Long Beach, CA commercial litigation attorney Skip Keesal talks about a case he worked on involving a witness who tried to hide a diamond ring for good reason.
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We represent a number of banks, brokerage firms, and major companies and we very often are asked to represent the most senior executives in mass actions and class actions and things of that nature. We were defending a claim being brought by a very well-known person. The fun thing that happened during this it was a jury trial in the federal court and the person who was suing was very, very wealthy. And in a conversation that I knew about she described how she got this huge diamond ring from her husband who was a very famous person. Normally my view of that is that you don’t mix in with those kind of things, you know, let’s keep the lawsuits on the facts and you don’t want somebody saying well why’d he says that?
But her lawyer asked her whether or not she could afford to pay for the “help” in her two houses. She owned two houses in famous places. And she said she was having trouble paying them. And I mean this is somebody who had very substantial amounts of money. And so, when it came my time to examine her, I said, Ms. So-and-So, I thought you suggested that you couldn’t afford to pay the people that helped you around the house? I said, is that right? And she said kind of a salty yes.
And I think I may have asked this question a second time and you know, just being polite, one thing about asking questions, if you never raise your voice you never get shot down because you ask the question, she says no, and then you go on to something else. But if you do it in an accusatory way and you get a strong response it looks like, you know, that wasn’t the right question to ask at a minimum. So I said, you know, to the witness, isn’t it true that when your deposition was taken that you were wearing a diamond ring the size of a postage stamp? And the attorney jumped up, this is the senior guy the head of litigation for a very fine firm and a very fine lawyer. And this might not have been his finest hour but he jumped up and he objected.
And the judge just looked down at this witness, without even ruling on the thing he said I’d like to hear the answer t that. And of course, that acquaints the jury to the fact that the judge thinks that this is important and so if she hasn’t been straightforward in describing whether she can pay, you know, $9.00 an hour that’s probably not a good thing for this witness. So she says, well, it’s not as big as a postage stamp. And I just waited and I said Ms. So-and-So, would you tell us why you’re not wearing that today? And this other attorney jumps up and says, attorney, client privilege. Obviously, suggesting that he had told her not to do it. And the judge looked at me and he kind of smiled and he kind of went like this with his hands, you know. And I said well, in view of the objection, I’m going to withdraw the question.
So that was kind of a fun thing. During that same trial Wall Street Journal had sent somebody out from Washington, I’m sorry, from New York and we make it a policy not to get involved with the press. We’ll talk with them and be nice with them and help them through, you know, explanations of things while we’re not giving away anything. I mean it’s not just slamming the door in their faces, they’re all nice people.
So I got to know this guy a little bit and we’re walking to the men’s room after a couple weeks of trial and I said if my company wins this case is the article going to be as big as if the plaintiff wins? And he says, Skip, if you win this case there isn’t going to be an article. He says it is not news when your client is doing its business properly.