Tuesday, July 05, 2011

News of the World "journalist" hacks murdered girl's cell phone, deletes messages. I love the non-denial denial of the organization's chief: "Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of the paper at the time of the alleged hacking and is now chief executive of News International, told staff she was 'sickened that these events are alleged to have happened.' "

Now, is she sickened the event happened, or is she sickened that the allegation happened? I read the latter interpretation. She ought to resign, and if the UK has an obstruction of justice charge, the hacker and the paper ought to be charged and prosecuted. This strikes me as beyond the pale of decency.
What's in a name? Apparently a lot: Titanic II sinks on maiden voyage.

Wasn't he just asking for it?
Well, it looks like the rape case against French bigshot Dominique Strauss-Kahn is dead on arrival. Now, the prosecution is in trouble not because evidence has surfaced that he did not commit a sexual assault. It's in jeopardy because the alleged victim's credibility has been called into question:

Prosecutors now say the alleged victim has admitted lying about her whereabouts immediately after the alleged attack.

They also say she has fabricated her income and even how many children she has to keep her housing and increase her tax refund.

Authorities also point to a conversation she had with a jailed drug dealer about how she could benefit monetarily from going forward with the case.

None of these purported falsehoods goes to the question of what happened in that hotel room. But the whole scenario highlights what has become maybe the most important factor we, as personal injury lawyers, must consider when we look at whether to run with a case or not.

In recent years, insurance defense lawyers have taken a pragmatic approach to cases where it is obvious their client was at fault or negligent: they admit liability and try the case based on causation and damages. In other words, they take the spotlight off the defendant who caused the harm in the first place, and put the focus squarely on the plaintiff -- did the negligence cause the injuries, and how much should be awarded in money damages. By doing this, the defense will often be that the plaintiff (or his lawyer) is just greedy, is trying to get something for nothing, or that the plaintiff is just lying or fabricating in order to get money from the jury.

Jurys in East Tennessee are very conservative. Our experience has been that any hint that the plaintiff has been less than credible, less than forthright, and the jury will turn him away. In that everyone has some sort of inconsistency in his life, it becomes pretty easy for the defense to smear the plaintiff to minimize or eliminate altogether a verdict for the plaintiff.

It's happened to me, like any other plaintiff's lawyer. A number of years ago, we had a client who was rear-ended by a driver who had looked away from the road. He had $50,000 in bills due to low back surgery. There was no question as to fault, causation, or the seriousness of the injury. However, because the plaintiff had testified one way in his deposition, and differently at trial, the defense lawyer painted him as a man who would say anything to get what he wanted. It wasn't true, but it made for a good story. The jury awarded him $2,000.

The moral of the story is that claimants must be credible. Their account of the incident and their injuries must be consistent throughout the claims and litigation process. And if there is a problem, the claimant must assume the defense knows about thehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif problem. The claimant must tell his lawyer about every "wart" as soon as possible, so the lawyer can try to minimize or eliminate the damage to the claimant's case. Too many times the claimant holds back information from his own lawyer, and they both get sandbagged at trial.

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