People don't like lawyers. It's true and I am usually ok with that because I understand why that is. Most people don't like the fact that lawyers have the keys to the court house. People know that they can go it alone but it is an ill advised trip. All the procedure and forms are daunting for lawyers on any given day and we spend all of our time with it. For a lay person it can be nothing short of overwhelming. Sometimes even the best legal counsel can't save people from themselves. I was reminded today of something that happened in my first year of practice. Even though this is not a law blog, I thought I would share this law story. Heck people watch Law and Order every day.
I had been assigned to defend a homeowner in a suit where the Plaintiff alleged that he had fallen on the home owner's property and broken his elbow. So he wanted some money damages for his injuries and inconvenience. This is all well and good, Philadelphia gives out more in jury awards than the state of California. In Philadelphia, lawyers like to say this to each other. (California and other states have limits on jury awards, Pennsylvania does not- it is a distorted fact, but we still like to say it).
So I prepare to defend the case and do all the things that lawyers do to help their clients. This includes taking the deposition of the Plaintiff. A deposition, for those not familiar, is a statement under oath recorded by a court reporter. A lawyer, usually not your lawyer, will ask questions and the deponent (person being asked the questions) will answer and the court reporter will write it all down. Very efficient. The lawyer will ask all kinds of questions which seem irrelevant to the case; things about education, family, job and and so on. Then they will ask some things about the case.
As it turned out this started as a normal deposition. The plaintiff showed up with this lawyer and I asked a bunch of questions. How did you get hurt? blah, blah, blah. I will paraphrase some relevant parts:
Me: Did you go to the hospital?
Me: What if any treatment did you receive?
P: I had x-rays and a cast was put on.
Me: Earlier you said you had an appointment to have you cast removed, did you make that appointment?
Me: Did you see a family physician to remove your cast?
Me: I see you are not wearing a cast today, how was it removed?
P: I took it off myself.
[I do a complete head spin here and my jaw probably bounced off the floor]
Me: You took off your own cast?
Me: Are you a doctor?
Me: How did you remove the cast, with a saw?
P: I don't remember
Well you get the idea, it went on much further inquiring into the type of tool used to remove the cast to the extent of medical training of the plaintiff. As a contractor he had a lot tools but no medical training or memory of how the cast was removed. I suppose the quick moral of the story is don't conduct medical treatment on yourself and then sue someone for it. He may have been entitled to a recovery of some sort but he sunk his own case by not thinking through his actions before hand.