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UH Law Center alumnus Dan Byrne '83 reflects on unique infliction of emotional distress case  

Dan Byrne ‘83

Dan Byrne ‘83

March 19, 2019 — A client of Dan Byrne received four dollars in a lawsuit judgment. The 1983 alumnus of the University of Houston Law Center believes justice was served.

"It was never about the money, and the jury understood that," Byrne said. "My client was vindicated by the jury verdict that he was a victim of outrageous behavior. Perhaps the high point of my 35-year legal career so far was the night of the verdict. My client told me that it was the happiest day of his life."

Byrne represented an Austin-area family whose son was allegedly brainwashed and manipulated by a basketball coach over the course of several years. The coach led Byrne's client into believing that the world was going to end and a battle between good and evil was taking place as described in the Bible's Book of Revelation.

The case was featured on the weekly national radio program “This American Life” in a segment titled, "Chip in My Brain." The jury ultimately ruled in favor of Byrne’s client in 2017.

“I know of no one who has handled anything quite like it,” he said. “Many lawyers will tell you that the standard for an intentional infliction of emotional distress case is so high it exists only in theory. My wife, who is a judge, refers to this case as a ‘unicorn.’ ”

Byrne said what happened to his client and his family could happen to anyone.

"We as parents often rely on the help of others in raising our children — teachers, coaches, babysitters, family friends," Byrne said. "Even helicopter parents like my clients can be deceived by a skillful predator, and because of the manipulation, secrecy and youthful vulnerability they had no idea of the damage that was being inflicted on their son over a period of many years."

Byrne is a senior partner and co-founder of Fritz, Byrne, Head & Gilstrap in Austin. The firm is nearing its 30-year anniversary.

The majority of Byrne's work is in commercial litigation. He handles employment and non-compete cases, fraud and securities fraud, business and real estate disputes, professional malpractice, fiduciary and probate matters, construction disputes, banks and bankruptcy and some intellectual property and complex family law matters.

"It really runs the gamut," Byrne said. "I really enjoy the variety within that area. I love being a lawyer. I knew that I would within my first month at the Law Center back in 1980. I love the intellectual challenge, problem solving and most of all I like to help my clients."

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