BACKGROUND OF HENRY CARUS
My Background – Childhood
I was born in Habana Cuba as the third child of a middle class working family.
My father was a self-made man who worked for his own education and become Finance Officer in a Textile Factory and had opened up his own children’s clothing store which employed my mother and my aunt.
At the time that I was born by 1958, Cuba was in a state of flux. There had been in government a longstanding dictatorship of Batista which was being threatened by a social democratic revolution which was being led by Fidel Castro. Fidel, as he was commonly called, was promising the formation of a democratic government and had gained the support of much of the middle class, including my parents.
I was born 15 July 1958. The revolution successfully took command of the country in January 1959. The country immediately went into a state of major change where within a short period of time it was obvious a democratic government was not being delivered but instead a communist government.
By January 1961 my family had lost all of its possessions, its business, its home and bank accounts, business assets – all had been confiscated by the communist government and nationalised as assets of the country.
In January 1961, my family left Cuba with only those possessions that could be packed into 2 suitcases per person and flew at that time to Miami, Florida. We had some friends in the United States but the future was very uncertain, and Miami, Florida as of 1961 was a very small town. Within a short period of time, my family moved to New York City where there were better prospects of finding work as a labourer.
Eventually we settled into a working class Irish and Italian neighbourhood in Queens, New York. We were the only Latino family for many years to come. We settled into the area and my family eventually became superior tenants of an apartment building which we resided. In addition, my father worked two outside jobs – one during the day as a restaurant/half member in private club called Princeton Club operated for the benefits of the alumni of Princeton University. That job was during the day and in the evenings he worked at Neilson in an office environment.
My mother stayed at home to care for 3 children and then shortly after 4 children, with my youngest sister being born in 1964. My other two siblings were an older brother who was 6 years older and an older sister who was 2 years older.
We lived in a small 2 bedroom apartment where my mother still resides until this day.
Woodside Queens was the working class neighbourhood of second generation immigrants, predominately Catholic. We lived across the street from St Teresa’s Church and Elementary School where we were educated. My entire education was in fact within the Catholic School at McLancy High School, Manhattan College and St John’s University School of Law.
The family expended a considerable amount of its resources assisting immigration of all other family members from Cuba, that being my aunts and uncles, many of whom resided in our neighbourhood for considerable periods of time.
My childhood friends consisted primarily of family, relatives and friends as were not well received by the locals in Woodside, Queen who looked dis-favourably at Latinos.
Teenager in New York
My father’s health did not do well working 3 jobs and he essentially died of a heart attack when I was aged 16. I was just entering my junior year at High School. His death has always had a profound impact on me as it was in some ways unexpected. He had a history of heart disease and was in hospital due to a recent heart attack. However, he was to be discharged the day that he died. He died in the early morning hours. The Code Blue was called and no doctor was on staff to respond to the Code Blue. The Code Blue was attended to be hospital staff and I have always felt his death could have been prevented had a doctor been on duty at the hospital at the time.
Thereafter, I had to fend for myself in all matters, financial, education decisions, and career direction. It was a challenging path with many mistakes, and as they say you learn from the mistakes.
College – Law School
I entered the labour force, working on weekends, evenings and school breaks to pay my way through college and Law School. I was fortunate to receive a small scholarship to Law School.
My family history and personal upbringing, I believe, influenced me to look towards a career in social justice as I took degrees in political science ( Government ) and history at Manhattan College.
I had a strong calling to try to use my skills to help others, and I thought the field of politics would be appropriate. I was advised that a Law School Degree would be helpful for that career and hence, that was the motivation for my attendance at Law School at St John’s University.
My exposure to politics whilst in Law School lead me to realise that a political career was probably not suited to my personality as I felt there was a considerable lack of ethics in the political world that I was exposed to locally.
Career – Personal Injury Lawyer
Eventually I graduated Law School and after exploring options, I settled for a career in Personal Injury Law. My primary drive for Personal Injury over other areas of the Law is its ability to provide a level of social justice.
My view is that we create society where there are arrangements to allow for the injured to be compensated for their injury or in other words, assisted a rebuilding their lives after their accident. We do so by means of private insurance and insurance arrangements.
Those arrangements exist for motor vehicle accidents, for accidents in a public area and for consequences of the negligence of professional such as doctors.
I came to first practice in this area of Law while working with small firms who acted for the injured persons and then expanded my knowledge of that area of Law by working for insurance companies.
My experience made it very clear to me that insurance world had a role to play in assisting our community so long as it performed its role correctly, that being by delivering compensation to those entitled to that compensation because they have been injured and their injury had been caused by the fault of another person or entity. It provided me with great satisfaction to achieve compensation for someone injured and in particular, I am just grateful for getting to know an injured person from after their accident until I am able to personally deliver to them compensation at or after a trial.
In New York City I eventually became known as a Trial Lawyer. A large measure of time as a lawyer was spent in Court.
New York to Melbourne, Australia
In 1984 I met an Australian and we married in 1985. We lived in New York City until 1994 when we considered our options as to where we would like to raise a family. Between 1984 and 1994 I had travelled numerous times to Australia for holidays and to visit my wife’s family, which lived in Melbourne, Australia.
I had watched Melbourne, Australia transform itself in those 10 years considerably and by 1994 we formed a view that its future looked bright.
Whilst we had an extended family and friends in the New York City area, our primary focus was where we wished to raise a family. The options of the New York City were its surrounding neighbourhood or relocating to Melbourne, Australia. In the end, we decided to move to Melbourne, Australia where we re-established our careers here and raised our family here.
I have been here now for 21 years since that move. I can say that it has been a wonderful decision.
Life in Melbourne, Australia is rich in so many ways.
On moving to Melbourne, Australia, I was able to have my legal qualifications accepted after a short period of study and apprenticeship where I obtained my first employment at one of the top 10 national Law Firms in Australia, Phillips Fox. The firm had an extensive practice in Insurance Law and was a recognised national leader.
I was initially employed in the TAC team with the client being the TAC (Transport Accident Commission). Phillips Fox was the initial Law Firm used by TAC, the government agency, its advisor during the time period being the relevant legislation in relation to its existence was being drafted and after the commencement of its existence. In other words, Philips Fox and its legal team have been the longest advisers to the TAC as of 1995 when I joined them.
The practice of law at a national Law Firm on behalf of a sophisticated government client was an invaluable experience in how the insurance compensation world operated in Victoria and in Australia and an insight into TAC at a time when it was relatively young in its existence.
While I was learning an enormous amount of Law dealing with local legislation and local Court practices, I was able to bring across my specific experience from New York City in dealing with motor vehicle accidents on a Common Law level. In particular, it played considerable strength in addressing matters dealing with accident reconstruction where I used my years of being a Trial Lawyer.
Eventually, I transferred from the TAC team to another team at Phillips Fox that dealt primarily with Public Liability Law. While I enjoyed the TAC work, it was within the Public Liability team that my overall strengths flowered. In New York City I had worked for an insurance company whose primary client in Public Liability matters was the Trump Family, a family business that owned multiple properties throughout New York City.
Work from that client included the public liability accidents of all types and my experience in those matters was of tremendous experience in managing within the Public Liability Team at Phillips Fox. In addition, the Public Liability team presented matters which I had never seen before which gave me a tremendous amount of growth as I handled claims on their behalf both in Victoria, throughout Australia and even back in United States where I defended a
multi-million dollar products liability claim in California successfully.
By 1999 the Public Liability team had decided that it wished to break away from Phillips Fox and created its own firm and I went with that team as a salaried partner. Our principal clients involved were international insurance companies, state investment insurance companies and state government and local government agencies. The work was varied and exciting as our principle insurance client was growing its portfolio during those years.
In 2001 unfortunately our major insurance client had a financial collapse and created tremendous pressures on our Law Firm. I decided at that time it was best to step away from that practice and examined my options for the future.
The Beginning of Henry Carus + Associates
At that time I was 43 years old and was looking for where I wished to apply my skills to serve others. While working for insurance companies provided many benefits in lacked tremendously the enrichment that comes from personal service to an individual.
I had also watched how other personal injury firms in Melbourne operated over these years, and I felt a better service could be delivered to those injured.
I initially took the consultant’s position with another Plaintiff’s firm in Melbourne to confirm my calling and after a few years it became clear to me that I could deliver an outstanding service. With that realization, Henry Carus & Associates, my current firm, was created.
At that time that I started my firm I had no expectation or vision of what it could achieve. I simply focused on delivering the best possible service to each person that came to me seeking legal advice within the Personal Injury Law. I felt privileged to have someone entrust me their legal claim, knowing how much a successful outcome would mean to them and their families.
Looking back over the last 10 years or more, it is clear that the passion and drive that I had given is primarily responsible for the growth of the firm. Many of my clients remain a part of my world and are loyal supporters.
The firm opened its first office in Brighton, Victoria, in 2005 and we opened our city office in 2013. The city office is now becoming our principal office as it is close to the Courts and allows us to manage our litigation practice better for our clients.
Our firm has grown over time with presently 5 lawyers, 2 trainee lawyers and numerous law clerks to personally care for our clients.
Over the years my knowledge in Compensation Law in Victoria has expanded and as of 2009, I became an Accredited Personal Injury Lawyer as recognised by the Law Institute of Victoria, our local professional body. The Accreditation allows me to fairly represent that I am knowledgeable in all areas of Personal Injury, with a high level of skill. It is an accreditation that is not easily achieved.
The firm represents clients who are personally injured in work accidents, car accidents, and accidents in a public area and by way of medical or professional negligence. We also engage in a vibrant practice representing those who have had entitlements to insurance adversely effected by insurance companies providing income protection or other forms of insurance.
These days I use all of my knowledge that I have gained as a Personal Injury Lawyer from New York City and for acting for insurance companies in Victoria to deliver a high level of service and success to our Personal Injury clients.