35 Moments Lawyers Knew Their Clients Messed Up Big Time
solidsnake4545 Published 12/12/2021 in Funny
Lawyers, typically, have seen a lot of weird and wacky stuff no matter their area of specialization. That's because by the time any dispute has officially reached the courtroom, there are bound to be some sort stakes on the line for all parties involved -- which is what makes it especially surprising when people choose that as the precise location in which to shoot themselves in the foot and facepalm into another reality altogether.
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1. 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 FB 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.
2. IANAL and have told this story before but it is a good one.
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 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 x provider."
Then the judge ripped into the representative from the cell company and their lawyer. It was a good day.
3. I was representing Mom in a bitter custody fight. Dad wanted full custody and argued mom was an unfit parent. Mom wanted full custody because 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 Dad, who said the usual nice things about Dad. 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 cock fighting, and he'd take his minor children to these cock fights, and 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. And obviously, the children were terrified of those chickens.
I could see the color draining from Dad's lawyer's face. Mom got full custody.
4. I had client whose 60k 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, figured out they bought their oil from Costco. Called Costco and got the 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 it was impossible they had ever bought the right oil. They settled in full immediately.
5. 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 request those records. The landlord left a voicemail to the enforcement department saying to hold off on the fines, they will make the repairs as soon as the tenant is forced out. That was an easy case.
6. Had a client accused of leading the cops on a high speed chase. The cop on the stand estimated he was going 90 mph, but never actually clocked him. Then the cop identified where the chase started with me, and where it ended. It lasted about 2 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 mph. Client got acquitted really quickly after that.
7. 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 they got themselves.
8. Someone told me this.
The lawyer was describing the theft. “The footprints make it seem as though he didn’t go to the basement”
And the defendant said, “Actually we did.”
9. 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 homeowners 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 deny his claim, which was about 1.2 million, and then I get involved. During a deposition with the claims adjuster I ask how she came to the conclusion that the storage tank was not a part, or at least connected to, the heater. She states 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 500k in fees, on top of the original claim for 1.2 million.
10. Not a lawyer but a legal videographer. This gentleman was claiming injuries/seeking damages against his employer after a fall at work. He claimed he couldn't raise his right arm above his shoulder because of the fall. First deposition comes along and I am hired by defendant's attorney to videotape 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..."
Plaintiff raises his right arm above his shoulder with ease and no sign of discomfort, does not occur to him what he has just done. Both attorneys were looking down at their notes when this happened and neither of them caught it. The plaintiff himself didn't catch it. The court reporter looked at him and then looked at me and her eyes went wide with realization at what just happened. 4 hours of deposition proceed where in the plaintiff is instructed (multiple times) to show his range of motion and precedes to pretend like he can't raise his arm above shoulder level which he did at the very beginning of his deposition. Deposition ends, plaintiff's counsel leaves, I call defense (hiring party) counsel over and show him the first 2 mins of tape, counsel excitedly whispers to me, "case closed, you just saved us tens of thousands of dollars". I got a $5,000 bonus and plaintiff's case was dismissed with prejudice.
11. My brother is a divorce attorney. His most memorable case, he was representing a guy in a divorce custody battle who was accused of horrific child abuse. Very graphic, very detailed depositions from the young kids against daddy. Things look grim.
Then my brother notices the deposition transcript (done by social workers under oath) contains a question at the end from one of the kids "Did I hit my marks?" My brother had previously tried to make it as an actor in Hollywood right out of high school, failing miserably (and decided to go into law, an altogether different form of "acting")....He wonders how little kids know about acting jargon. Subpoenas the wife's personal checking acct during discovery, sure enough, acting lessons.
Deposes an extremely sketchy "acting coach", and panicked coach quickly coughs up DVDs of "practice interrogations" with the kids, hours of coaching the kids on exactly what imaginary things to say about daddy.
He says it was his one and only "Perry Mason moment" in 20+ years of practice, and Dad got sole custody of the kids.
12. Not a lawyer, but when I was in the military I was accused of something I didn't do. And I had to go to court over it. And during court the prosecutor started to detail this investigation and how they had staked my apartment out for months. They entered into evidence a picture of "my apartment". And when they put it up I looked shocked at my lawyer bc it wasn't a picture of my place. It was my ex wifes apartment. A place I had NEVER lived (never even spent a single night there). I lived in a house, she lived in an apartment. And when my lawyer was asked if she objected to the picture being entered into evidence she replied "I don't mind them entering it into evidence as long as they change the listing of it". And when one of the members of the panel (no judge, 3 member board) asked what was wrong with the listing, she looked at him and said "That's not his apartment". On top of this the witness they used against me described going to my house on the night in question and she named the subdivision where she had visited me, except that wasn't where I lived either (also wasn't where the picture they had was either).
Case was dismissed and I was told they requested the witness to return to answer questions about perjury.
13. My client was a woman working at a meet packing 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 hand guard and said the plant owner must have used a grinder to take it off. During a deposition of the guy that owned the distraction company he shows up with the sale documents he was supposed to have turned over weeks before.
Turns out there was a note in small print at the bottom he didn’t know about that said the sale was without the hand guard. Which is 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.
14. This is so petty - I've had much bigger moments, but because of the character of the other side this will always be my favourite. Doing a boundary dispute, a squabble over what was essentially a few inches of land. OS was a lawyer, and an absolute arsehole. 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. The fact you now could meant clearly the boundary must have moved. 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 realised that it very clearly showed a wheelie bin in exactly the spot his case said there couldn't be one. Told the judge we were happy for the photo be admitted after all, got the other side to confirm the date it was taken, then pointed out he'd just completely f**ked his case.
That photo did him for nearly 50k in adverse costs. Couldn't happen to a more deserving chap.
15. Lady got into a minor fender bender with a truck in a casino parking lot (she backed out of a spot into him). My guy 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 casino, and if she had a rewards card. She was happy to tell me she did and she had gold status, and showed me the card.
I subpoenaed her rewards cards records, and it showed she was playing slots for hours after the accident.
16. 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, he said no. later in the dep I asked him the question again and there was no objection and 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) and then he gave me the "oh yeah I remember something about that....."
17. Plaintiff had an x-ray of an allegedly broken arm. It seemed 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 discovered the Plaintiff was a x-ray tech at another hospital. After that, it was all over.
18. Cross examining a custom home builder who had a lump sum contract (set price as opposed to “cost plus” which means cost of the materials plus x% as builder fee) with the home owner. Claimed he put 20% more labor/materials in building the home than the contracted provided for and he was suing for these excess costs.
Was asking him about an email with my client negotiating the price of the construction and he volunteers that he knew he couldnt build it for that price.
My head snaps up, supervising partner’s head snaps up, and opposing counsel goes pale. Dialogue was something like:
Me: you quoted ‘x’ price? Builder: yes Me: you knew you couldn’t build it for that price? Builder: yes Me: you knew the home owner was relying on that quote? Builder:yes Me: you knew home owner wouldn’t have signed contract without that representation? Builder: yes Me: and you told home owner’s lender you could do it for ‘x’? Builder: yes Me: and bank relied on that price and wouldn’t have given loan if knew it was wrong? Builder: yes
This is textbook fraudulent inducement and he had no idea. Builder got poured out in the arbitration award and slapped builder with sizable punitive damages on top of it.
Five minutes of testimony sunk his case because he volunteered information without being prompted.
19. As a 18 year old computer store owner, I had a guy sue me because his computer was a "lemon". Well he chose to represent himself, to which the judge said only an idiot would represent himself, begged the guy to postpone and get a lawyer. Nope, so the guy rambled for 20min and made himself look like a complete redneck moron who just didn't know how to use computer.
So then it was my turn. My lawyer stood up and said some legal phrase to the effect of the plaintiff failed to ask for any damages, therefore we ask for summary dismissal. (Gravel bang). Granted, Mr. Plaintiff I told you that you needed an attorney.
20. Represented a DUI client who swore up and down to me he hadn’t been drinking or doing any drugs. Newbie officer who had his field training officer with him in the car. Rookie pulls client over for a tag violation, walks back to the car with body camera still on, training officer says “get him out for a DUI” and the rookie says “but he’s not intoxicated” to which the reply was “do it anyway.” Body cam clicks off, turns on 7 minutes later and they’re doing field sobriety exercises on my client. Client sat in custody for 3 weeks until I finally got the tape from the prosecutor and presented it to the judge. The “oh s**t” looks from the prosecutor and FTO when the judge saw the tape.....I’ll treasure that one. Judge wrote the police chief a letter saying the FTO was dead to him and he’d deny every search warrant he tried to bring thereafter for being a liar. Client is hopefully still on track with his civil attorney in a lawsuit.
21. Not a lawyer. Was taking my ex to court over custody of my kid. I had compiled a 150 page dossier complete with a report from child protective services since there was abuse in the household. Text messages and tons of records of contempt of our previous agreement. My daughter has a court assigned lawyer that is normal in these cases, which after reading through all the materials and talking to all the parties sided with my lawyer and I.
The ex decided to represent themselves because...hubris I suppose. Before the case was heard in the hallway outside of the court room she gave me an agreement she typed up which would grant me custody as well as some generous provisions for herself. I politely declined as we were confident we would be getting a lot more in trail.
Case was called. Testimonies in. She put on the most hilariously insane and embarrassing show for the court. In her closing testimony she attempted to hand the judge the agreement she tried to give us. Judge refused to take it. You can't just hand me things. That's not how you submit things into evidence. I'm not reading that.
She's arguing with the judge, yelling at him, and losing her s**t. In the insane nonsense she was spewing she said, "...and this agreement gives him custody which is one of the things he's after!" in what I assume was an attempt to show that she's attempting a compromise.
My lawyer peppers in a quick statement, "Ok, so you agree for the father to have full custody?" She snaps in heated anger, "Yes! That's what I agreed to!" Our side falls completely silent and the judge after much effort ends her little outburst. Gave his final verdict which started with granting me custody and putting her in court mandated therapy.
She literally gave away custody of her daughter in a heated argument with the judge.
22. Ex-wife ("EX") trying to fight ex-husband's new girlfriend ("NG"). NG is in her car trying to flee while EX is beating on car, blocking escape, and grabbing at door handles to get in, but doors are locked. After EX briefly moved out from the path of the car, NG begins to drive away slowly. EX, noticing the car starting to leave, dives onto the hood of the car . . . slides off, gets run over at slow speed, and breaks bones. Several surgeries later, EX sues NG, alleging negligence in hitting EX with the car.
As I'm deposing EX, she claims to have never touched the car before it hit her - 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 - just yelling. 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.
edit: videotaped deposition too - made sure that one was recorded.
23. The first case I ever did, 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’d sent it to him like 8 months ago, so the judge was rather displeased with his antics
24. 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 thousands of time. 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."
25. 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 smart phones 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.
26. In a protective order hearing a respondent admitted on cross that he choked 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.
27. I was involved in a patent dispute years ago that was basically large company going after small company. Not only did the judge decide we didn’t infringe on the patents, but he then went on to invalidate the patents due to prior art we were able to show.
28. Obligatory “not a lawyer”, but my grandparents had the longest running divorce settlement in LA history in the 70’s.
My grandpa refused to pay his alimony. One year, he went to Hawaii and sent my grandma a postcard that said something along the lines, but more wittingly, “I’m enjoying all of your alimony money, look at what I’m doing with it”.
She drove it straight to her lawyer, and it was game over for gramps.
Edit 1: The divorce was about 5 years long, it was the longest divorce in their city at the time. I’m sure it isn’t anymore.
Edit 2: My grandpa was ordered to pay her a few thousand dollars a month, plus health insurance, car insurance, a car, and a few other things, until she got a job or remarried. Grandma chose to do neither. To this day, he is sending her a check, she can’t medically drive anymore, but her car is rotting in the garage, just to spite him, so he has to pay the car insurance bills.
29. I was trying to get a restraining order for a woman in dv court from her son’s father. We are presenting testimony and she details a story where he grabbed her arm and slammed it on the tub- breaking her wrist. On cross, i asked the accused if he ever broke my clients wrist on purpose. His response- “f**k yeah i did. She was nine months pregnant about to smoke crack and wouldn’t stop, I tried to grab her arm to get the pipe and protect my unborn son”.
F**k me. She left that detail out in her conversations with me.
30. 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.
EDIT: verdicts in my state do not have to be 12-0. In civil cases a verdict can be reached with 9 votes. In my line of work, unanimous verdicts are rare even in the most obvious cases.
Also, the conversation in the hallway was not privileged because there was a third party there. But even if the family member had not been in the conversation, I would still be allowed to ask whether they had discussed her testimony, as long as I don't ask what they said to each other.
31. 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.
Edit: I remember an even funnier thing! I had another 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."
32. Not as exciting/in-the-moment as some other ones here, but we hired a private investigator to track our defendant in a fraud/asset recovery case. 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 pieced it together and realized it was a letter written by the defendant raging at his accomplice for making highly specific mistakes that f**ked him over in the context of our fraud/asset recovery case. (Obviously, we later had this verified and sworn to via affidavit by an official translator.) It was unbelievable - the handwriting was a match; plus, he'd also signed it, and the contents were so specific (contained information about specific amounts going into specific trusts under specific names) that it was basically a smoking gun. We almost thought they'd planted it to throw us off, but the guy was just stupid and arrogant. Ran into a bit of a fight re. admissibility but the letter ultimately helped us receive a significant settlement that made our clients extremely happy.
33. Represented an employer in an FMLA 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 moreso 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.
34. My only full trial. contractor ripping off my client who was no saint. I went through entire contract where each sub was listed and he agreed to each line as being part of contract. He agreed that 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. Case dismissed by judge without me having to present my side.
35. Not a lawyer but one time I represented myself in a speeding ticket dispute. The officer supposedly caught me speeding with his radar. After he finished presenting his case, I got to cross-examine him. Now he was pretty good about providing evidence for the radar unit’s accuracy, saying that he’d tested the radar before and after his shift with the tuning forks the radar came with. He even had the factory certificates for the tuning forks. But what he didn’t realize was that the certificates were dated 1995. And I knew that those forks hadn’t been re-certified/calibrated since they’d left the factory in 1995, because calibrating tuning forks just wasn’t standard procedure for my local PD. So I laid all of that out, and asked how he could be sure that the radar was accurate, since we couldn’t be sure that the tuning forks he’d used were accurate. He just kind of went on a long ramble about how he’d been using the radar unit for a long time and how it’d always worked well. At that point I was feeling pretty good and I thought I’d had him.
But the judge found me guilty anyway, saying that the officer’s “visual speed estimation” was enough to convict even if the radar evidence is in question. ¯(ツ)/¯
To those of you asking, I'm pretty sure I wasn't speeding, though I have to admit I wasn't paying too much attention - it was like 2AM on an empty highway. If I was, it was definitely by no more than 10 km/h (around 6.2 mph) - the inattention kind of speeding as opposed to going for a top speed run. I was honestly not too salty about losing. I mean, it's just a speeding ticket. S**t happens. What was slightly concerning was the judge's willingness to convict on so little evidence, which to me doesn't really bode too well for the integrity of the whole system. And no, to the lawyers among you, it wasn't preponderance of evidence, it was beyond a reasonable doubt - traffic offences follow a criminal procedure here in BC.
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- 35 Moments Lawyers Knew Their Clients Messed Up Big Time
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