Let me tell two war stories about lying.
#1 – One year ago, I completed a trial brought by a man who lost his arm and had related significant injuries. I represented the defendant corporation being sued. The man complained to the jurors that he would never be able to work again. His medical experts testified he would never be able to work again. His economist expert outlined the millions of dollars the man would lose in his life because he will never be able to work again. Further, the man testified under oath to his severe emotional trauma associated with that same type of work which led to his injury and how he can’t even go near that type of industry again.
The jury awarded that man a substantial amount of money, although a small percentage of the amount he asked them to award.
Guess what? Soon after the jury verdict, that man opened up his own business in the same industry which he whined about at trial was something he would not be able to do again. The “horrible” injuries which he and his attorneys cried about as destroying this man’s life don’t seem to be quite as horrible anymore.
Remember when President Bill Clinton lied under oath in a deposition and many people decried it as a terrible blight on the presidency? Very few litigation attorneys were surprised or shocked to hear that someone, even the President, lied under oath. On a daily basis, we see people lie under oath. Sometimes it is slightly bending the truth to attempt to get a bigger settlement or verdict, and at other times it is completely making up a story. Nevertheless, trial lawyers know that if someone has the chance to benefit financially and there is little chance he/she will be caught lying (or that there are no sanctions for being caught), the lies will start pouring forth.
It’s such a shame. I don’t know if people are more willing to lie than they were 50 years ago, but certainly the financial rewards for doing so appear to be much greater than 50 years ago. Still, we do nothing about it.
#2 – A few years ago, I represented a defendant sued for a very bad auto accident in which the plaintiff was seriously injured. Plaintiff gave her deposition and then all other witnesses gave their depositions. The testimony of the defendants and independent witnesses were completely consistent and demonstrated that the plaintiff’s sworn version of how the accident occurred was untrue. As we approached trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer sent me a letter indicating I might want to re-depose his client as she had additional information about the accident. In her re-deposition, she completely changed her story as to how the accident occurred. She admitted she had lied under oath in her first deposition. I brought a motion to have the case dismissed as a sanction for her wilful perjury, or at least to impose other significant sanctions against plaintiff. The result: The court did nothing to her. The judge felt the defendant was not prejudiced by the plaintiff’s self-confessed lies because we found out before trial.
At some point in history, attorneys were a part of the justice system; now, we practice in the legal system — there’s a difference.