
snowboard begins sliding down the mountain.)

DALE
(panic)
I have to get it!

(Dale very closely avoids bumping into Miranda before he


begins his descent beyond the caution sign. As he crests
the lip, slow down the scene into a slow alternative rock
guitar. Then speed up the music to him rocketing down the
mountain in chase of Miranda’s snowboard. He eventually
does partial cartwheels and a long slide in a bad landing
off a mogul. The camera zooms into his eyes as he lifts
himself up. His face is covered with snow.)

CUT TO:

EXT. SKI SLOPE – CONTINUOUS

(POV of the abandoned snowboard coasting down the mountain.


The scene is dark and shadowed to focus on the manner in
which the speed and weight of the board slice the snow. The
music is unnerving. When the lodge is in view, the board
travels in slow motion for a couple seconds to eerily
serene music.)

CUT TO:

INT. SKI LODGE – CONTINUOUS

(People sitting at the bar in the fully enclosed and


windowed lodge, 2nd level, are listening to tired country
music.)

LODGE PATRON
Hey look at that.

(People begin to panic)

CUT TO:

EXT. LODGE CAFÉ – CONTINUOUS


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(POV of the board launching over picnic tables and cleaving


violently into a young woman’s forehead.)

END SCENE

SCENE # 2

INT. - JOHN CHRISTENSEN’S LAW OFFICE – DAY

(JOHN CHRISTENSEN, forty-years old, wears an attractive


suit as he opens the door to his well-kept private office
for nervous client CLARISSA, a thirty-five year old in a
cheap dress. John motions for her to sit down.)

CLARISSA
What’s wrong? Is this about me doing heroin?

JOHN
A jury isn’t supposed to use past negligence to
predict future conduct, so in theory, they
shouldn’t be allowed to hear about any of your
bad past, especially the heroin.

CLARISSA
Why do I get the feeling -

JOHN
I screwed up.

FLASHBACK TO:

INT. JUDGE’S CHAMBERS - DAY

(John and the PLAINTIFF’S LAWYER sit with the JUDGE,


drinking coffee with coats off. Doodles on John’s notepad
include etching around words.)

PLAINTIFF’S LAWYER
If she used heroin during her career as a
babysitter, my clients have a right to explore
whether that addiction affected her job
performance.

DISSOLVE TO:
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INT. COURT ROOM – LATER

(John gazes out the window at a sunny day. Meanwhile,


opposing counsel orates to the judge.)

PLAINTIFF’S LAWYER
(reading notes)
Objections under Evidence Code sections 1101(a)
and 787 should be granted in part and denied in
part, Your Honor.

BACK TO PRESENT – INT. JOHN’S LAW OFFICE - DAY

JOHN (CONT’D)
Now, I admit to daydreaming a lot that day, but I
still remember winning that motion, so I’m hoping
this Order is just a mistake.

(John holds up the judge’s Order).

CLARISSA
(crying)

JOHN
I have a plan, okay.

CLARISSA
(desperate)
What’s your plan John?

JOHN
I’ll file a motion to correct my mistake by
admitting that I daydreamed. My notes are pretty
bad.

(John holds up notes containing doodles.

CLARISSA
(drops her head into her hands)
I hate you.

JOHN
I need you to stay with me, Clarissa. Look at my
eyes, okay… there’s something else. Basically
you can sue me for mishandling your case, and if
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you win, my insurance company pays the Harpers


any money they win from you, up to a million.

CLARISSA
(shaking head)
I don’t understand.

JOHN
You can fire me and act as your own attorney, or
you can keep me around and let me try to correct
this mistake. Either way you can sue me when all
this is over. Unfortunately, I can’t advise you
what to do because that would involve a conflict
of interest. Do you understand?

CLARISSA
I think so. This is pretty weird.

JOHN
Yeah!

CLARISSA
John, I’m sorry, but you’re fired… I just want
your insurance to pay… And I don’t want you to
fix the daydreaming mistake.

JOHN
(pulls out tape recorder)
Wrong answer Clarissa. As your attorney I can’t
let you commit insurance fraud or sabotage your
own case. And you can’t officially fire me until
you file a substitution of attorney form, and I
plan to file my attorney error motion first thing
tomorrow!

CLARISSA
I’ll file the substitution first. How do I do
it?

JOHN
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

(Clarissa walks out of John’s office, into the lobby.)

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE LOBBY - CONTINUOUS


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(Miranda and her PARENTS enter the lobby, walk by a


departing Clarissa, and are greeted by John’s receptionist,
MAGGIE).

MAGGIE
(chipper voice)
Welcome to the Law Office of John Christensen.
Can I get anyone some coffee or donuts? We
already ate most of the donuts today so unless
you like jelly…

FATHER
We saw your advertisement in the yellow pages –

MOTHER
I’d like a cup of decaf, thanks.

MAGGIE
Sure. And actually, while I get that for you…
(handing some papers to Father to fill out)
everything is confidential here.

MIRANDA
Who should answer–

FATHER
(holding papers) I already drafted something,
actually.

(Miranda looks guilty. Father appears paternal. Mother is


trying to look passively ignorant. While Maggie walks over
to the phone to buzz John, Miranda’s father argues in a
hushed voice with Miranda to allow him to fill out the
questionnaire.)

MAGGIE
(to FATHER) Actually, Mr. Christensen can see you
now.

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE - CONTINUOUS

(Miranda and Father sit down in chairs in John’s office, as


Mother sips coffee on the couch behind them. The scene
suggests Father has just told the snowboarding story.)

FATHER
So that’s what happened.
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JOHN
(to Miranda) Anything you’d like to add Miranda?

MIRANDA
(shakes head, shifty eyes)
Not really.

(Camera focuses on John’s skeptical facial expression at


the same time an antique polygraph machine is visible on
display behind him.)

FATHER
Mr. Christensen, I don’t know that we can afford
legal bills… except-

MOTHER
Miranda’s grandfather Mort never gave Jim or I a
penny, but last year we learned he left his
entire estate to Miranda. He put it in a
spendthrift trust to start when she’s eighteen.

MIRANDA
(Nodding)
Grandpa Mort.

JOHN
How much is the estate worth?

FATHER
The trustee is still appraising all the assets
but it rounds off to about twenty million.

MIRANDA
(sheepish)
It was what he wanted. Not until I’m eighteen.

VOICE OVER

INT. LAW OFFICE CONFERENCE ROOM – DAY

(John’s imagination - Miranda is sitting down next to him


at a hypothetical deposition.)

OPPOSING COUNSEL
Your grandfather left you twenty million dollars?
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MIRANDA
It was what he wanted.

OPPOSING COUNSEL
And how old are you Ms. Stone.

MIRANDA
Almost seventeen.

END VOICE OVER

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE - CONTINUOUS

FATHER (CONT’D)
Any suggestions for how we could pay your legal
fees?

JOHN
I could defer all fees until Miranda’s
eighteenth, or after resolution of the case,
whichever is later.

MOTHER
That would be good.

MIRANDA
Just out of curiosity… can I withdraw money from
the trust fund to buy clothes for trial?

VOICE OVER

INT. COURT ROOM - DAY

(John’s imagination - Miranda is sitting at the witness


stand, looking snazzy in open court.)

MIRANDA
The board just slipped out of my fingers.

(DISSOLVE TO: Miranda wears a different outfit)

MIRANDA
The board slipped from my hands.

END VOICE OVER


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INT. JOHN’S OFFICE – CONTINUOUS

JOHN
Sorry… the answer is that you shouldn’t ask the
bank for a loan right now because if Danielle
Roberts plans to sue you, one of the first things
her lawyers are going to look at is your
financial picture.

FATHER
Okay.

JOHN
(to Miranda) Now, I’d be happy to represent you
Miranda. I think you’re old enough to make the
decision to hire a lawyer, but I recommend you
talk it over with your parents.

MIRANDA
(looks at smiling and nodding parents)
You’re hired.

END SCENE

SCENE # 3

INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY

(DANIELLE ROBERTS, the young woman struck by Miranda’s


snowboard, wears an elaborate metal headpiece. Stitches
run horizontally across her forehead and her temple. An
attractive and well dressed lawyer, SALVADOR CLOONEY,
enters the room quietly and waits for Danielle to notice
his presence before placing flowers by her bedside.)

DANIELLE
(tired)
Who are you?

SALVADOR
Salvador Clooney. I’m a lawyer. Your mother,
however, is a wonderfully nice person. She
invited me here to tell you who did this to you.

DANIELLE
What?
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SALVADOR
(speaking slowly)
I know who did this to you. I’d like to share
what I know because I want to be your lawyer.
Millions of dollars for you, Danielle.

DANIELLE
(look of powerlessness)

SALVADOR
Can I get you a glass of water before we talk?

DANIELLE
I’m okay… please tell me-

SALVADOR
Her name is Miranda Stone. She’s a teenager who
lives in Richmond. It was her snowboard…

DANIELLE
(eyes begin to tear up)

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. BRIDGE - SUNSET

(Miranda and her parents drive silently with sad faces in


their old sedan across one side of a bridge. Meanwhile,
Salvador drives his shiny SUV on the other side with a big
smile across his face as he listens to upbeat music).

END SCENE

SCENE # 4

INT. MIRANDA’S HOUSE - DAY

(John knocks on the door to Miranda’s house. Miranda


answers. John holds up a few papers.)

JOHN
Your folks here?

MIRANDA
They went out for coffee.
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JOHN
I just received the police report. It says your
friend Barry’s eyes were bloodshot.

MIRANDA
I don’t smoke pot.

JOHN
You know… there’s something I didn’t tell you
when you hired me… I’m a human lie detector… And
I’m not kidding.

MIRANDA
Even if we did smoke pot on the mountain, that
doesn’t mean I was negligent.

CUT TO:

EXT. MOUNTAIN - DAY

(Shivering hand flicks a lighter twice under a marijuana


cigarette. The third time’s the charm. Zoom out to show
the five teenagers sitting together with snowboards off,
beanies on, watching BARRY take a puff.)

CUT TO:

JOHN
Is there anything else I need to know to defend
you?

MIRANDA
Well, you read what my dad wrote in the
questionnaire, didn’t you?

JOHN
Miranda, ethically I can’t put you on the stand
if I know for certain you’ll tell a lie. You’re
going to get a question about drug use.

MIRANDA
My dad told me.

JOHN
Well … Did you take any drugs or drink any
alcohol within 24 hours of the time you dropped
your board?
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MIRANDA
It’s not relevant.

JOHN
A judge is going to think differently.

MIRANDA
(sincere)
It’s private.

JOHN
Why do you think it’s private?

MIRANDA
Because it’s my body.

JOHN
Your body dropped the snowboard. It doesn’t get
more relevant than that.

MIRANDA
It’s still private, and I’m not under oath yet.

JOHN
(hesitates)
Alright, for now I’ll respect your privacy as
your lawyer, but a court won’t, so when we come
to that bridge… ya know, it’s hard to say whether
this is even ethical for me not to get this
answer from you… but I know it’s ethical to
respect privacy, and I believe you that you don’t
want to talk about it, which is a pretty loose
definition of privacy but anyway -

MIRANDA
When will they ask me questions under oath?

JOHN
They haven’t said when they want to take your
deposition, and I’m certainly not going to bring
it up. They’re probably stalling because they
want you to forget some of what happened so
you’ll talk to your friends to try to remember,
then they’ll accuse you and your friends of
getting together to make up a story.

MIRANDA
I could never forget what happened.
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JOHN
(sincere)
That means a lot to me.

SCENE # 5

INT. SALVADOR CLOONEY’S OFFICE

(Miranda’s snowboarder friend Barry is greeted by


Salvador).

SALVADOR
Thanks for coming here, Barry. I read in the
police report that your eyes were bloodshot.

BARRY
Do I have to talk to you?

SALVADOR
Technically, no. There are a lot of
technicalities in this business. I mean,
technically I shouldn’t tell you there’s five
hundred dollars in an envelope outside in the
alley for you if you’ve got information whether
Miranda was drunk or stoned on the mountain.

BARRY
This is pretty blatant.

SALVADOR
I’m testing your credibility, Barry. You can
either tell me the truth and take the money, or
you can tell me truth and not take the money.
It’s your choice.

SCENE # 6

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE - DAY

(John is sitting at his desk quietly. He stands up and


walks to the window. Abruptly he speaks out loud to the
speaker phone).

JOHN
Daydreaming’s healthy, so it’s not really
negligent.
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PHONE (PHIL)
You were negligent, John. Your client’s gonna
look like a heroin addict because of your
daydreaming. Not an enviable position for a
nanny! Never take your eyes off your adversary.
That’s Bruce Lee 101 -

JOHN
Oh’ c’mon on Phil.

PHIL
Alright, fine, call your insurance carrier… but
would Bruce Lee call his insurance carrier?

JOHN
(laughing)

(John’s receptionist, MAGGIE, walks in, silently retrieves


a file, and cleans a smudge on John’s desk).

PHIL
As your friend I’m only playing devil’s advocate…
okay?

JOHN
Go ahead.

PHIL
Alright, if daydreaming was excusable, people
would claim ignorance all the time just to get a
second chance.

JOHN
(silence)

PHIL
Listen, I want to tell you something. It’s
healthy for people to wallow in their own
mistakes. Negligence leads to regret, and regret
makes you want to simplify your life so you won’t
commit negligence again. That’s a good thing,
it’s like a system that works because in the end,
being negligent once makes you more aware of your
actions the next time.

JOHN
That is a good thing.
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PHIL
(eloquent)
Negligence is like dirt, but a lot of good things
come from dirt. Flowers, fishing worms, buried
treasure-

JOHN
That’s good therapy, Phil.

PHIL
How about Dr. Phil?

JOHN
(laughing)
I swear, I don’t even want to see a fake bill
coming from your office.

END SCENE

SCENE # 7

INT. NOISY RESTAURANT – 5PM

(John and his paralegal, IGOR, are sitting down in a noisy


restaurant by the window. Igor is eating an appetizer and
John is drinking a milkshake. A maraschino cherry sits
unwanted on the table.)

JOHN
I need research on a causation issue … a teenage
girl does something negligent in that she smokes
marijuana on a ski slope that’s out of her
league, but what actually causes harm is just an
ordinary slip on the snow while seeking
assistance down the mountain.

IGOR
I understand… first thing’s negligent, second
thing’s not.

JOHN
Good.

IGOR
I think the Ski Resort should be liable since the
chair lift operator didn’t help her.
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JOHN
I don’t know the answer, and neither will a jury,
but think like a plaintiff’s attorney. Miranda’s
intelligent, likeable, fairly innocent-

IGOR
And good looking… just making it obvious what the
factors are, okay… don’t look at me like that.

JOHN
As I was saying, the eye witnesses are Miranda,
her friend Dale, and that chair operator, so -

IGOR
California juries don’t like chair operators.

(Igor pretends to get zapped by an electric chair as he


makes a “btzzz” sound).

JOHN
(pity laugh)
That’s a lame joke.

IGOR
Sorry.

JOHN
In a case like this, where juries might not trust
their sense of right and wrong, they rely on
their sense of fear and drama. So, if they can’t
say who’s at fault, then what they really want is
just a theatrical show that appeals to their
sense of fear and drama, and whoever comes out
looking most guilty, loses.

IGOR
But-

JOHN
That was my way of saying that the plaintiff’s
attorney wants to use me and Miranda to make the
ski resort look guilty.

IGOR
Interesting.

JOHN
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Everybody wants to blame society for it, but


maybe it works.

IGOR
(nods)

JOHN
So I see this case and I say they award plaintiff
(deep breath) $10 million or so.

IGOR
How much will Miranda pay, do you think?

JOHN
Hopefully Miranda comes out okay.

(John motions for Igor to come close)

JOHN
Miranda has a twenty million dollar spendthrift
trust fund that takes effect on her 18th Birthday.

CUT TO:

INT. MIRANDA’S BATHROOM - DAY

(Miranda stares at herself in her bathroom mirror. She is


wearing plain clothes. A multi-disc cd player changes
discs, but when the new cd starts playing pop music,
Miranda lip synchs and dances for the mirror).

FATHER
(knocks on door)
Miranda.

MIRANDA
(turns off stereo)
I’m getting dressed.

(Miranda is fully clothed and not undressing).

FATHER
Your mother and I are going out for burgers and
shakes. Care to join us?

MIRANDA
(aware of her body)
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Not tonight. Thanks though.

FATHER
Can I bring you something back?

MIRANDA
No thanks, and yes, I’m sure.

FATHER
Okay. We’ll probably have left-overs though.

CUT TO:

INT. NOISY RESTAURANT – CONTINUOUS

IGOR (CONT’D)
(excited but whispering)
Twenty million! What kind of trust?

JOHN
Spendthrift. It means she can’t blow chunks of
money. It’s designed to preserve her quality of
life.

IGOR
What’s her quality of life?

JOHN
I don’t know, Igor, I just met her… and I’d like
to focus on the facts. Okay?

IGOR
I’m with ya. Miranda did what anybody would do on
that mountain.

JOHN
She unbuckled her board because she was standing
next to the chair lift.

IGOR
Totally reasonable.

JOHN
Then the operator tells her to walk down the
mountain, so she turns around and begins walking.

IGOR
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That sounds okay.

JOHN
I need to think.

(Igor eats his food silently).

VOICE OVER

(John’s imagination – Mock trial. John looks out the window


at an imaginary image of himself (Imaginary John) inside a
mock courtroom. In the “jury box,” standing, are twelve
imaginary snowboarders. An attractive woman on the street
walks by the restaurant window with a Churro and briefly
catches the attention of the imaginary snowboarders and
Igor. ‘Imaginary John’ commences his oral argument from the
street, speaking casually with one hand on a lamppost, and
the other holding a milkshake.)

IMAGINARY JOHN
Gentleman of the jury. My client is here in this
courtroom not because of anything she did wrong.
People are supposed to fall down on the slopes.
She’s here because … that man!

(‘Imaginary John’ points to a man on the street walking by,


and he immediately undergoes a morphed face, that of the
chair operator from the mountain. As John takes a pull from
his milkshake, so too does his image).

IMAGINARY JOHN
Imagine you’re just a novice snowboarder. You’re
also a seventeen-year old girl. (audible giggles
from the snowboarders). Okay, never mind… you’re
you… but there’s a seventeen-year old girl at the
top of a mountain, guys, and she needs help.
She’s a good steep mile from the lodge below,
with black diamond runs everywhere. Naturally,
she’s scared. She stops trying to snowboard once
she sees a chair lift.
She asks the chair lift operator for help, but
he’s decided it’s the end of the day and he can’t
guarantee Miranda a safe ride on the lift. So he
tells her to walk a mile down the icy mountain.
In these circumstances, gentleman of the jury, no
one would really believe Miranda was even one
percent negligent just ‘cause she lost her
footing once in the course of what was going to
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be a mile-long hike. And of course if you slip on


the snow you’re going to drop your board…”

END VOICE OVER

INT. NOISY RESTAURANT – CONTINUOUS

(Waiter delivers cheeseburgers)

IGOR
John?

JOHN
Hmm?

IGOR
Food’s here.

JOHN
(nodding)

IGOR
Who’s winning up there?

JOHN
(shaking head; semi-optimistic). There’s
something else … I want to see this Resort to do
some creative investigation, and I’ll need a
helper.

IGOR
Me?

JOHN
If you’re up for a road trip, then yeah, you.

IGOR
(enthusiastic nod)

JOHN
So have you noticed our case load is pretty large
this year?

IGOR
(sarcastic)
No.

JOHN
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Yeah, I think it’s about time to bring on another


person; maybe an intern, I don’t know, yet, but
I know you like where you’re at and I’m happy to
employ you, so I think I’ll just hire an intern.

IGOR
Works for me.

JOHN
So you’re not going to spontaneously quit on me?

IGOR
You have trust issues.

END SCENE

SCENE # 8

INT. PHIL’S MANSION – NIGHT

(PHIL and John sit casually by the elegant fireplace


drinking canned beer. Phil is a forty-year old lawyer whose
disheveled appearance seems out of place in his own
mansion.)

PHIL
Ski resort turns away a young girl asking for
help, and she looks innocent, so… I want to see a
happy ending.

JOHN
That’s a good comment. I’ll tell you though, I
had a hard time seeing innocence...

FLASHBACK TO:

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE – DAY

MIRANDA
(trying to crack a knuckle)
I’d say I’m a decent snowboarder.

JOHN
I seriously doubt that, but let me ask you
something-
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MIRANDA
I have a confession.

JOHN
What is it?

MIRANDA
On the mountain that day I borrowed a ski jacket
so I wouldn’t have to buy a lift ticket.

JOHN
I see. Thank you for telling me. You know it’s
interesting, if you never actually bought the
ticket, I wonder if you’re still bound by the
arbitration clause on there?

MIRANDA
(smiles)

JOHN
When you borrowed your friend’s jacket, you
understood you were stealing a ticket, right?

MIRANDA
(squirming in her seat)
Not really, I mean, it’s just borrowed if she’s
not using it.

END FLASHBACK

INT. PHIL’S MANSION – CONTINUOUS

JOHN (CONT’D)
People contort their bodies when their minds
can’t handle guilty knowledge. Just think about
that. The body squirms at the thought of guilt.
How much does that tell you about how simple we
are evolutionarily?

(John observes Phil staring at a female sculpture’s butt).

JOHN (CONT’D)
The mind and body connection is just really
interesting.

PHIL
26

Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought of that


already though.

JOHN
(laughing)
Good for you. The whole mind and body connection
you’ve figured out already?

PHIL
(laughing)
Well, by your own logic, if we’re really that
simple as a species, there wouldn’t be much to
figure out, would there?

JOHN
But we’re too simple to figure out our own
simplicity is what I’m saying. I’m still trying
to figure out how I zoned in Clarissa’s case-

PHIL
That heroin evidence motion?

JOHN
(shaking head regretfully).
Yeah… Why does this sort of thing keep happening
to me?

PHIL
Give yourself a break man. You’ve actually had a
pretty hard life. I mean for God’s sake, your
wife died. It’s okay to zone out as long you’re
careful.

FLASHBACK TO:

INT. DOCTOR’S OFFICE – THIRTY YEARS EARLIER


(A ten-year old John stands by his mother as the Doctor
speaks)

DOCTOR
(to Mother) For lack of a better phrase, Ms.
Christensen, your son is a human lie detector.
And quite frankly it’s exhausting him, which is
why I believe he daydreams so often, you see,
it’s an escape.

MRS. CHRISTENSEN
Is this a bad thing?
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DOCTOR
That’s up to John. The military could use him.

END FLASHBACK

PHIL
John?

JOHN
(sigh)

END SCENE

SCENE # 9

EXT. SKI RESORT - MORNING

(John and Igor walk through the snow outside the ski lodge,
each carrying a small camcorder).

JOHN
This is going to make Miranda happy. She likes
movies.

(John approaches a group of experienced snowboarders.)

JOHN
(to boarders) Hey guys, help me out with a little
investigation I’m doing, and I’m happy to pay for
your lift tickets. Won’t take more than an hour,
I promise, and I guarantee you’ll have fun with
it.

CUT TO:

EXT. SKI SLOPE - CONTINUOUS

(The snowboarders John solicited ride their boards


erratically down the mountain while on their knees. Music
is contemporary rock. Igor videotapes the facial
expressions of ambivalent employees watching the
spectacle.)

DISSOLVE TO:
28

EXT. SKI LODGE - CONTINUOUS

(John interviews a maintenance worker as he takes


measurements of areas lacking snow barriers around the
parking lot and café. Meanwhile, Igor nervously smokes
marijuana in the parking lot with some of the
snowboarders).

END SCENE

SCENE # 10

INT. SALVADOR CLOONEY’S LAW OFFICE - DAY

(In the small law firm conference room, Salvador sits with
his younger associate, RICK.)

SALVADOR
Alright, we’re looking for someone liberal-

RICK
Christensen’s letter recommends a lot of
mediators.

SALVADOR
(frustrated)
I know. Christensen recommends a lot of mediators
I don’t want.

RICK
I just –

SALVADOR
The last thing we’re going to do is pick somebody
from the other side’s list, someone who obviously
already likes him. It’s bad enough we have to try
the facts with him.

(Salvador laughs to show he was attempting humor).

RICK
Oh is that what we’re doing here?

SALVADOR
29

Just read.

RICK
(flipping pages)
The Honorable Darren Victor Seals. Divorced.
Political contributions are 95% Republican.

SALVADOR
Next.

RICK
Bill Mrzowski.

SALVADOR
I know him… that’s a negative.

RICK
(flipping pages)

SALVADOR
We’ll do this later. I lost my appetite.

(Salvador swings a telephone around and dials a number on


speaker phone. Split screen: A bald man, DAN, in a dim
office, lit by a glowing computer screen, answers the phone
after taking a sip of coffee from a mug with a technology
company logo on it.)

DAN
Hello?

SALVADOR
Dan, Salvador. I’m in my office with my
associate, Rick Hall. Rick, meet Dan.

RICK
Hi Dan!

DAN
Hi Rick.

SALVADOR
Alright, let’s talk about this computer animation
you’re handling.

DAN
I’m using the laser box we talked about … it
characterizes the terrain.
30

SALVADOR
Are you using this laser box during the same time
of day and in the same snow conditions as the day
in question?

DAN
Yes and no.

SALVADOR
I’m going to call you back in one week, and I
want that answer to be an unequivocal yes! (hangs
up phone)

SALVADOR
(to Rick) Make sure you put that call on your
time sheet… and round up. What time is it?

RICK
4:00

SALVADOR
I’ve got to get some pizza.

RICK
Can I come?

SALVADOR
(shakes head)

END SCENE

SCENE # 11

EXT. PIZZA PARLOR

(With his backpack resting on the seat next to him, Barry


sits down nervously, sipping a soda and looking out the
window. Salvador enters the pizza parlor wearing a sport
coat, spots Barry, and walks over).

SALVADOR
What do you have for me?

BARRY
A rave last year. Miranda was loaded.
31

(Barry pushes some photos across the table. Salvador


quickly flips through them with a sly smile.)

SALVADOR
I’ll give you 300.

BARRY
Can you make it 5?

SALVADOR
Don’t go out and buy drugs.

BARRY
What do you care?

(Salvador shrugs and hands Barry an envelope).

SCENE # 12

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE SUITE - DAY

(Maggie and Igor are working at their desks).

MAGGIE
There should be a law that all snowboards have
some thingy to keep the board attached -

IGOR
It’s called a leash, and they’re already
mandatory.

MAGGIE
If you could travel anywhere in the world right
now where would you go?

IGOR
Home.

(long pause, working. Camera focuses on the iconic items on


Maggie’s desk – rubber ducks, troll pencils)

MAGGIE
Igor?

IGOR
(mildly annoyed)
32

Yes

MAGGIE
If you could erase any moment from your past,
which moment would it be?

IGOR
(deep breath)
In college I accidentally left a burning candle
on my desk and fell asleep. My neighbors thought
I burned the building on purpose…

MAGGIE
You’re kidding.

IGOR
(shaking head)
When you know that saying sorry doesn’t matter,
that it doesn’t fix anything, that’s what it
means to feel someone’s pain.

MAGGIE
Wow! … You said you were sorry, right?

IGOR
Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you… no body wanted
to hear it.

MAGGIE
Well, I would erase the day I tried pot because I
didn’t feel anything but I still feel tainted for
some reason. I don’t mean to say that all people
who smoke pot are tainted, but, yeah, that’s what
I’d do. Or I guess I should say that’s what I
wouldn’t do. (laughs)

IGOR
That’s good Maggie. You’re a good person.

MAGGIE
You are too. People need forgiveness.

(As Maggie gently rubs the golden cross pendant around her
neck, the receptionist from the adjoining office, DANA,
enters).

DANA
Hey.
33

MAGGIE
Hey.

DANA
Did I interrupt something?

(awkward silence)

MAGGIE
I was just talking about the time I tried pot
actually.

DANA
(excitedly smiling)
Maggie! You stoner!

MAGGIE
I was going to say before you interrupted, I
didn’t feel anything-

DANA
(sarcastic)
So you didn’t feel the wind beneath your wings?

MAGGIE
I don’t even know why I -

DANA
I don’t care. You know it’s no secret in my book.

MAGGIE
That’s why I don’t know why I told you. (looks at
Igor). Brief lapse in judgment I guess.

DANA
Seriously, it’s cool. Who cares? It’s just funny
because it’s you, and you care.

MAGGIE
John would care.

IGOR
Well I don’t know about -

(John and Phil walk in, as Igor and Maggie wear embarrassed
faces).
34

END SCENE

SCENE # 13

INT. COURTROOM – DAY

(The courtroom gallery is filled with attorneys sitting and


chatting. On the dry erase board it reads, “Department 8 –
Tuesday, June 17, 9-10:30am - Case Management.”)

BALIFF
All rise!

JUDGE
First on the calendar. Case No. 495-885.
Danielle Roberts v. Pine Valley, Inc. and Miranda
Stone.

(Three lawyers, John, Salvador, and WAYNE, rise from their


seats and assume their respective podiums. Salvador stands
at the podium by the empty jury box. The Ski Resort’s
attorney, WAYNE BEALE, stands by John on the Defense side.
Out the window is a walking area where colorful flora can
be seen as old couples pass).

JUDGE
Good morning counsel.

ALL COUNSEL
Good morning.

JUDGE
Are we ready to set a trial date?

WAYNE
Your honor, my client intends to file a motion to
compel arbitration.

JUDGE
Why haven’t you already filed it?

WAYNE
Because we agreed to private mediation on an
expedited basis, but just for the record, my
client can’t waive what is clearly a contractual
right to arbitration.
35

SALVADOR
Your Honor, he’s talking about fine print on the
back of a ski lift ticket, which is at best a
contract of adhesion that -

JUDGE
That’s not before me right now.

JOHN
Your honor, the ski resort is the real defendant
in this case. Whether they go to arbitration
will determine whether the Court needs to issue a
stay of jurisdiction. So, at this time, I don’t
believe it would be beneficial to set a trial
date that may impede securing ‘a-d-r’ agreeable
to all parties.

JUDGE
I agree. Mediation compliance statements due 120
days from today.

SALVADOR
Thank you Your Honor.

JOHN AND WAYNE


Thank you Your Honor.

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. HALL OUTSIDE COURTROOM - CONTINUOUS

(John, Wayne, and Salvador exit the courtroom and enter the
hall. Salvador’s associate, Rick, who was sitting in the
gallery, joins them after squeaking by other attorneys who
adjust in their seats to let him through.)

SALVADOR
(mocking, to Wayne)
‘Right to arbitration?’ What the heck was that
Wayne?!

WAYNE
I was apprising the court of an issue addressing
the trial date.

SALVADOR
36

You were sugar-coating a non-issue. You had to


know I was going to call you on that, pal.

WAYNE
(shrugs shoulders)
Well, I’ve seen you do worse.

(Salvador pulls Wayne aside as the camera stays on John,


who engages Rick in conversation within earshot of
Salvador.)

JOHN
(to Rick) I’ll try this case to a jury, and I’ll
embarrass Salvador… we both know that. Don’t
make your client look vengeful and greedy going
after a young girl who slipped on an icy mountain
… Miranda puts a human face on the defense side
that’s going to hurt your claim for punitive
damages. Even procedurally, if I 998 your client
tomorrow, let’s say for $60,000, are you sure
you’re not going to lose money on me? A mediator
will tell you the same thing, so let’s be clear…
I like your client, but I don’t like your
chances. Why don’t you just go over (motioning to
Salvador)-

RICK
Mr. Clooney told me I’m not authorized to discuss
settlement with you John. Thanks for your
analysis though.

SALVADOR
Gentleman.

(As Salvador walks away, Rick picks up his briefcase and


follows).

WAYNE
(to John) Nice try.

JOHN
(to Wayne) Hey, I have a suggestion. Your client
is a behemoth… you guys own a mountain for God’s
sake, and if this goes to trial with my client as
a defendant, you’ll pay millions just to offset
the bad PR. I promise I’m not threatening you or
trying to pick a fight… but if it happens, it
won’t be my fault, it’s just inevitable if this
37

trial is publicized, and it probably will be, no


matter how I try this case. Oh, yeah, and I have
a surprise videotape I can’t wait to show the
press. So… think about agreeing to hold my
client harmless?

WAYNE
No way! The police think she and her friends were
high on grass. Besides, I can’t hold her
harmless, that’s unheard of.

JOHN
Is it? How would you know? Think about it.

(As Wayne thinks pensively, a bicyclist does a wheelie


outside the window)

JOHN
Let’s just speak hypothetically. What’s to stop
Miranda from suing Pine Valley for negligent
infliction of emotional distress?

WAYNE
What?!

JOHN
I’m sure I can find a psychiatrist who would say
your client abandoned her on that mountain, and
because her snowboard almost killed somebody
because she was abandoned… Just imagine the
newspaper headlines, “Pine Valley rejects
stranded girl’s requests for help; Company blames
girl in lawsuit.”

WAYNE
That’s bogus! She wouldn’t sue.

JOHN
You know it’s possible though. I may not try the
emotional distress case, but some lawyers would,
and why not immediately? Convince your client
I’ll do it, and then sign a waiver that says
because your agent was directing Miranda at the
time she dropped her board, you’ll indemnify her
completely.

WAYNE
I don’t know that’s what happened?
38

JOHN
(patronizing)
Obviously, Wayne, neither one of us was on that
mountain top, but with an affidavit-

JOHN
I’ll ask my client, but hey, that’s unheard of …
and you know it.

JOHN
Don’t underestimate juries, my friend.

(From the window in the background of John and Wayne’s


conversation, a turning bus sideswipes the bicyclist).

END SCENE

SCENE # 14

EXT. STREET - DAY

(Salvador walks with his client, Danielle, on a street


downtown. Some passersby stare at her facial deformity and
crooked walk.)

SALVADOR
Is it awkward?

DANIELLE
I hate it so much, I can’t even … it’s like
there’s no right way for people to look at me -

SALVADOR
Money can’t fix it, I know, but you’re brave for
getting out and living life.

(In the background, a store owner throws a hammer and box


of nails onto the roof of his store where his partner
attempts to catch them.)

SALVADOR (CONT’D)
This trial is going to be huge. (looking at a
green street light). And if we win punitive
damages the entire ski industry will change its
policy… because of you.
39

DANIELLE
(smiles)

SALVADOR
But if that doesn’t happen, all I can say is that
it’s sad commentary for America. Just know we’re
going to battle with a fire sword and an iron
shield for you. And when this lawsuit is over,
and newspapers have access to the truth, others
won’t have to go through what you’re going
through.

DANIELLE
Thanks, Salvador.

SALVADOR
Thank you Danielle, you’re making a difference.
Someday all sporting areas will have barriers to
shelter spectators.

END SCENE

SCENE # 15

EXT. MIRANDA’S SCHOOL – DAY

(Miranda and Dale are walking together in a courtyard)

MIRANDA
This lawsuit is life changing.

DALE
How?

MIRANDA
Well it’s lots of things, but mostly it’s made me
realize that the people you hang out with are
your witnesses. And I’m beginning to wonder if
I’m hanging out with the right people.

DALE
Are you breaking up with me?

MIRANDA
We’re not even dating?
40

DALE
Even still.

MIRANDA
No Dale, I still want to be your friend, but I
don’t think I want to hang out with Barry and
Steve anymore. And Rebecca has issues too. But
if I say something now-

DALE
You’re afraid they won’t be good witnesses in the
lawsuit?

MIRANDA
Kinda.

DALE
Fake it till you make it, I guess.

MIRANDA
I don’t think you understand.

DALE
What’s to understand? The harm is already done.
Do you want to go down for this?

(Miranda wears a troubled look)

SCENE # 16

INT. JOHN’S HOUSE – MORNING

(John’s financial portfolio of about $5 million is face up


on his desk next to his computer’s mouse. He is shopping
on e-bay and increasing his bid $2.50 on a $35 item. His
friend, GRAHAM, knocks on the door then walks in. John
turns upside down his stack of paper on the very organized
desk, and then searches for something to put on top of it,
other than his full water glass, which he reaches for twice
but decides against both times. He settles on a stapler,
then makes sure the stapler is aligned in the middle of the
paper. Graham walks up to the computer desk.)

GRAHAM
You didn’t return my phone call yesterday?
41

JOHN
Hey Graham. How goes it?

GRAHAM
Pretty good. What’s ya biddin’ on?

JOHN
A gavel, but I’m watching these too…

(John’s voice trails off as he clicks the mouse around to


show multiple e-bay windows)

GRAHAM
(nods, then walks toward kitchen)

JOHN
If you’re hungry, there’s some French salsa in
the fridge I ordered from a guy in Mexico.

GRAHAM
French salsa from Mexico?

(camera on Graham raiding fridge for more than salsa)

JOHN
(voice only)
This guy sells everything. Actually, come to
think of it-

(John’s neighbor E.J., a handsome black man dressed in


yuppie clothes, walks past the kitchen window in front of
Graham. E.J. rings the doorbell.)

JOHN
(voice only)
Can you get that, man?

GRAHAM
Sure. (walks over and opens door)

E.J.
What’s up cracka?!

GRAHAM
(smiling happily)

E.J.
Graham cracka! My friend, how ya been?
42

GRAHAM
Been good. You know I just spent a few months in
New York, right?

E.J.
Yeah (remembering), I remember you were telling
me a while back, the big audit. Your wife visit
you much out there?

GRAHAM
(sad)
Actually … just once

E.J.
In three months? Hey, that’s not that bad, don’t
be like that.

GRAHAM
Yeah, just… she didn’t call me that often, so-

JOHN
(walks into tv room; turns on baseball game)
Graham is fine! Can I get you some cheese with
that whine?

E.J.
Give him some cheese crackers!

GROUP
(laughing)

E.J.
Graham C., I’ll tell you everything you need to
know about women in one sentence. You ready for
this?

GRAHAM
(nods, trying to look sarcastic, but fails to
hide his enthusiasm).

E.J.
Women want a man who can be like a different guy
every day, the guy that fits her mood that day,
so she can decide in all different ways that she
wants it all.

GRAHAM
43

Interesting.

E.J.
(mocking)
Interesting?!

JOHN
(laughs)

E.J.
When I hear “that’s interesting,” for some reason
that makes me suspicious.

JOHN
(to E.J.)
I’m with ya… If you say something true, you don’t
want to hear back that it’s just interesting.

E.J.
My brotha!

JOHN
(throws out knuckles to E.J.)

GRAHAM
I’ll make a note.

E.J.
(looks at the TV, turns up volume)
Watch this… I saw this hidden camera show this
morning.

(An older guy in a flannel shirt buys beer for some boy
scouts. When the hidden cameras surprise him, everyone
laughs and claps).

E.J.
How are they clapping and not arresting that
guy?! Ya feel me?

JOHN
(nodding at E.J., cool smirk)

GRAHAM
You guys hear about Will Dench?

JOHN
(concerned)
44

No. What happened?

GRAHAM
Dench was spotting at the supermarket, ya know,
buying beer for teenagers, and the cops show up.
They say he was drunk and he got uppity, even
tried to run. Now to be fair, Dench’s story is
that he only had a few beers that morning and
that he only thought about running.

GROUP
(laughs)

GRAHAM
Anyway, something goes down and one of the cops
batons him in the head, and somehow this shatters
the beer bottles, so Dench gets glass in his eye.
And now he wants to sue the police. Care to take
that case, John?

JOHN
(throws a ‘hell no’ glance at E.J.)

END SCENE

SCENE # 17

INT. MIRANDA’S SCHOOL – DAY

(Miranda meets Barry at his locker).

MIRANDA
Hey.

BARRY
Hey, I heard you were concerned whether I’d be a
good witness for you.

MIRANDA
I’m more concerned about whether you’re a good
friend.

BARRY
Why would you think I wouldn’t be?

MIRANDA
45

I don’t know… it’s just that the only times we


ever hang out, we’re all about getting high, and-

BARRY
That’s not my fault!

MIRANDA
I’m not saying it’s your fault, Barry. It’s
just-

BARRY
You know what, I don’t want a conversation where
you’re going to get all righteous. Don’t forget,
I’ve seen you drunker-

MIRANDA
Listen! I’m trying to make some changes in my
life, and I need to know if I can count on you
for support?

BARRY
What changes?

MIRANDA
I just have a lot of regrets is all, and I want
to start really getting serious about college.

BARRY
You can count on me… If I were you, I’d get rid
of all your paraphernalia and any reminders of
stuff, like photos. Give it me, I’ll dump it for
ya.

(Miranda is skeptical).

SCENE # 18

INT. MIRANDA’S HOUSE - EVENING

(John is sitting down with Miranda, also sitting. Her


parents are in the kitchen cooking dinner.)

MIRANDA
Do we go to trial soon?

JOHN
46

No, the next step is mediation. No one can make


you settle, obviously.

MIRANDA
Do I have to prepare -

JOHN
Technically, no. You don’t have to say a word,
and I’m not going to let them ask you questions
at mediation.

MIRANDA
What were you telling my parents over the phone
today?

JOHN
(nervous)
Well, this is just my theory, but I think the
Plaintiff’s attorney has the idea that you’ll
dramatize his case in front of the jury, in a
good way because big dramas usually result in big
bucks for plaintiffs.

MIRANDA
What things can you say to them at mediation to
get them to dismiss me? Even if I don’t want you
to say them, just tell me…

JOHN
(taken back by Miranda’s assertiveness)
Just that you’re dangerous as a defendant because
you’re an intelligent person, and very capable of
harming everyone’s case but your own.

MIRANDA
So, how should I dress?

JOHN
Innocently. If you wear something homely at
mediation, you might think you’re taking
attention off yourself, but I think the
plaintiff’s attorney will call your bluff.
You’re obviously a pretty girl, and I’m sure he
already has pictures of you.

MIRANDA
Where would they get my picture?
47

JOHN
School photos, maybe. I don’t mean to confuse you
by saying the plaintiff wants someone pretty on
the stand to help him sell his big drama. But, I
don’t know, I think you’re old enough to
understand the system has problems that make this
case about more than negligence. Let’s face it,
pretty girls look more forgivable and are more
likely to originate drama, which isn’t entirely
bad because if your looks are the only thing
keeping you in this lawsuit, your looks will
eventually set you free.

MIRANDA
Should I be okay with that?

JOHN
I think it’s a commentary on the American jury
system.

MIRANDA
I wonder what I should wear?

JOHN
Something conservative that’s young-looking and
innocent. Do you own a necklace with a cross
pendant?

MIRANDA
My mom does.

JOHN
That would be a good start.

END SCENE

SCENE # 19

BEGIN MONTAGE

(Montage music is contemporary.)

INT. LAW LIBRARY – DAY


48

• (John prepares for Mediation by reading materials in


the law library, including legal books, snowboarding
equipment manuals, and newspaper archives. On a coffee
and donut break, John laughs to himself reading a
column in Sports Illustrated.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. SALVADOR’S LAW OFFICE – DAY

• (Salvador calmly reviews medical records with a


doctor. He has Rick highlighting passages in legal
journals - “$7.5 million awarded to Plaintiff for
brain injuries sustained at hockey game.” “Owner of
street-side café successfully defends lawsuit brought
by woman hit by bicyclist.”)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE – DAY

• (John reviews interrogatories and documents produced


by the other parties during discovery. As he drafts
Miranda’s discovery responses, the camera focuses on
the Form Interrogatory asking, “Did you use drugs or
alcohol within 72 hours of the Incident?” As John
works, in a territorial display, Maggie organizes
John’s new e-bay items in his office, including a new
pen-holder, a lamp, and a new picture frame for a
photo of John’s college-aged son PATRICK.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. WAYNE’S OFFICE – DAY

• (Wayne sits down in his office conference room with


three professor-like individuals, grilling them,
raising his voice, and shaking paper while pointing to
computer screens.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE – EVENING


49

• (John sits down in his office with Miranda as he asks


questions to her friends from the mountain. He gives a
very suspicious look to Barry.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. JOHN’S OFFICE - NIGHT

• (John sits up in bed making finishing touch edits into


his legal brief)

END MONTAGE

SCENE # 20

INT. MEDIATION CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY

(San Francisco skyline view from an elegant conference


room. Present are John, Miranda, Salvador, Danielle, Wayne,
and SKI RESORT EXECUTIVE. In walks MEDIATOR.)

MEDIATOR
Welcome to mediation, ladies and gentleman. I
like to begin by sharing some background about
myself as we break bread together (offers
donuts).

(Miranda and John both look out the window. Miranda


occasionally glances at John.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. MEDIATION CONFERENCE ROOM – CONTINUOUS

MEDIATOR
… which is why I love the American jury system!
It gives me everything I need to know to settle
cases. So let’s get started…

(nodding in the room)

MEDIATOR (CONT’D)
I’ll hear from the plaintiff first.
50

SALVADOR
Thank you, sir. Why would a ski-resort neglect to
install a barrier between the sporting area and
the outdoor café abutting that sporting area?
The only logical conclusion is that Pine Valley
willfully chose to maintain a view of the
mountain at the expense of safety. It was a
decision worth millions of dollars and prestige
in the long term, but it cost my client a normal
life, and it all started with a near death
experience for her.

FLASHBACK TO:
EXT. SKI RESORT - DAY

(Danielle’s imagination - Danielle is standing in the café


on the mountain wearing the same attire she is wearing at
mediation, but she’s alone. She stands inquisitively,
unable to budge, as the snowboard comes toward her.)

SALVADOR
(voice only)
The snowboard launches out of the sporting area
and literally slices my client’s cranium open,
immediately severing billions of neural pathways
in her brain.

(CGI - special effects of severed neurons)

END FLASHBACK

INT. MEDIATION CONFERENCE ROOM - CONTINUOUS

SALVADOR (CONT’D)
Not only has she lost the ability to remember
most of her past, her husband left her.
(Danielle begins crying) She can’t care for
herself (Miranda starts crying), she can’t care
for her kids without a guardian supervising.
She’ll never be able to hold a meaningful job
again… volunteer again… love again. A jury will
award between $20 and $25 million for my client’s
non-economic damages.

SKI RESORT EXECUTIVE


(takes a deep breath)

SALVADOR
51

Safety over profit. Just give me a jury.

MEDIATOR
Thank you Mr. Clooney. Now I’ll hear from the
ski lodge.

WAYNE
(speaking slowly to Danielle)
First, allow me to express my sympathies to you,
Danielle Roberts. My name is Wayne Beale and I’m
Pine Valley’s attorney. If your attorney is here
today to talk about profit, I’m sorry to hear
that. I’m here to discuss the nature of sports
and sporting areas. The fact is, there is no ski
lodge in the country that stops everything that
slides down the mountain. That’s a fact.

WAYNE
(turns to mediator)
We live in a world of risks, and Pine Valley has
gone to great lengths warning people of the risks
of entering the mountain area.

JOHN
Not even a sign that read ‘Beware of flying
snowboards’ would be a defense! The duty to
provide a safe-

MEDIATOR
Mr. Christensen. Let’s just allow him to have
opening remarks–

JOHN
(friendly nod toward Danielle)

WAYNE
Now, I know this is hard for Miranda to accept,
but the fault here lies with her for not wearing
a leash and for dropping her snowboard. Our
rules require that everyone wear a leash, which
again, is the same as every ski lodge.

JOHN
But leashes-

MEDIATOR
John!
52

WAYNE
I think it’s relevant that Danielle made the
conscious decision to enjoy the view of the
mountain outside rather than inside. Risks are
real, and not all of them point to negligence.

JOHN
Your chair lift attendant was reckless.

WAYNE
We’ll discuss our chair lift attendant in detail,
but truth be told, I think most jurors would say
Miranda is 90% to blame here. She violated the
mountain’s rules by not wearing a leash, and
there was less time for an employee to catch her
without a leash because she came to the resort in
the late afternoon after stealing a ticket.

MIRANDA
(lowers head)

WAYNE
But even if Miranda wasn’t negligent, my client
hired an expert computer simulation artist who
determined the precise odds of this particular
accident occurring were about one in ten million,
so-

JOHN
That statistic is a joke! Is it my turn yet, I’m
sorry?

MEDIATOR
(looking at Wayne)

WAYNE
(nods to Mediator in passive exhaustion
suggesting John may proceed)

JOHN
Okay, one in ten million in what context? I’d
like to see your computer simulation because I
hired an expert myself and he tells me this thing
is no more complicated than Plinko from the Price
is Right. Loose boards don’t flip over, and
according to the employees I’ve interviewed,
boards and skis get loose all the time.
53

WAYNE
(silence)

JOHN
So your statistic is either an outright lie, or
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and call
it a mistake. My expert tells me a snowboard let
loose from Miranda’s location was more likely
than not to end up around the lodge, so why
weren’t there snow barriers?

WAYNE
(as if reading from a script) Lack of snow
barriers is a weak argument since the chances of
injury here were miniscule.

JOHN
I will ask at every point in this trial - where’s
the negligence on Miranda’s part? If you think
it’s negligent to slip on a mountain, well…
What happened to Danielle was predictable and it
was preventable.

SALVADOR
Exactly.

JOHN
(to Salvador) I don’t know why Miranda is a
defendant in this lawsuit, but I do see why she’s
an important witness. Let’s get her dismissed as
a party, okay? That way we can focus on Pine
Valley being reckless for not putting up any
barriers, and for abandoning Miranda.

WAYNE
And if Miranda smoked marijuana on that mountain,
she shouldn’t be held accountable?!

JOHN
(To Wayne) You guys are going to look pretty
vengeful trying to point the finger at Miranda,
especially after your employee told her to walk
down the mountain.

WAYNE
(whispers to Ski Resort Executive)

JOHN (CONT’D)
54

(to Salvador) Miranda would like to say something


now to Mrs. Roberts if that’s okay.

SALVADOR
That’s fine.

MIRANDA
(crying)
(to Danielle) I know it’s my fault! Our fates are
locked ‘cause I think about you every day. Maybe
I’ll never really know what you’re going through,
what you’ve lost, and maybe it’s selfish to ask
you for forgiveness, but if you can forgive, I
think we’ll both be better because I’m changed
too and I think we’ll always be connected…

(John places his hand on Miranda’s shoulder to calm her


down)

MIRANDA
I don’t think any amount of money can ever make
things right, but if there’s anything I can do to
make ski lodges put up safety barriers, just say
it.

DANIELLE
Tell me what you really think … do you think… is
the view from… the café… is it worth keepin’ it?

SALVADOR
(To Mediator) I need a moment alone with my
client.

MEDIATOR
Of course.

(As Miranda gets up, crying uncontrollably, she hugs


Danielle. John pries her off. Salvador and Danielle stay in
the room.)

DISSOLVE TO:

INT. MEDIATION OFFICE - CONTINUOUS

(The camera follows John, Miranda, Wayne, and Ski Resort


Executive as they walk to an adjoining room with a skyline
view of the city.)
55

JOHN
You’re a good person Miranda.

(Miranda and the Ski Resort Executive cry together as John


looks out the window at the Cityscape.)

FLASHBACK TO:

EXT. BEAUTIFUL PARK – DAY

(John’s imagination - John is sitting down with CAROL and


their baby PATRICK on a picnic blanket in the park on a
sunny day.)

CAROL
There’s no right answer.

JOHN
But if that’s true, Carol, then there’s no single
correct moral way to tell a person how they
should act.

CAROL
(smiles)
That’s life.

JOHN
But all I was saying is that unless it’s
something like property damage, there’s really
nothing I can do to change the past.

CAROL
I don’t follow because, are you talking about the
lawyer’s role, or are you making a point about
the system, or about individual people?

JOHN
(loving look)
Mostly you, actually. How right of an answer do
you think you are?

CAROL
(tickles John)

END FLASHBACK
56

INT. MEDIATION OFFICE - CONTINUOUS

(John takes a deep breath and wears a look of acceptance


with his role as a lawyer. Meanwhile, Miranda talks to the
teary-eyed Ski Resort Executive).

MIRANDA
How much are you guys gonna pay Danielle?

WAYNE
(to Executive) Don’t answer that.

SKI RESORT EXECUTIVE


(to Miranda) I may be sad, Ms. Stone, but I’m not
a fool. I don’t think you understand how lawsuits
work. Not that it’s your fault, I mean, you’re
just a teenager. But the only way Danielle is
gonna get a big chunk of money from us is if some
liberals on a jury-

WAYNE
(to Executive) Please, stop talking now!

JOHN
If only I had my tape recorder.

WAYNE
Wouldn’t matter, John, anything said during
mediation is inadmissible evidence.

END SCENE

SCENE # 21

INT. SALVADOR’S OFFICE - EVENING

(Salvador and Rick arrive back at their office, exhausted.)

SALVADOR
Trial it is then.

RICK
(heavy sigh)

SALVADOR
57

Why do I employ you?

RICK
You’re not that special you know.

SALVADOR
What?! What am I supposed to say to that?

RICK
You may win a lot of money for Danielle in this
trial, but the main reason’ll be because she’s
still alive… you know… that snowboard didn’t kill
her, and the jury will just think she would have
been better off dead.

SALVADOR
You –

RICK
Oh’ c’mon, I’m just tellin’ it how it is.

SALVADOR
Don’t you decide whether a single person in this
world is worth more dead or alive! You have no
right to do that for anyone other than yourself,
and don’t try to pretend you’re qualified to talk
about juries either.

RICK
Who’s pretending?

SALVADOR
I don’t want to argue with you!

RICK
Whatever!

SALVADOR
You know what! You’re fired Rick, that’s
whatever!

RICK
(shocked)

END SCENE

SCENE # 22
58

INT. MIRANDA’S HOUSE - DAY

(Miranda’s father writes a check to the New York Times for


$200,000. Also present are John, Miranda, and Miranda’s
mother).

FATHER
(to John) I have to say, I’d have never guessed
that we’d be able to settle this case with a
picture of Miranda.

END SCENE

SCENE # 23

INT. JOHN’S HOUSE – MORNING

(John sits down alone at his dining room table drinking


coffee as subtle classical music plays. He is half-dressed
for work and viewing the back page newspaper advertisement
in the NY Times. The camera sees only the front page. When
he turns the paper around, the camera sees the back page he
was just viewing, which reads: “Paid for by the Trust of
Miranda Stone.” It is a full-page color advertisement with
Miranda’s and Danielle’s picture on it. Miranda is wearing
the cross pendant and has a sad but pretty facial
expression. The ad calls upon ski resorts to provide safety
barriers around non-sporting areas, and it also contains an
anti-drug message. John hears a knock at the door. It’s
his former client, Clarissa, the negligent nanny).

JOHN
(opens door)
What do you want?

CLARISSA
What do you think? I’m suing you for losing my
case.

(Clarissa hands him some legal papers, then does an about


face, walking back to her car).

JOHN
59

Clarissa, you can’t personally serve a complaint


in your own lawsuit. It’s prohibited by the
rules of civil procedure.

CLARISSA
Son-of-a!

(Frustrated, Clarissa turns around again to retrieve the


legal papers from John’s outstretched hand. But, her high
heel catches a crack in the walkway and she face plants
hard. John puts his head in his hand for a moment, then
helps her up as she bleeds on him).

CLARISSA
(waving bloody legal papers)
I’ll be adding a claim for this defective
walkway.

JOHN
(laughs)
Naturally, it’s the ground that’s defective.

THE END

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