Lawyers Reveal Their Best “Gotcha!” Moments In Court
Every once in a while, a lawyer gets to slam dunk a case. Sometimes, it’s due to their cleverness, but on the rare occasion, they can thank someone else’s stupidity for the win. These lawyers recount the times they closed a case so easily and so dramatically, it should have been in a movie. Sit down, grab your popcorn and get ready for stories that sound like they’re straight out of A Few Good Men.
#1 A Few Good Men
On the last day of a medical malpractice trial, the partner on the litigation team explained that “this morning, the judge dismissed our core argument and cut the legs off our case. We’re dead in the water.” The only thing we had left was the doctor to ADMIT that he didn’t follow procedure and thus, admit malpractice.
Our senior litigator stood up like a grandpa, walked to the middle of the courtroom like a grandpa, and began to ask the doctor grandpa-like questions about the medical field. Slowly, he said things like, “I read in this book (this book, right here, in my hand), that [this is what your job is], is that correct?” “Your colleague, an EXPERT in the field, says this about the procedure, is that correct?”
Eventually, the doctor started to get frustrated with grandpa and started explaining things condescendingly, running his mouth about how grandpa isn’t qualified to ask him about the medical field or his job. Grandpa asked him about the procedure, now surprisingly spry and witty (unnoticed by the doctor): “So then you did this next? (wrong procedure)”
The doctor said no, and explained why, to which grandpa responded, “Ah, and then after you learned that you did this next (correct procedure)”. The doctor said no, which stunned the room. Grandpa continued, “Wait, you mean, after you learned about XYZ you didn’t do XYZ before proceeding?” The doctor said no. He was confused and duped by Grandpa, and he was totally in the wrong. It was totally like A Few Good Men.
#2 No Further Questions
A husband and wife were charged with illicit substances sales. The wife had given full admission to the cops and ended up pleading before trial. The illicit substances were found in a shed with tools that the husband admits are his, but he denies knowing anything about the illicit substances. I went to trial against the husband and during his testimony, he said something about traditional family values.
On the cross, I started asking about his relationship with his wife. He admitted that he was in charge of the finances and that she has to ask permission to spend money. He ended up saying that she doesn’t do anything without his permission. I then asked him if he knew that she admitted to selling illicit substances. He did. So wouldn’t she need his permission to do that? Of course, she would, he said. No further questions. The jury came back guilty in less than half an hour.
#3 Something Seems Fishy…
I represented an insurance company to recover monies it paid under a homeowners policy (Google “subrogation”). It was a multi-million dollar home with a 450-gallon custom fish tank on the second floor. The owner hired a company to clean the tank, and they brought in a fish specialist to make sure the fish were properly maintained and stored for the cleaning. The specialist then went to lunch and turned it over to a 22-year-old that they had hired a week before who could’ve double for Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The kid just had to drain the tank and start cleaning. Up and until I deposed the kid, the fish tank company claimed they had properly drained the water into the municipal sewer system. Not the case.
The kid (who had been fired long before I deposed him and didn’t give a hoot about rolling on his employer) testified that he sparked a joint right after his boss left and then proceeded to drain the tank, but this was the first time he had done a second-story job. The hose they had wouldn’t make it to where it needed to go, so he went into the nearest bathroom. Mindful of his customer, he didn’t want to dump 450 gallons of dirty fish-water into the tub or sink, so he leaned the hose over the counter and INTO THE TOILET. He ended up walking out and leaving it there to grab some munchies. When he got back, there were 449 gallons of dirty fish water throughout the house. The case settled within three days of the deposition.
#4 Big Mistake
My client was being sued in China. We decided to sue them in the U.S. to convince the Chinese judge to dismiss the case so it could be heard in the U.S. We filed suit, and we got the other side to accept service. During the Chinese court hearing, the opposition wanted to have the Chinese court hear the case, but Chinese lawyers got shut down because they signed for the service in the U.S., implying that the U.S. court is the proper jurisdiction and venue. The opposing Chinese lawyers were fired the next day.
Former insurance lawyer. There were quite a few times that I busted someone for faking a disability by hiring private investigators to tail them for a day. One guy claimed he could barely walk or move at all. Like, couldn’t even make himself breakfast or get out of bed without help. We caught him jogging out of his independent medical examination (for the purpose of litigation) and threw his walker aside when he bent down to pick up his keys after dropping them. I work fraud investigations now and it never ceases to amaze me how people think they’re exceptional liars.
#6 Nice Try
Represented an employer in an FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) retaliation claim. The Plaintiff had quit, claiming a hostile work environment, then went on and started her own company that more or less competed with my client. In the Plaintiff’s deposition, the Plaintiff went on an on about how sick she was when she went on FMLA leave, and how horribly she was treated by my client.
Her new company had a Facebook page. I asked her about it and had printed out several sections from the page, including photos. She admitted she had posted the photos, and more so posted them from her phone moments after they were taken. After I had those admissions on the record, I produced pictures of her touring the facility where her new business was located, smiling and walking with her friends. The date of those photos was while she was on FMLA leave from my client.
#7 I’m Guilty, But…
I was prosecuting a traffic ticket and ended my opening statement with something similar to, “By the end of the day, you’ll agree that the officer caught the defendant going 65 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone.” The defendant, representing himself, stood up and said, “While he may have clocked me going 65 in a 50…” The judge stopped the trial, excused the jury, and was like, “You just confessed so… Are we changing your plea to no contest or what?”
#8 Judge Understands My Pain
I had a problem with my cell provider and my cell phone wasn’t receiving a signal where my cottage is located even though it was clearly marked as an area that would receive a full signal on their map. I went back to the provider and told them of my problem and they gave me a different phone with the same results. I then took back the phone and charger because they were useless to me at the time (this was over 20 years ago). They then sued me.
In court, I had a picture of the phone screen showing no bars while standing on my dock. Their lawyer argued that the picture could have been taken anywhere. Then, the judge piped up: “I know where your cottage is, I have a cottage nearby. I switched providers because I could hardly get a signal where I am. There’s no way you’ll get a signal from your provider.” The judge then ripped into the representative from the cell company and their lawyer. It was a good day.
#9 Caught Red-Handed
Not the lawyer, but this happened to my father-in-law. He had a lucrative commercial construction business and was ready to retire and sell it. He got a buyer and part of the deal was receiving a portion of the profits for several years. Somehow, the company had no profits. But there were all sorts of evidence of wealth like new cars, etc.
The new owner’s slip up was that he kept on the head secretary who loved my father-in-law. She gave my dad the information he needed. At trial, the new owner was on the stand. He said they were struggling to break even so my dad’s attorney asked, “What is XYZ Corporation?”
Before there was an answer, the buyer’s attorney literally jumped up and said, “Your honor, we would like to discuss a settlement.” The new buyer started a second company. Dad’s company was buying the supplies, and the new company was getting paid. It’s called “cooking the books.”
#10 I’m Probably Guilty
Most of mine are my own clients admitting to the crime to police, but not realizing it. Like, “Oh, I thought I was still driving in the parking lot when I put down my phone.” Yeah, that’s the charge. Or, “There was no weapon. I’m the weapon.” Welp. Or, “There’s no way I was going that speed, I was only going this other speed that was well over the limit.”
#11 How Did You Know the Doors Were Locked?
Ex-wife (we’ll call her “EX”) trying to fight ex-husband’s new girlfriend (we’ll call her “NG”). NG was in her car trying to flee while EX was beating on car, blocking escape, and grabbing at the door handles to get in, but the doors were locked. After EX briefly moved out from the path of the car, NG began to drive away slowly. EX, noticing the car starting to leave, dived onto the hood of the car, slid off and got run over at a slow speed. She broke a few bones. Several surgeries later, EX sued NG, alleging negligence in hitting EX with the car.
As I was deposing EX, she claimed to have never touched the car before it hit her. She said she never punched or kicked the car, never broke the windshield wipers, never grabbed the door handle to try to open the door, never dove on the hood. She said she just yelled. I asked what NG was doing during this time, and EX describes NG as deer in headlights, staring straight ahead, locked in her car, both hands on the steering wheel. “How did you know the doors were locked?” That one got dismissed pretty quickly.
#12 I Rest My Case!
I had a DUI case that seemed pretty standard. The police report said that they saw a car with a headlight out leaving a BWW parking lot. He stopped him, the guy failed roadsides and blew a .09. I had a meeting with the kid to get his side of the story. My client was drinking in a BWW watching some MMA fight, so it was super packed. Sometimes for events like this, police officers hang out inside to make sure no one gets in fights.
Anyway, my client was flirting with the bartender and she asked him to go home with her when she got off. He, being a man of about 25, said yes. She said she’ll drive him, and he told her okay, but that he had to grab his cell phone charger out of his car.
He walked out of BWW to do so and the cop followed him out. It was pouring, so instead of just opening his door and reaching for his charger, the client got in the car to rummage through his glove box for it. When he stepped out, the cop was standing there and demanded him to do roadsides then hit him with DUI.
We set for trial. At the motions hearing, I asked the cop if he had followed my client out of BWW. He said no, that he’d been patrolling in his car. He said he had no idea who was in the car when he approached it. He swore the car was on. So at trial, I let him tell his story. I made him confirm to the jury that he was in his car doing routine patrol. He was never inside BWW. He didn’t follow my client to his car to entrap him into a DUI. Then, I played the video from inside BWW clearly showing the cop watch my client get up from the bar and follow him out.
#13 “Yes, on the Bible”
I represent tenants in eviction proceedings. Landlords being landlords, I have lots of “gotcha” stories. The most recent one was last week, in a classic “he-said, she-said” case. That is, the entire case depended upon whom the jury believed. When the landlord was sworn in prior to testifying, she unnecessarily said, “Yes, on the bible,” when asked to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc.
Her testimony, however, was evasive. She avoided answering almost every one of my questions. She even avoided answering some of her own lawyer’s questions. During a recess, but still in the middle of her testimony, she was seen outside the courtroom, in full view of the jury, whispering with her lawyer and a family member about, obviously, what she was supposed to say on the stand.
When she got back up, the first thing I did was ask her what she was talking about with her lawyer and her family member outside the courtroom. I demanded to know whether they were telling her how to answer my questions. Her lawyer objected. The judge overruled the objection and ordered the witness to answer. The witness responded: “My life is my life.”
During closing arguments, her lawyer tried to argue that she must have been telling the truth because she swore “on the bible” even though she didn’t have to. That meant, according to him, that she took her oath more seriously than the average person (impliedly, my client) who wouldn’t bother swearing on a bible when not asked to do so.
In my response, I agreed with the landlord’s counsel that his client must take her oath, to tell the truth seriously. She must have taken it so seriously, in fact, that she refused to lie under oath when her truthful testimony would have sunk her case. So, instead, she just refused to answer almost every question put to her. The jury came back in about 30 minutes with a 12-0 verdict in the tenant’s favor.
#14 Actually, I Am Guilty
I’m not a lawyer, but someone told me this story. The lawyer in the case was describing the theft in court and said, “The footprints left in the house make it seem as though the defendant didn’t go to the basement,” and in response, the defendant said to the lawyer, “Actually, we did go to the basement.” Well, that’s that!
#15 Hook, Line and Sinker
This was my only full trial. A contractor was ripping off my client who was no saint. I went through an entire contract where each sub was listed and he agreed to each line as being part of the contract. He agreed that the amount was to be paid to the subs. He agreed to the total. What he failed to do was list any profit. My last question was, “Where is your profit in this contract?” No answer from him. As written, he was working for free. The case was dismissed by the judge without me having to present my side.
#16 An Attorney Should Never Lie
My favorite was a proceeding that actually led to the disbarment of the opposing attorney. The opposing attorney was sent discovery requests that he never responded to. Multiple emails were sent and nothing. We moved to compel and the attorneys showed up furious that we filed a motion and were wasting the court’s time. They said we were playing games and claimed that he had sent multiple emails and we weren’t responding.
The opposing attorney produced emails that supposedly showed that he was been begging us to respond. After looking at the produced emails and then looking at my calendar, we saw that the date in the time stamp didn’t match the day in the time stamp. Turns out the attorney doctored an email he prepared last week and changed the date but forgot to change the day. The judge was furious and chewed him out about professionalism and ethics for 15 minutes while we just sat quietly. It was actually uncomfortable to watch. This idiot then gets angry at the judge and tried to say that it was his IT guy’s fault. Lying is an extreme no-no for attorneys. Our legal system depends on us being honest. He was disbarred later that year.
#17 Where Were You Really?
A woman was charged with possession of a large number of illicit substances. Her boyfriend was a known, big-time dealer with a long list of prior convictions. Her story was that four officers (A, B, C, D) came up to her outside her home and demanded to know where her boyfriend was. They wanted all sorts of information about her boyfriend and his associates. When she refused to tell them anything, she said Officer A threatened her. She also indicated that Officer A was wearing street clothes while B, C, and D were in uniform.
Officers claimed that she gave them permission to search her home, where they found the substances. She said she never gave them any such permission and they planted/pretended to find the illicit substances. Officer A, it turns out, had been in the newspaper shortly before the case went to trial for various serious incidents of corruption. The prosecution naturally assumed this woman was lying and simply trying to take advantage of the media publicity.
At trial B, C, and D testified that they were there with Officer E, not A. Once the defense theory developed a bit, the prosecutor offered into evidence a handwritten schedule logbook thing that listed which officers were working on each day, to show that Officer A wasn’t even scheduled to work that day.
There were various reasons this log might not have been admissible, and it was never disclosed to the defense until right before they attempted to admit it. But I quickly looked it over and, somewhat to the surprise of the judge, did not object to its admission. They did not make any reference to the log until closing argument. Then, they showed it to the jury and told them to look at it more closely. Officer A was not listed as working on the date of the incident. But the log also showed duty assignments for the officers working. Officer B was listed as being assigned to the evidence room at the station, and Officer E was listed as being assigned to a patrol car across town with Unrelated Officer F. Along with various other inconsistencies in the officers’ stories, this led to a very speedy acquittal.
#18 Don’t Lie in Court
My client’s wife was on the phone with her new boyfriend when her husband got home from a BBQ with their son. Her husband asked her who she was on the phone with, and she freaked out and ran to the bedroom and locked herself inside. She told her new boyfriend that her husband had hit her, that she was black and blue, etc.
Her new boyfriend was freaked out. He called the cops and relayed everything his wife had said to him. Then, he told her he called the cops. She freaked out even more because now she was about to be caught in the lie. The cops showed up, and she told them he hit her on the back of the head, that’s why they can’t see the mark. The cops felt the back of her head and she winced.
They arrested the husband. We took it to trial. Now, when you testify at trial, certain prior convictions can be used against you to show the jury your character. The wife had a prior conviction for “falsifying statements to a grand jury” in a different state a few years ago. In the cross-examination, after she changed her story up and accused me of attacking her, I asked her about her prior conviction for lying to a jury. She lied about it to our jury and said it didn’t happen.
I very calmly approached her with the certified record of her conviction and asked her to confirm it was her name and date of birth, then walked back to my stand and asked the same question. She refused to answer this time, she just glared at me. The jury walked my client.
#19 Surgeon in the Wrong
I served on a jury that was deciding a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff’s common bile duct was cut during a gall bladder surgery (a risk she was made aware of beforehand). She was suing the surgeon who performed the operation. The plaintiff’s lawyer called as a witness a surgeon who had performed this surgery several times. Speaking from this breadth of experience, he told us this mistake was “entirely unacceptable” and something that no competent surgeon would do.
The defense lawyer got up and grilled him for a while to make it clear that this guy made bank by traveling around the country testifying against other surgeons. Right before he sat down, the defense lawyer said, “By the way, have YOU ever cut the common bile duct during this surgery?” The case was decided (and the jury all but burst out laughing) when he answered, “Yes, I have.”
#20 Watch What You Say in Jail
When I was a prosecutor, I had a guy who was representing himself. He was charged with car theft and evading. He was actually able to escape the cops for quite a distance and was captured later. His defense was that he wasn’t the person. I got his calls from jail and he talked so much to his girlfriend about how he had committed the crimes. The look on his face when I told him that I was providing him copies of his jail calls was great.
I had a guy who was representing himself. It was a residential burglary and one of the elderly neighbors saw the defendant running from the house. At trial, the defendant was cross-examining the witness and he asked, “Now, when you saw this person running away…” and the witness said, “You! I saw you running away.”
#22 Guilty Evidence
I acted for a plumber who ripped up a tile floor to replace a pipe. He installed new tile on top but warned the owners not to walk on it for 48 hours. He emphasized not to let their kids or their dogs walk on it either. They walked on it but alleged the defects were caused by improper install. We had an expert do a report which confirmed that it was consistent with proper installation but people walking on it too soon. Crazy homeowners still went to trial on it.
In their evidence disclosure, they included a series of pictures. One of the pictures had in the foreground a tile that was tilted upwards. The background very clearly showed a dog’s paw pressing down on the other end of the tile. That wasn’t so much an “I got them” situation as it was a “they got themselves” one.
#23 Darn those Chickens!
I was representing a mom in a bitter custody fight. The dad wanted full custody and argued that the mom was an unfit parent. The mom wanted full custody because the dad had a history of domestic violence towards her and the kids. Dad’s lawyer was doing a good job of painting her in a bad light during his cross-examination, and I was starting to get worried. His lawyer brought a close family friend as a character witness for the dad, who said the usual nice things about him.
Then, he said something about them owning chickens. I thought that was odd, so I asked more questions. I was able to get the friend to spill the beans that the dad owned chickens for illegal cockfighting, and that he’d take his minor children to these fights. Apparently, when the children were acting up, he’d punish them by forcing them to feed the chickens, during which they would get pecked and scratched by the chickens. Obviously, the children were terrified of those chickens. I could see the color draining from the dad’s lawyer’s face. Mom got full custody.
#24 Oh, Yeah, I Think I Remember That
I was deposing a guy in a large breach of contract/fraud action. I asked him if he’d ever been convicted of a crime, and he said no. Later, I asked him the question again and there was no objection. He answered, “No.” I then whipped out his indictment for felony fraud and his conviction for misdemeanor conspiracy and he denied it was him until I started asking about his co-conspirator (his son). Then, he gave me the “Oh, yeah, I remember something about that…”
#25 Oops, Did I Just Admit That?
In a protective order hearing, a respondent admitted on cross-examination that he abused his partner. His attorney looked like his head was going to explode. The judge still only granted an order not to abuse. He wouldn’t grant the stay away or any other relief we asked for. Go figure.
#26 Don’t Forget to Read the Fine Print
My client was a woman working at a meatpacking plant. Her glove (they would only give her the loose kind because they were cheaper) got caught in the machine and she lost her arm. We sued the owners of the plant for the glove issue. We also sued the machine manufacturer for failing to include the required guard. Then, we sued the distributor for being in the chain of the sale but didn’t really think they played much of a role.
The manufacturer swore they included a handguard and said the plant owner must have used a grinder to take it off. During deposition of the guy that owned the distraction company, he showed up with the sale documents that he was supposed to have turned over weeks before. Turns out, there was a note in small print at the bottom that he didn’t know about, which said the sale was without the handguard. That’s against the law. I pointed it out and we ended up settling that afternoon with the distributor. The woman got all her medical bills paid, got money for a prosthetic, and got a bunch of pain and suffering damages.
#27 Don’t Ever Sign Your Name
We hired a private investigator to track our defendant in a fraud/asset recovery case. The private investigator returned with a photograph of torn pieces of paper that clearly constituted a ripped-up note, albeit in a foreign language. I happened to know said foreign language, so I pieced it together and realized that it was a letter written by the defendant raging at his accomplice for making highly specific mistakes that screwed him over in the context of our fraud/asset recovery case.
It was unbelievable—the handwriting was a match. Plus, he’d also signed it, and the contents were so specific that it was basically a home run. We almost thought they’d planted it to throw us off, but the guy was just stupid and arrogant. The letter ultimately helped us receive a significant settlement that made our clients extremely happy.
#28 Duped by a Twin
I lived with a guy when we were in our early 20s. He worked for one of those terrible furniture rental places. Much of his job was repossessing furniture, and in his spare time, he was a skateboarder. He severely hurt his back on the job and they were contesting paying his bills and settling.
At one of his mediation dates, the revealed they had hired a private investigator to follow him. They showed him pictures of “himself” at a skate park skating when he was supposed to be home recovering. They asked him to verify it was him. He said no. These doofuses had somehow missed that he had a twin brother that also skated. They eventually settled for what I thought was a very low $70,000. He had back pain for years that caused him to gain weight and suffer. In his 30s he finally had back surgery and he regretted not doing it 10 years earlier. He said it completely alleviated the pain.
#29 Did You Even Look at This Photo?
I was doing a boundary dispute—a squabble over what was essentially a few inches of land. The defendant was a lawyer and an absolute idiot. He was acting for himself—the whole “a lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client” thing was bang on for him. But he was a deeply unpleasant guy; a bully who thought that he was the smartest guy in the room.
Part of his case hinged on wheelie bins and how, prior to the boundary having been moved, there wasn’t space to store a full-size bin beside the house. That was the extent of his evidence, it really was thin stuff. During the actual trial he pulled a fast one by suddenly producing an old aerial photo ostensibly to show the boundary at the front of the property had also moved (a fast one because you have to disclose stuff like that in advance, you can’t just sit on something relevant and then suddenly whip it out at trial with a flourish).
Whilst he was making his submissions that it should be admissable, I looked more closely at it, away from the bit of the boundary he said it was relevant to and realized that it very clearly showed a wheelie bin in exactly the spot his case said there couldn’t be one. I told the judge that we were happy for the photo to be admitted after all. We got the other side to confirm the date it was taken then pointed out that he’d just completely screwed his case. That photo did him for nearly $50,000 in adverse costs. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving chap.
#30 Please Raise Your Right Hand… Oops
Not a lawyer but a legal videographer. This gentleman was claiming injuries/seeking damages against his employer after a fall at work. He claimed that he couldn’t raise his right arm above his shoulder because of the fall. The first deposition came along and I was hired by the defendant’s attorney to videotape the deposition of the plaintiff. Anyone know THE FIRST THING a court reporter asks you to do in a deposition? “Please raise your right hand and repeat after me…” The plaintiff raises his right arm above his shoulder with ease and no sign of discomfort. It does not occur to him that what he has just done has lost him the case. I got a $5,000 bonus and plaintiff’s case was dismissed with prejudice.
#31 Don’t Trust Your Mechanic
I had a client whose $60,000 car was ruined by a shop that put in the wrong oil. We couldn’t prove it at first, the engine blew up, oil leaked out and evidence was lost. I subpoenaed their bank records and figured out that they bought their oil from Costco. I called Costco and got their prices for the last two years. I then worked out the amounts they were spending, did some backhand math, and showed, based on the values, that it was impossible they had ever bought the right oil. They settled in full immediately.
#32 Caught in the Act
My brother is an attorney. He had a case where the guy said he was permanently disabled from a work accident. At a deposition, my brother overheard the guy talking about getting his house remodeled. He was already spending the money he thought he was getting. My brother drove by the house to see how much work was being done and saw the guy carrying bundles of roofing shingles up a ladder to the roof.
This was before smartphones so he drove to a Best Buy and bought a video camera, went back and recorded the guy. He had copies made and sent to the other attorney. The guy dropped the suit and was back at work the following Monday. My brother’s client didn’t want to pay for the video camera. He saved them thousands of dollars. They eventually paid but he still gets a little peeved when he talks about it.
#33 Shady Landlord
I was suing a landlord who failed to make serious repairs in order to force the tenant out. The hard part is proving bad intent instead of mere idiocy so you get higher damages. Code Enforcement was involved, so I requested those records. The landlord left a voicemail to the enforcement department saying to hold off on the fines and that they would make the repairs as soon as the tenant was forced out. That was an easy case.
#34 Good Cop, Bad Cop
I represented a DUI client who swore up and down to me that he hadn’t been drinking or doing any illicit substances. A newbie officer who had his field training officer with him in the car pulled my client over for a tag violation. The rookie walked back to the car with his body camera still on and the training officer said, “Get him out for a DUI,” and the rookie said, “But he’s not intoxicated.” The officer said to do it anyway.
The body cam clicked off and turned back on seven minutes later. They were doing field sobriety exercises on my client. My client sat in custody for three weeks until I finally got the tape from the prosecutor and presented it to the judge. The judge wrote the police chief a letter saying that he would deny every search warrant he’d tried to bring thereafter for being a liar. The client is hopefully still on track with his civil attorney in a lawsuit.
#35 Liar, Liar
The first case I ever did. The opposing counsel misplaced the copy of my client’s drivers license. Rather than admitting his mistake and asking me to resend it, he filed a motion to compel, claiming we never sent it. Well, I was able to provide proof that we had sent it to him like eight months ago, so the judge was rather displeased with his antics.
#36 Saved By the Hazards
I represented a guy who’s car had died in the middle of the freeway at 4 a.m. He put his hazard lights on and called 911 for help. At the same time, an LAPD cop, heading to work around the same time in a police unmarked car, was driving around 87 – 92 miles per hour (per our deconstructionist). He didn’t see our guy, hit him, and caused a major six-car collision, including overturning an 18 wheeler truck.
Police arrived and took photos. The LAPD officer claimed our guy did not have his hazard lights on and he was only driving 60 miles per hour. He was trying to put some of the faults on our guy. At the deposition of the investigating officer, she doesn’t remember if our guy’s hazard lights were on or not. The attorney brings photos from the scene. One of the photos showed my guy’s hazard lights on. We were dismissed shortly thereafter.
#37 This Doesn’t Add Up
I had a client accused of leading the cops on a high-speed chase. The cop on the stand estimated he was going 90 miles per hour, but never actually clocked him. Then, the cop identified where the chase started with me and where it ended. It lasted about two miles. Then, we went through his log of when it started and when it ended. About three and a half minutes. Once you walk through the math on that, the average speed of this chase was 35 miles per hour. The client got acquitted really quickly after that.
#38 My Mistress Stole It
When I worked for insurance defense I handled a fraud case where a man reported his Rolex as being stolen. He was adamant that he was at a hotel and it was stolen. He had shown no proof of being in a hotel, so it was flagged. We went through the whole process and finally reached depositions. He was sworn in and eventually let out that he wasn’t at a hotel but rather with his mistress and he had left it at her house. His wife noticed he didn’t have it on so he immediately claimed it must’ve been stolen. This man decided to hire an attorney and go through this whole circus just so his wife wouldn’t find out about his affair. Needless to say, the claim was denied.
#39 Wait, That’s Illegal?
I was cross-examining a custom home builder who had a lump sum contract with the homeowner. He claimed he put 20 percent more labor/materials in building the home than the contracted provided for and he was suing for these excess costs. I asked him about an email with my client negotiating the price of the construction and he volunteered that he knew he couldn’t build it for that price.
My head snapped up, the supervising partner’s head snapped up, and the opposing counsel went pale. I said to him, “You knew you couldn’t build it for that price?” and the builder said yes, to which I replied, “You knew the homeowner wouldn’t have signed the contract without that representation? And you told home owner’s lender that you could do it for X price?” The builder again said yes, and I said back, “And the bank relied on that price and wouldn’t have given a loan if they knew it was wrong?” The builder once again said yes.
This is textbook fraudulent inducement and he had no idea. The builder got poured out in the arbitration award and they slapped the builder with sizable punitive damages on top of it. Five minutes of testimony sunk his case because he volunteered information without being prompted.
#40 Betrayed By the Ice Bucket Challenge
The plaintiff alleged he was so injured in an auto accident that he couldn’t work, do any regular activities, or pick up his young kids. He then posted on his public Facebook profile him doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you’re not familiar, he basically lifted a huge cooler filled with ice water over his head. His attorney had no idea he had posted it.
#41 Lesson 1: Tell Your Attorney Everything
I had a former client file for bankruptcy and in connection with that case, he brought an action against his landlord for violating the automatic stay. In order to prove “damages,” he wanted to show he paid my firm for legal fees in connection with the landlord’s pursuit of rent in violation of the stay.
So, this former client’s bankruptcy lawyer served me a subpoena to show up at the bankruptcy hearing. He didn’t ask me any questions prior but just gave me the gist of what the objective was: to verify with the court the time I spent and the cost to his client. The bankruptcy attorney called his client (my former client) to the stand first. He asked him questions related to his hiring my firm to do this and that as it related to his landlord. Apparently, that wasn’t enough, the bankruptcy attorney wanted me to verify these facts as well.
I got put on the stand and I was asked to verify the invoice. I first object to the question as a precaution since it may be a violation of attorney-client privilege to answer the question and to cover me for any claim by the bar or my former client. As predicted, the judge overruled and ordered me to answer.
I reviewed the invoice and answered, “No, this is not my invoice.” His attorney said, “I don’t understand, this is your firm’s logo and information right?” I said yes, but when his attorney asked me if I provided those legal services, I said no.
The very confused attorney slowly started to put together that this idiot client of ours had manufactured my invoice to prove his damages. Needless to say, I could have given his new attorney the heads up, but I wasn’t going to help someone who had committed perjury to the court using my name. I had represented him in a completely different matter and this guy was trying to make some extra cash through this bankruptcy hearing. Two lessons: tell your attorney everything and as an attorney, make sure your client feels comfortable enough to tell you everything.
#42 Gambling Her Innocence Away
A lady got into a minor fender bender with a truck in a casino parking lot (she backed out of a spot into him). The guy I was representing said she parked and went inside the casino for a few hours. At her deposition, she testified that she was so hurt she went right home and to a hospital. I asked if she was a frequent visitor of the casino and if she had a rewards card. She was happy to tell me that she did and that she had a gold status. She showed me the card. I subpoenaed her rewards cards records and it showed that she was playing slots for hours after the accident.
#43 A Costly Mistake
My client’s house burned down from an explosion in the fuel oil tank used to heat the house. It was clearly the oil maintenance company’s fault, but his homeowner’s insurance (from a very reputable company) still refused to pay out, citing a ridiculous technicality in his policy. Essentially, the policy covered damage caused by the oil heater but they claimed that it was the storage tank that exploded and wasn’t part of what was covered.
So they denied his claim, which was about 1.2 million, and then I got involved. During a deposition with the claims adjuster, I asked how she came to the conclusion that the storage tank was not a part, or at least connected to, the heater. She stated that she relied on her “expert witness” who was an engineer. Little did she know, I had already checked this person’s background. He had zero engineering experience or education. As most of you might know, you don’t get attorney’s fees in most cases. However, when an insurance company denies your claim in “bad faith”, now you do. Her little admission cost the company about $500,000 in fees, on top of the original claim for 1.2 million.
#44 Not My X-Ray
The plaintiff had an x-ray of an allegedly broken arm. The x-ray seemed a bit off to me and the dates didn’t make sense (I was in-house at an academic medical center). I looked at the case more closely and I discovered that the Plaintiff was an x-ray technician at another hospital. After that, it was all over.
#45 Don’t Smoke While Pregnant
I was trying to get a restraining order for a woman in court from her son’s father. We were presenting the testimony and she detailed a story where the father grabbed her arm and slammed it on the tub, breaking her wrist. On the cross, I asked the accused if he ever broke my client’s wrist on purpose. His response? “Yeah, I did. She was nine months pregnant about to smoke and wouldn’t stop, so I tried to grab her arm to get the pipe and protect my unborn son.” She left that detail out in her conversations with me.