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John C. Buchanan

Attorney Michigan Personal Injury Lawyer John C. Buchanan

Questions and Answers

Tell us about the origin of Buchanan Firm and how/when/why you started the firm?

The firm was founded in February 1995 dedicated to providing very high-quality litigation services to victims of wrongful death, personal injury, and major business catastrophic matters. All four partners in the firm had extensive litigation experience and the most senior partner had successfully tried over 200 jury cases during his 33 years in practice.

in 1999, the firm restructured limiting its practice exclusively to major medical malpractice matters on behalf of patients. This field of law had become extremely complicated and challenging that only the most experienced and skilled trials lawyers dare enter it, particularly on behalf of patients. In fact, the challenges had become so demanding, that a highly skilled trial lawyer really had to limit his practice to the single specialty of medical malpractice litigation to do an excellent job for the victims of these very serious medical negligence matters.

Further, because the field demanded both extensive legal and medical knowledge and experience in the proper handling of medical malpractice litigation, excellent law firms offering this service had to bring on board a medical expert highly skilled in the field of medicine in addition to highly skilled trial lawyers on staff.

In 2000, to meet this additional demand of excellence, Buchanan Firm brought on board a full-time physician who was a past chief of staff at one of the local hospitals, educated at the University of Michigan Medical School and the prestigious Mayo Clinic, to work side by side with the firm’s trial lawyers in the handling of medical cases.

The law firm gained national attention in both the legal and medical fields with this innovative new idea of bringing a lawyer-doctor team to every medical malpractice case the firm handled. The law firm’s logo nicely illustrates this concept.

Buchanan Firm has continued to this today limiting its practice to representing only patients in very serious and catastrophic medical malpractice matters.

What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about?

During my first year in college in 1955, I developed two passions that have been at the forefront of my professional and personal life ever since. First, my passion for the profession of law. Both my dad and my uncle were outstanding trial lawyers at that time and to me, one of the greatest achievements in life would be to follow in their footsteps. I then set my professional goals to first graduate from a top law school and then to become an excellent trial lawyer.

in 1962, I was honored and very pleased that I had achieved the first of these two professional goals. I graduated from The University of Michigan Law School, one of finest Law schools in the world. Thirty-three years later, when we founded Buchanan Firm, I was also honored and frankly awed that I had the good fortune of having successfully tried more than 200 jury cases and was recognized for excellence by my peers by induction into the invitation-only American College of Trial Lawyers, limited to the top 1% of the Lawyers in the country, and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, limited to the 500 best trial lawyers in the world

Also, back in 1955, my second passion was launched when my roommate at college, who at that time was a private pilot, took me for my first ride in a single-engine airplane. I was hooked. I saved $6 a week to take half-hour flying lessons every Saturday morning. In February 1956, at age 19, I soloed a single-engine airplane. To say that aviation and flying light airplanes was one of my recreational passions would be a gross understatement. Though I have several other hobbies, sports, and special interests, nothing compares to flying. I have been flying now for well over 50 years and have owned several single-engine airplanes flying all over North America and Hawaii.

What do you wish other people knew about medical malpractice in Michigan?

I will limit other people to “patients.” Though I am a great supporter of the medical profession and have the utmost respect for doctors, hospitals and other care providers, I wish all patients knew the risks of medical care provided by the medical profession and what could go wrong, particularly in the hands of incompetent providers. Always be on guard. Select your providers carefully based upon thorough research and good recommendations. Be alert for possible medical mistakes when being treated by any medical care provider. A sick person in the hospital should have a family member or friend there to carefully monitor the care given and to ask questions if things don’t seem right.

Though patients cannot always expect the best outcomes from medical procedures, they do have a right to expect good care from competent providers. If the result of a procedure, good or bad, is within the reasonable expectation of what could happen, then it is unlikely a medical error has occurred.

On the other hand, if the result is bad and unexpected, there is a good chance that something has gone wrong due to the negligence of one or more of the medical care providers treating the patient at that time of the event. If that happens, the patient, or a family member, should promptly contact a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice cases for patients.

This, initially, is not for the purpose of filing a lawsuit, but primarily to preserve evidence. These kinds of lawsuits are often won or lost based upon the content of the patient’s medical records. When bad things happen, it is not unusual for medical records to get altered or damaging portions of them lost. Remember the movie The Verdict starring Paul Newman. if a patient’s lawyer can get a copy of the patient’s medical records soon after the event, there is a very good chance it will be before the records are altered or critical parts of them lost.

Name three movie characters whose personalities or nature best resemble your own.

Atticus Finch in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” played by Gregory Peck. Paul Biegler in the movie “Anatomy of a Murder” played by Jimmy Stewart. And Vinny Gambini in the movie “My Cousin Vinny” played by Joe Pesci.   Why these three?

Gregory Peck won the 1962 Academy Award for Best Actor playing Atticus Finch in the movie To Kill a Mockingbird. That was the same year I graduated from the University of Michigan Law School.  At that time, it was often said that every parent wanted their child to grow up to become a doctor or a lawyer. Lawyers were held in high esteem back then and Atticus Finch was the quintessential example of the public’s image of lawyers and what lawyers at that time aspired to become. I was extremely proud and honored to become a lawyer back in 1962 and tried to live my entire career upholding those high standards so flawlessly presented by Atticus Finch in one of the greatest movies of all time.

I spent my career trying cases in almost every county in Michigan including the 19th Century courtroom in Marquette where they filmed Anatomy of a Murder. It looked the same then as it did when they made the movie. That made the movie kind of special for me, but that is not why I have selected the Jimmy Stewart character as one of my three favorite picks here.

I picked Paul Biegler because Jimmy Stewart’s performance in that movie perfectly illustrates how the very finest trial lawyers, who know how to win with juries, try cases.   His compassion, sincerity, creditability, humility, emotions, appearance and trial skills, particularly direct and cross-examination, were outstanding. Though there were a few scenes in the movie that were a little over the top for entertainment purposes, I think that this movie and Paul Biegler very accurately illustrate the kind of lawyer that I most closely identify with, in my nature and personality.

My Cousin Vinny is a very funny movie and one of my top favorites. I have watched it many times. It came out in 1992, 30 years after I graduated from law school and they made To Kill a Mockingbird. It was also the same year I founded the International Society of Primerus Law Firms. I often use these two movies in speeches to highlight the decline in the legal profession during this 30-year period from the high of Atticus Finch to the low of Vinny Gambini.

Why then would I pick this character as an example of a lawyer whose personality and nature best resembles my own? Yes, during the first half of the movie he comes across as a bumbling idiot from Brooklyn trying his first case in a small-town Alabama courtroom with a tough judge who tells him that he better know procedures when he comes into his courtroom or he will be treated harshly. That is exactly what happened. He spent the first few nights during the trial in Jail for contempt of court in not following procedures, for his leather jacket attire, and for his courtroom antics.

But the second half of the movie is a different story. Vinny is transformed from a bumbling idiot into a brilliant trial lawyer. His cross-examination of the three eyewitnesses, who identified his clients as the killers, was excellent. He discredited each one based upon the flaws in the accuracy of their observations – with one the time it takes to cook non-instant grits, with another, the problem seeing through dirty screens, trees with leaves, and several bushes, and with the third, an elderly lady with thick glasses and difficulty she had seeing how many fingers Vinny was holding up from 50 feet away.

The best of Vinny’s trial skill came at the end. Though discrediting the three eye witnesses was important and very helpful to win the case, his most brilliant feat was to destroy the prosecution’s claim that it was the defendants 1964 mint green Buick Skylark convertible that screeched away from the crime scene leaving two black skid marks, one on the pavement and one on a raised curb. With intimate knowledge of automobiles and auto mechanics, Vinny and his expert witness girlfriend, Mona Lisa Vito, proved that only a car with positive traction could leave skid marks on a raised curb like that, which the defendants Buick Skylark, not having positive traction, could not have done.  They further proved that a mint green 1963 Pontiac Tempest, that looked very much like the defendants Buick, did have positive traction and would have most likely made those skid marks. Vinny then recalled, for cross-examination, the prosecution’s auto mechanics expert who reversed his prior testimony and agreed with Miss Vito. Finally, Vinny recalled the Sheriff to the stand who confirmed that two boys meeting the defendant’s description, driving a stolen 1963 mint green Pontiac Tempest, were recently arrested in a nearby county with a 57 Magnum revolver in their possession, which was the type of weapon used to kill the clerk. With this final blow, the prosecution threw in the towel and dismissed all charges.

It is this kind of performance during the second half of the movie, ignoring Vinny’s inappropriate courtroom antics, that I most identify with in describing the work of an excellent trial lawyer. As Judge Chamberlain Haller said to Vinny in the final scene in front of the courthouse, “your courtroom manner may be rather unconventional, but I have got to tell you, you are a hell of a trial lawyer.

What are you happiest doing, when you are not working?

This is a very hard question because there are a lot of things I am happiest doing when I am not working. I have already mentioned flying which has been my second passion for over 50 years. But there are many other things I love doing depending upon the season, place and time of day.

On a warm sunny summer day in Michigan, there is nothing I love doing more than being on our boat, anchored in a beautiful bay somewhere in Northern Lake Michigan waters, enjoying the sunshine and jumping into the crystal-clear waters of our magnificent lake. During the winter, I love skiing on a perfect ski day in the awe-inspiring mountains of Colorado and Utah. At home in Michigan, I love hanging around our beautiful place at Buchanan Farms and driving my 1949 Ford convertible with the top down on a warm sunny summer’s day. At our home in Scottsdale, I love hanging around our lovely condo in Las Brisas during the warm sunny winter months, jumping into our swimming pool every day, and driving my 1947 Cadillac convertible on weekends around town and to the many classic car events they have in Arizona during the winter months. I also love our magnificent Arabian horse that we visit and take care of every day and ride whenever possible. We keep him in a lovely stable which is only a five-minute drive from our Scottsdale home.

Most of all, I love spending time enjoying life with my family and our very good friends. For example, in June 2016, our son Rob and his wife Mary, and our daughter Jane and her husband Ray, together with their six children and our six grandchildren, spent a month in Italy, the first two weeks in Rome with three of our grandchildren, and two weeks in the Tuscany region with everyone, renting an old mansion on the hills in a vineyard overlooking a beautiful lake, and touring together many of the lovely and quaint little Italian towns in the surrounding area. In the evening, there is nothing more enjoyable than spending time together, on an open patio, at a wonderful Italian restaurant with great food and with a fabulous bottle of Italian wine.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Another hard question because I have several favorite places in the world. Probably at the top of the list is our beautiful home at Buchanan Farms in Ada, Michigan. This is not just a nice home that we bought in a nice neighborhood a few years ago because it was located not too far from our office in downtown Grand Rapids. We have been on this land where we live now for 50 years. We started with two and a half acres and built our first home there in 1968. Since then, as land became available around us, we bought another twenty-five acres, built a small lake on the property with a quaint log cabin at the far end of it, developed eleven home sights which we sold off, planted fifty beautiful Norway spruce trees around the lake and built our second retirement home on the shores of that lake twenty-one years ago in 1997.

Second on the list is our lovely condo at Las Brisas in Scottsdale, Arizona, followed by the magnificent waters of Northern Lake Michigan and the elegantly restored Victorian little towns that boarder the Grand Traverse and Little Traverse Bays of that Lake where we spend the weekends during Michigan’s glorious summer months cruising in our boat from one splendid little port to another. For the pure joy of living, it is very hard to beat this.

Memberships & Awards

  • Founder and President, International Society of Primerus Law Firms
  • Member and Board of Directors, International Academy of Trial Lawyers
  • Member, American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Diplomat, The American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys
  • Member, American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Recognized by “The Best Lawyers in America” and “West Michigan’s Best Lawyers”