The "Dumbest Mistake I Ever Made" of Kingston, New York medical malpractice lawyer
As a young, naive attorney, I represented a young 30-something Brooklyn native (I'll call him Mr. Jones) in a tractor trailer accident. Mr. Jones suffered horrendous internal injuries as a passenger in a car that collided at full speed with a tractor trailer on the New York State Thruway near Saugerties. Mr. Jones spent 52 days in the intensive care unit of the Kingston Hospital, another 8 days in a regular hospital room and incurred $170k in hospital bills. There was no question in the lawsuit that Mr. Jones was not responsible for the accident and the only question was how much he would recover...or so I thought.
During the lawsuit, I met with Mr. Jones on several occasions at my father's law office in upstate Kingston, New York. Each visit Mr. Jones arrived in a brand new Mercedes Benz right off the dealer's lot and given that he was not working and came from a poor background, I couldn't quite figure out how Mr. Jones had money to pay to afford the car. Truth be told, I didn't care.
Before his deposition, I had a blunt conversation with Mr. Jones. I asked Mr. Jones, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" I explained to Mr. Jones that if he didn't tell the truth to me, the truth would eventually come out and he would get caught in a lie. Mr. Jones told me that he had been convicted of burglary 15 years earlier and did three years in prison, but he had been a model citizen ever since. I thanked him for his honesty--WHAT A MISTAKE!
Several months later, the lawsuit proceeded to trial in Supreme Court, Ulster County. The initial witnesses were strong and the expert witnesses made the case even better. Things were going just great...until I called Mr. Jones to the witness stand.
During his direct examination, I asked Mr. Jones about his criminal background and he looked the jurors in the eyes and came clean--or so I thought. After what I thought was compelling testimony, the defense attorney stood up with a stack of papers in his hands. He's bluffing, I thought. Au contraire, my friend. The defense attorney had the proverbial goods on Mr. Jones.
The cross examination of Mr. Jones went something like this: "Mr. Jones, you understand you are under oath? The oath to tell the truth is a solemn vow, do you agree? (as I start to sink below the counsel table) You testified on direct examination that you have only been convicted of a crime on a single occasion? (I sink even lower--by this point, you can barely see me) Now, let's go through the certificates of conviction in my hand (I completely disappear under the counsel table).
As you've figured out by now, the defense attorney had a handful of certificates of conviction showing that Mr. Jones had committed virtually every crime known to man. When Mr. Jones was proven a liar on the witness stand, his case was essentially over. While Mr. Jones's truthfulness had nothing to do with the trial, it had everything to do with the jury liking him. By this point in the case, the jury hated Mr. Jones and I knew it was time to settle and go home.
Never Trust your Client
What is the moral of this story? Never trust your client! That's right, clients lie and they do it all the time. Now, if there is any doubt in my mind at all, I get a criminal background search from the NYS Office of Court Administration. Instead of trusting my clients, I do a background search. I learned my lesson from Mr. Jones.
I welcome your phone call if you want more information
If you want more information or have any questions, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 or you can always request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website, www.protectingpatientrights.com