Just recently an old buddy called me, her and her husband were embroiled in a never-ending lawsuit. They were being sued for some ridiculous amount, I think it was $7 million, by a guy that did some shoddy construction work for them. They were accused of defamation, libel, tortious interference or some other such scandalous charge, I don’t even know what it was about it had gone on so long. I initially was unwilling to help (didn’t want to lose a friendship over it) but I relented because I knew I could help. My buddy told me that the plaintiff’s attorney was a contingency-fee attorney and likely hadn’t done any research at all into his clients claims. My buddy had read over 10,000 pages of documents and had spent over $100K in just attorney’s fees up to this point. We were about 20 minutes into the call and I had a plan in mind.
The plaintiff had claimed that he had lost opportunities for his business and even jobs he had applied for but lost because my client left a negative review and had sued him for fraud. The plaintiff’s claims sounded outrageous and likely disprovable and so I was brought in to conduct witness interviews for the attorney ahead of the trial which was coming up in the next six months.
Well as it turns out it was a frivolous case with a lying client. I think both the plaintiff and his attorney saw dollar signs when they went to sleep at night. They figured they could wait it out until the defendants’ insurance company tried to buy them off. Didn’t quite go that way. The lies got deeper and deeper until they submitted the list of lost opportunities and lost jobs ($7 million worth). When I read the filing, I am certain the plaintiff’s attorney was getting ready to add another “victory” to his website. This latest victory would have fit in nicely between the previous alleged settlements and verdicts ranging from $1.3 to $13 million and enhanced the firm’s credibility as “Trial Lawyers for the People”.
It all seemed too good to be true, but before you jump into any case you really have to do some basic research into your client’s story -as a Private Investigator I get stalkers that call so I have to look into them.
So what was I hired to do? Basic research from a Private Investigators POV for an Attorney . My buddy and now client asked me to help disprove the claims the plaintiff had attested to in his filings.
I made one call, then another and everything in the filing turned out to be false. I stopped for a minute…was my line of questioning not working, was I being set-up ?
I called my buddy and mentioned that not only were these lost opportunities, never lost – some of these “opportunities lost” were never undertaken – quotes for work never done. Many people commented that they hadn’t done the work, the plaintiff’s estimate was too high or they were delaying the work. The most revealing call was to an attorney who had been listed as a witness. When I got in touch with the attorney she said she had a meeting with the plaintiff that afternoon and so he hadn’t really lost anything yet…I thanked her for taking my call and hoped that the upcoming meeting wouldn’t be too “awkward“.
So back to the plaintiff’s attorney, he didn’t even do the basic due diligence. I don’t know if he even read any of the documents. During the deposition the plaintiff claimed he hadn’t read anything either. I can tell you from the excerpts, that the plaintiff’s deposition did not go well. First he was asked some softballs like, is this your name on this e-mail submitted by your attorney. “I don’t recall”. Then he was asked about all the jobs he supposedly lost. He had plenty of detail and enthusiasm until he was questioned about the affidavits of the witnesses. These were the witnesses that he had listed in defense of his case – in most cases they completely contradicted his stories, yet he continued to perjure himself until another attorney had to intervene because they would be responsible for paying for the losses at trial, which they now knew they needed to avoid.
So the fallout from this? The insurance company pleaded with the plaintiff’s attorney to settle because it would have cost them a couple million. The plaintiff settled by paying six figures to the defendants, his insurance company paid triple that amount. Now the attorney is facing a very real ethics complaint with the Office of Legal Responsibility, the complaint was written by the defendant’s husband, a very successful attorney and former OLR board member.
There are consequences to not doing basic research. Don’t make the mistake, call a Private Investigator to team up with an Attorney and make a strong case.