Legal 'marksman' - Attorney goes to bat for injured clients

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

According to personal injury attorney Victor Balta, the courts are the last refuge for the individual.

“All rights are ultimately won or lost there. I wanted to gain ability to help people in their most desperate hour – that’s what drew me to the law,” he says.

An attorney at Moss & Colella PC in Southfield, Balta notes that an economic disparity exists between civil claimants and the parties defending claims.

“Tort reform across the United States has strong ties to lobbying by insurance companies and other similarly interested groups, although a number of tort reform campaigns focused on claims that tort reform would be beneficial to individual society members as a whole,” he explains.

“I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that tort reform has returned any benefit to the average individual.”

Balta notes civil defendants – more often represented by large firms, with a number of attorneys working on the same file – typically have greater resources when defending a case.

“They can financially bear the time and expense of litigation much better than injured individuals, who are often out of work for months, if not years,” he says. “From the beginning, the hurdles are set higher for civil plaintiffs, both legally and economically.”

Since tort reform and other statutory protections often favor civil defense, Balta says his brand of legal practice focuses on “legal marksmanship” – specialized focus on comprehensive knowledge of the factual record and precise standards of law.

“Extensive knowledge of the facts allows you to counter an interpretation or glossing over of the facts – such as ‘nobody saw anything, everyone here is a diligent and hard worker’ – while focused legal writing shows that in similar circumstances, parties have been allowed to proceed to litigation with similar evidence,” he says.

Balta explains these tactics counter the two most common type of defenses: painting a rosy, “Norman Rockwell style” view of the facts in favor of the defense; and claims that insufficient evidence exists to warrant jury trial because legal standards are onerous.

In a wrongful death case, Balta convinced the court that a criminal conviction by a jury for murder should be used under a doctrine of “offensive collateral estoppel” to prevent a civil defense to the wrongful death claim.

“The case law showed this option remained and application of the doctrine was warranted, as the doctrine existed only to prevent parties from waiting for other civil cases to resolve before jumping in with their own claims, without the risk of losing if they waited patiently,” he explains. “Clearly, there is no such mentality as no one can join a criminal case and sit next to the prosecutor.”

In an employment discrimination case, he found evidence supporting that an employee from a protected minority class was terminated on the basis of race and allegations of poor performance were a pretext.

“I was able to get admissions on the record supporting that performance tracking metrics were highly subjective and furthermore, performance tracking documentation showed that similarly performing non-minority
employees were not terminated,” he says.

Balta also works in tandem with Moss & Colella partner Vince Colella on a number of qualified immunity cases – where claims against government employees are limited to more egregious wrongdoing.

In one such case, the pair reconstructed a timeline of events from radio transmissions supporting that police intentionally ambushed a man outside his home; leading the court to find that questions for a jury existed as to whether there was sufficient evidence of excessive force.

Balta launched his career by earning an undergraduate degree in business administration summa cum laude, from Georgia State University, before getting a full-ride, Charles H. King scholarship, from Michigan State University College of Law where he earned his J.D., summa cum laude.

During law school, he served as an extern for the Ingham County Probate Court as well as the Michigan Court of Appeals Research Division.

He also received the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute Certificate; served as a managing editor of the MSU Law Review; and his paper on the unconstitutionality of using pepper spray on restrained individuals, “Setting Fire to the Devil’s Chair,” was digitally published by Michigan State University.

The second of four children, Balta credits his parents for his success.

“My dad was a very hard-worker, working two full-time positions for most of my childhood. When he wasn’t at work, he was sleeping and getting ready for his next shift,” he says. “I always think about what my dad had to go through and he always encouraged me to find a job that focused on my intelligence and not brute strength.

“My mom is a very compassionate person, a paraprofessional and works with special needs students at public schools. She taught me to understand that everyone comes from different walks of life, each with their own challenges and burdens.”

In his leisure time, Balta is an avid reader of history.

“I love seeing how strategic decisions play out and how society adapts to new technologies and ideologies,” he says.

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