He’ll “make them pay.” If you live in Northeast Ohio, you know that slogan. Tim Misny is one of the most recognizable celebrities in town. He resembles a professional wrestler more than a lawyer and he has a big personality to match. With over 33,000 likes on his Facebook page and his own reality show, Misny is more than an attorney. He is an innovator who has embraced technology and made it work for him rather than using more traditional marketing. More importantly, he uses his influence and power to drag settlements out of corporations, insurance companies, and government agencies which try to ignore the devastation caused by their negligence. In other words, he’s tough as nails and he’s on your side. Mr. Misny was gracious enough to invite me to Misnyland where we sat down together on a snowy February afternoon to discuss reality television, Elvis, and the gem that is Cleveland.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I am a local boy, as local as they come. I grew up in Euclid and I have fond memories of growing up in a one bedroom brick bungalow. I have an older brother, Tom. Both of my parents have since passed but I got my work ethic from my dad (Andy). He worked two or three jobs and I had a happy childhood. It was great playing sports and we had a great neighborhood. I went to St. Joseph’s High School (now Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School) and then John Carroll, and John Marshall Law School (part of Cleveland State). So my background is, like I say, as local as it can be. I was in the prosecutor’s office for four years, and then I was an attorney for the Cleveland Police and Patrol Association for four years, and I’ve been representing people in injury cases in the United States for the last 32 years. I’m raising my family here. I love Cleveland. I love everything about it and I love the role I have in Cleveland.
How you would define the Tim Misny brand?
When I was on The Alan Cox Show, Chad Zumock said, “You’re kind of like a Robin Hood.” I said, “Wow. That’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to me.” The branding of “make them pay” really works for what I do, because if you have a guy who was involved in a terrible accident and he’s lying in a hospital bed, the insurance company, in effect, has offered him their middle finger. He needs his car fixed, he needs his lost wages, he needs his medical bills paid, and he needs someone to do what? Make them pay. It is as basic of a branding as it could possibly be. It’s just amazing and it’s becoming part of a vernacular that people associate me with and that’s a good thing because that’s what I do.
In your opinion, what are the tactics or strategies that large corporations, insurance companies, and the government are using to exploit everyday people that you find troublesome?
I’ve been doing this for 32 years and I see it all the time. Typically, the insurance companies take a “no pay” position. Deny, deny, deny and here’s why: It’s a business practice with them because they know that in 20 to 25 percent of the cases, if they were to deny the claim, that claimant will walk away. They’ll say, “We can’t fight this big, bad, multibillion conglomerate. They must be right so were not gonna fight it.” So could you imagine anything in your life where you get an automatic 20-25 percent discount? I mean, you pay your taxes and you say, “You know, I’m only gonna pay 75 percent.” Or go out to dinner and when you see the bill is $10, you say, “Here’s $7.50. That’s good enough, that’s all I’m gonna pay.” Why that’s despicable is because there is a contract often times, between the insured and the company, to offer the proper compensation. So when someone is involved in an accident and they bring a claim through their carrier, their carrier is obligated to do the right thing: to practice fair negotiations with that person, and they violate it on a daily basis. I can’t tell you over the years how many times I’ve gotten phone calls where the facts of the case were very clear but the insurance company took the “no pay” position because they were hoping that person would go away, and that’s wrong. I’ve said in many of my commercials that if insurance companies did the right thing—treated people with dignity and respect—I’d have to do something else for a living.
What would you do if the insurance companies did a complete 180, if they did treat people with dignity and respect?
My goal in life right now is to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be. We recently found out that we are having twins. We have a little boy, Max, and my wife Stephanie is 12 weeks, four days pregnant with twins. My goal in life is very simple—I want to be the best father and husband I can be. I got married a little later in life at 54. If I got married at 25 years old, I would have been a horrible parent. I was working full time at the prosecutor’s office and I was going to law school full time at night. So if Stephanie would have called me up when I was 25 years old and said, “Hey, honey, could you pick up x,y, and z from the pharmacy for Max?” I would’ve said I couldn’t for two reasons. With my last five dollars, I put three dollars of gas in my Chevy Nova and I drove through McDonald’s and got two dollar’s worth of food. So number one, I have no money, and number two, I’m in class until 10 o’clock and the pharmacy closes at ten. Not by choice, but I would have been a lousy father. Because I got married a little later in life and started a family a little later in life, I can spend a lot of time with my family and that’s all I want to do. So if something happened, the insurance company did a 180 and they treated everyone fair and no one ever called me again, I would relish the opportunity just to focus in on my family and that’s all I would do. Basically, my goal in life is to live every day of my life like I live my weekend—We sleep in, we go out for pancakes, we take Max to the zoo, we take him to a park, we have friends and family over, we cook, we play cards, hang out. So that’s my goal in life and hopefully I can do more of that. With the twins coming, forget about it. I mean, that…that hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
I couldn’t imagine that [laughing]. I have two but they’re not twins, and having them at the same time…
I feel good about it because Stephanie is such a great mom. She truly is. If it was with someone who wasn’t maternal, it would be a nightmare, but Stephanie is so wonderful. She was a very successful businesswoman before we got married, and with Max, her maternal instincts have flourished. She loves being a mom, every aspect of it. It makes my role of being a dad so easy. In essence, I show up. I’m blessed.
What was it like doing a live radio show with Alan Cox [on WMMS 100.7]? That seems to be something that’s a little bit different than some of your other ventures.
I’ll tell you, Alan and the whole crew were just magnanimous, funny, and courteous. At one point in time, it seemed to me that I was sitting with a bunch of friends in a bar, just talking. It was a lot of fun. He’s a great guy, a funny guy, and it was great. I feel very comfortable in those settings because the story I tell of helping people is an easy story to tell. I take great pride in knowing, but for my help, certain people in our society would have no chance for justice. I’m proud of what we do and what we’ve accomplished. Being a Cleveland boy, I get all jazzed up about Cleveland. I love talking about what I do and I love talking about Cleveland, so it’s easy.
What’s your connection to Elvis?
Years ago, before I lived here at Misnyland, I did a pilgrimage to Graceland. Even if you’re not an Elvis Presley fan you go through his home and his gravesite is in the back yard. What you take away from Elvis is that he was a man of the people. The stories of him buying a Cadillac for some lady walking down the street and him donating money to youth centers and all the things he did, he was a man of the people. I’ve always been a huge Elvis Presley fan. When I bought Misnyland, I got a postcard of Elvis Presley standing in front of Graceland and I put it on my refrigerator. People said, “Geez, Tim, how did you superimpose Elvis in front of your house?” Well, our home is identical to Graceland, so that was cool. We did a fundraiser last summer for a youth center and it was an Elvis Presley night. I dressed up as Elvis even though I said I would never wear a wig. I made an exception that night. Max had his little hair moussed up and Stephanie, boy, she was one hot Elvis mama. Let me tell you, wow! Yeah, man, Elvis is super cool. What’s not to like about Elvis?
Can you talk about the reality show and what might be next for Tim Misny?
I think it’s a natural evolution of what we do in trying to get the message out. All the messages have to be entertaining. A commercial is, in effect, a mini-movie. I have a phenomenal social media staff, Celina and Sarah. They make everything happen in terms of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, our website, and all the events we participate in. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and that’s how you need to convey a message. In most lawyers’ ads, the lawyer is sitting behind a desk. He looks like he’s constipated and he probably is. He mumbles something about “no recovery, no fee” or he mumbles something about, “I’ll stand with you.” I don’t know what that means. You know what? It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t connect. It isn’t just about getting compensation for people. In virtually every case, we actually change policy and I take great pride in that.
Case in point: I represented someone who was killed while working on a railroad. We found out that when the railroad brought in private contractors they, would put out red warning flags. When the railroad put their own guys on the track, they never bothered to put out the red warning flags. So at the final pre-trial I said to the railroad’s chief counsel, “I’m gonna stick this so far up your ass and break it off at the end, it’s not even funny. When the jury hears how you protect private contractors but you spit on your own employees, do you have any idea what they’re gonna do to you?” He said, “Tim, what will it take to settle this case?” I tore a little corner off a sheet of paper and wrote a number, folded it in half, and gave it to him. He came back ten minutes later and said, “Tim, the case is settled.” I said, “Man, I should have written a bigger number down.” The point is, since that incident there has not been one accident, not one fatality on that railroad. It took a wrongful death case for them to do the right thing. That’s sad, but that’s our society. That’s just one of many examples where we actually changed policy. A lot of it has to do with loss prevention. An insurance carrier will say to the insured, “Misny just hit you for 5.3 million dollars. You can’t ever do this again. You can never put this product out there. We won’t insure you if you put this product out.” Or they’ll say to a doctor, “If you keep practicing medicine like this, we won’t insure you.” They change their policy and it makes it safer for all of us. We take great pride in that. I think that’s something the image of a personal injury lawyer doesn’t quite convey. The whole image of the ambulance chaser is that you’re greedy and you’re making these big fees. Really what we’re doing is changing policy.
The reality show really showcases the courage of my clients because in many of these cases, it would have been very easy for them to curl up into a fetal position and just forget about it. When you bring in a client, they have to relive it. It tears open the scars, tears off the scabs, and they have to relive it. One of my clients was sitting in a deposition and the defense counsel was asking her about her son who was killed by a doctor. It’s absolutely brutal, but she had the courage to do that, and she had the courage to say, “It’s not about the money, it’s about policy changes. I don’t want any other little boy to die in a doctor’s office because of this negligent procedure. I want there to be training from now on.” Those are wonderful stories.
It is a melting pot. It always has been and always will be. It is a city that was founded because of its tremendous natural resources, such as the Great Lakes, the Cuyahoga River, and a great influx of workers. It has evolved over time. We have incredible institutions, world class—Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Orchestra, University Hospitals, Severance Hall, all the pro teams, Case Western, John Carroll. What’s going on here is a revitalization. There are so many positive things. The production staff from Misny Makes Them Pay is from Los Angeles and they came to Cleveland with a—how can I put this tactfully—kind of a quirky feeling about Cleveland. They’ve heard about the river catching on fire, they’ve heard about the depressed housing stock and they didn’t know what to expect. For all of our shots, we went to magnificent places. We went to Little Italy, the West Side Market, Lakeview Cemetery, and the Old Courthouse. We drove around town and they were blown away by Cleveland. What a beautiful, amazing city with housing stocks such as Shaker Heights and University Heights. It has so much to offer and it’s so affordable to live here. I think people have no concept of it. I’m hopeful that more people are gonna come to Cleveland and there are more opportunities coming up. Cleveland State is expanding every day, the Cleveland Clinic is expanding, the Medical Mart, all the new housing downtown. These are bold projects that are coming into realization this year, so I’m excited about Cleveland.
What else would you like the readers to know about you?
I really encourage them to watch the reality show because what we’re doing is offering four $2500 scholarships. And as I’ve said, there are two schools of thought as to why I’m doing the reality show. One is to inflate my already bloated ego, and secondly—the one to which I subscribe to—is that we want to inspire a whole new generation of advocates for the downtrodden. You talk to young kids in law school and in pre-law and you’ll never hear a kid say, “I want to be a personal injury lawyer.” It’s all corporate law, corporate law, corporate law. Our hope is that we are going to inspire somebody to think about representing the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. So to put our money where our mouth is, we’re offering four $2500 scholarships. When the episodes conclude, we’re going to encourage students to write a one page letter explaining why they would be an effective advocate. We are going to select the four most compelling stories.
Virtually everybody has a story about something that happened to a friend where their whole world was turned upside down and everything good was shaken out. You can’t turn back the hands of time and bring this person back or make it so they aren’t crippled anymore, but you can certainly do two critical things. Compensate that person and their family because all these cases involve family. When a father is hurt he can’t work. Does that affect the family? Oh, yeah, it does. Often times it ends up in divorce and bankruptcy. They lose their home. They lose their wife. A guy comes to me and says, “I’ve lost everything. This guy hit me head on. He was drunk and the insurance company won’t pay. I’ve lost everything. Can you please help me?” I’m not going to be able to turn back time but I will do two things: I’ll get him the right compensation and we’ll make it so this never happens to anyone again.
Our hope and our prayer is that we can connect with students across Ohio and across the country who will see this [the reality show and scholarship contest] and say, “I think there’s something to that. I think it might be a good thing to do.” Maybe they think if they’re a personal injury lawyer that they’ll get lucky and get a wife as pretty as mine. I don’t think that’s possible. In fact, I know it’s not possible but I encourage it.