WHEN A CEMETERY IS NOT A CEMETERY
And other tales from Oliver Maner’s Patrick T. O’Connor
INTERVIEW BY ERIK LUNDEGAARD
Q: I’m hearing a lot of background noise
right now. Where are you?
A: Well, I’ve got a schizophrenic situation
here. I went to Auburn undergrad and
University of Georgia law school, and I’m
driving to Athens to see those two schools
play in football.
Q: You’ll be rooting for Auburn?
A: Yes indeed.
Q: So would I be starting on the wrong
foot if I mentioned that, as football
nicknames go, you can’t get much better
than “Crimson Tide”?
A: Oh yes you can. It’s funny: some people,
especially Alabama people, like to ask
Auburn people, “Well, gosh, are you the
War Eagles or are you the Tigers or are you
the Plainsmen?” And I always say, “Well,
if you’re the Crimson Tide, why is your
mascot an elephant?” And they never have
a real good answer for that.
Q: Speaking of names, yours sounds like
you should be a cardinal somewhere.
A: That’s another interesting story. I
grew up in a little town about 50 miles
from Savannah: Statesboro, Georgia.
And my great-great-grandfather and his
two brothers came to this country from
County Wexford, Ireland in the 1850s.
At that time, in places like Savannah,
Q: What’s the brunt of your practice
the Irish were a dime a dozen. You
couldn’t get work, pretty much, if you
were Irish. There were signs posted at
some businesses: “Irish need not apply.”
And so a lot of those Irish immigrants
moved out into the country. And then they
wound up marrying Baptist or Methodist,
Presbyterian women and in the words of a
friend of mine in Savannah, “They lost the
faith.” So I am actually a Baptist, named
Patrick Timothy O’Connor. But once a
year, on Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m a king.
A: I would say 60 percent of what I do
is defense civil litigation, and of that 60
percent, half of it is representing cities,
counties and their employees and elected
officials in various types of cases—mainly
civil rights Section 1983 cases. But it could
be anything from an arrest case to a zoning
case. I probably have 50 or 60 open files
for cities and counties.
The other half of my defense work is
legal malpractice defense and business
litigation. I do some product liability
defense, mainly for a company that makes
school buses, Blue Bird Body Company.
Then I do a few plaintiff’s cases. We don’t
sue lawyers, we don’t sue doctors, we don’t
sue cities and counties, because we defend
all the above.
And I would say about 15 to 20 percent
of what I do is handle mediations and
Q: The other day, I mentioned to another
Savannah attorney that I was going to
interview you, and he suggested I ask
you this: “Have you seen any difference
in the negotiations of insurance
companies over the last five years?”
A: He’s probably thinking about my work
as a mediator. I’m not what you would
call an insurance defense lawyer. But
I do see, in the mediation practice, the
negotiating tactics of both plaintiff’s
and defense lawyers, and insurance
companies and adjusters. Here’s what