Litigation

Helping the Court Reporter

Posted on

A clean, coherent, and intelligible deposition transcript is invaluable to a trial attorney. It can prevent the waste of hours of trial preparation spent decoding same. It may also be the key piece of evidence used to impeach a witness during cross-examination and question his or her credibility.

img_4107_-_940x220-blur

With that, know that the court reporter is your friend — help your friend help you. To do so, see this article that list best practices and suggestions for handling a court reporter at a deposition. A brief must read for any trial attorney.

When you’re taking a deposition, you know that ensuring a complete and accurate record is vital. So don’t take the person who’s dutifully taking down the proceedings for granted: Assisting the court reporter is not only polite, it might be the key to a clean depo transcript to use at trial.

Helping the court reporter start even before the deposition begins by

  • Showing up early to organize documents for convenient reference and mark them as exhibits.
  • Giving the reporter a copy of the case caption so the transcript will include the correct case name and court number.
  • If the deponent is an expert, offering the reporter a written glossary of unusual terms that will be used during the deposition.

Read more: Give the Reporter a Hand to Get a Clean Depo Transcript

PA Supreme Court shifts the world of products liability

Posted on Updated on

pascbench

The PA Supreme Court recently shifted the world of products liability with its opinion in Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc. While scholars and attorneys continue to dissect the 137 page opinion,  “what can be said immediately about this landmark decision is this: (1) the Court has not adopted the Third Restatement (although the Third Restatement is extensively discussed); (2) Azzarello v. Black Brothers Company (Pa 1978), which created Pennsylvania’s idiosyncratic version of Section 402A of the Second Restatement, has been overruled. BUT (3) there are many stated variables and contingencies that will have to be carefully evaluated and clearly will have significant consequences in pending and yet to be filed cases in Pennsylvania state and federal courts.” Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel member Bill Ricci.

Read the rest of this entry »

Proper Objection, or Not?!?

Posted on Updated on

IMG_0127-0.JPG

Two of the potentially most important areas to understand for a deposition are proper and improper objections. You’d be amazed at just how many improper objections are frequently asserted.

And so the saying goes, “one lie can ruin a thousand truths.” In the context of depositions, “one improper objection can erase your good standing, while one waived objection can ruin your case.”

The two most often improperly used objections in a deposition are relevance and hearsay. It is not necessary that the question itself be non-hearsay or relevant, only that it must be reasonably capable of leading to admissible evidence. Put simply, “If the question may lead to admissible evidence than it is relevant.” (See link below)

Read the rest of this entry »

How CIPA changed everything; Wait, are you recording this?

Posted on Updated on

Audio Waves & Microphone

Communication recordings without one’s consent is a hot topic today. The leaking of banned NBA team owner Donald Sterling’s conversation has undoubtedly further ignited the debate, causing individuals to question the real law. What limitations or guidelines are set in place to protect individual’s privacy rights during phone call communications? Is it sufficient to have one party consent to the recording or are both parties required to consent? These are just a few of the questions being pondered. Let’s take a brief look.

First up is the Californa Invasion of Privacy Act or in short, CIPA. While not first in order of precedence, its overreaching applications have caused it to become first priority for businesses determining their communications recording procedures and protocols. CIPA was enacted in 1967 to protect Californian’s right of privacy. The California legislature declared that “the development of new devices and techniques for the purpose of eavesdropping upon private communicates … has created a serious threat to the free exercise of personal liberties.” Thus, section 632 of CIPA was enacted to require all-party consent for recording confidential communications. Later CIPA was amended to add section 632.7. This section specifically prohibits the recording of any telephone call in which at least one of the recipients is using a cordless or cellular telephone. Note, that section 632 is limited to confidential communications while 632.7 is not – we will come back to this!

Next, there is the Federal Wiretap Act, which governs call recording under federal law. The Act permits the recording of calls, so long as at least one party consents. Approximately 37 states follow this same concept, rendering the taping of calls by a business and its customers ok, since at least one party involved (the business) gives consent. In stark contrast, twelve states and the District of Columbia mandate that all participants in the call must provide consent before it can be recorded.

Read the rest of this entry »

Game On : PA Supreme Court Opens Door for Negligent Design Claims Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Posted on Updated on

Recently, the PA Supreme Court released a ruling that is sure to shake things up involving life science matters in Pennsylvania. Read more below.

In a decision with significant potential ramifications, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a ruling that pharmaceutical companies can be held liable for negligence in the design and marketing of drugs, regardless of claims that the drugs had been properly labeled and tested, as well as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The ruling, announced January 22nd, upholds an intermediate appellate court decision against a Pfizer, Inc. subsidiary in a wrongful death action involving the diet drug Redux. In its 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected arguments by Wyeth Ltd. that pharmaceutical companies could only be held liable in Pennsylvania for manufacturing defects and inadequate warnings.

See, Negligent Design Claims Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Quentin Tarantino Suing Gawker Over Leaked Script

Link Posted on

Hollywood_Reporter_Rule_Breakers_Quentin_a_p

Quentin Tarantino has filed a copyright lawsuit against Gawker Media for allegedly facilitating the dissemination of copies of his unproduced script, The Hateful Eight.

Last week, the famous director was outraged after details about the Western circulated. He was so irate that he told the media that he wouldn’t be making the picture as his next film.

Soon afterwards, Gawker’s Defamer blog linked to the 146-page script under a post titled, “​Here Is the Leaked Quentin Tarantino Hateful Eight Script.”

See, Quentin Tarantino Suing Gawker Over Leaked Script

A Civil Justice System With No Trials

Link Posted on Updated on

This article was first published in the Texas Bar Journal‘s December 2013 issue. — Ed.

The steady erosion of the American trial is our dirty little secret. A majority of the American public might be surprised to learn that there is indisputable statistical evidence that the number of jury and non-jury trials in our country is, and has been, sharply declining, both in absolute and relative terms.1 For example, in 2010, only 2,154 jury trials were commenced in federal district courts, which means, on average, Article III judges tried fewer than four civil jury trials that year. While jury trials in federal court obviously have declined, the decline in bench trials has been steadier and steeper.2 Even though the number of lawyers continues to increase, the number of trials is still decreasing.3

Nor is the decline in the number of cases tried due to a reduction in case filings. To the contrary, both civil case filings and dispositions actually have increased five-fold in the federal courts during the same time that the number of trials—both the rate of trials as well as the absolute number—has diminished substantially.4

What do these trends portend for the future? They mean that, despite its historical importance and value, we are slowly but surely losing one of our most precious institutions—a trial by jury or even any trial at all. James Madison, the drafter of the Seventh Amendment, would be puzzled by how we allowed this to happen, given his view that “[t]rial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.”7

See, A Civil Justice System With No Trials

When a Witness Has Selective Memory

Link Posted on

Some witnesses have a crystal clear memory about events unfavorable to your client, but express sweeping memory loss on other contemporaneous events. Here’s how to attack such selective memory.

The following line of questioning can be used in both criminal and civil cases. Even if it doesn’t get concessions from the witness, it will remind the jury of the frequent untrustworthiness of memory.

See, When a Witness Has Selective Memory

One-on-One with Delaware’s Two Kings of Criminal Law

Posted on Updated on

Hurley vs. Maurer

During my clerkship in the New Castle County Court of Common Pleas, there were two criminal defense attorneys who stood apart from the pack. Two attorneys whom law students watched intensely, eager to derive anything they could from an observation. The two attorneys, at one point, represented Tom Capano in Delaware’s most popular murder trial. Those two attorneys are Joe Hurley and Eugene Maurer, Jr. – Delaware’s kings of criminal law.

The first voir dire (jury selection) that I observed was that of Joe Hurley. Amazingly, I still have my notes. Many of my thoughts are validated by the conversation between Hurley and Maurer. I remember thinking Hurley was a bit dismissive to his peers, but incredibly sharp with the judge and jury. He was great at commanding the room and phrasing things in plain language, a skill known to many as, “dumbing it down”. All the while maintaining a wry, clever, and edgy kind of humor, keeping it interesting.

Hurley’s client was accused of resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. His client was a fairly large intimidating man, but Hurley did not shy away from the facts. Instead, Hurley used his client’s size and demeanor to his advantage. Like a skilled Aikido fighter, he motivated your mind’s initial impression, connecting it with assumptions the police must have made at the time in question. To use force first or risk danger. The tactic took a strong defendant and made him appear vulnerable to the jury. He was now the victim, but not in a corny charitable case sort of way, but an unfortunate victim of circumstance. Needless to say, at the closing of the case Hurley obtained a positive verdict from the jury for his client.

While I was not so fortunate, to sit in on one of Maurer’s cases, I did have the opportunity to review a large number of his motions and briefs to the court. His style was revered. Extremely confident but not cocky.

Reading the conversation between the two, one can identify numerous similarities: Impeccable Work Ethic, Confidence, Self-Awareness, and Respect. All excellent traits. But, even Delaware’s top criminal minds made mistakes in their career. In fact, Hurley’s history shows that a large number of plans may not work, but with hard work and dedication one may become successful. While the independent causes for the success of the two men may be argued, one thing is for certain, their work ethic is superior to all and second to none. They both possess extreme confidence in their ability, along with a strong sense of respect and self-awareness. Mr. Hurley may come off as arrogant but it appears that he is quite aware of tactics and Maurer’s confidence, while a bit more polished, remains glaring.

I question whether this interview would have been possible early on in their careers? Its no coincidence that they were able to converse candidly, often complimenting and insulting each other in the same breath. The awareness of themselves and their opponent developed over time. Lessons reinforced through experience and crossing paths paved the way for an intimate but humorous conversation. The result is priceless and I am thankful to Delaware Today for featuring such a great article. I only hope that one day I to can take part in a similar conversation with one of my peers…

See the interview by Delaware Today here (begins in the middle of article).

No Mercy for Pro Se Litigant

Link Posted on Updated on

No Mercy for Pro Se Litigant

Pro se parties normally enjoy relative leniency from the courts. But in a recent case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, an unrepresented party’s behavior was so egregious with respect to discovery obligations and compliance with court orders that the appellate court affirmed a more than $1 million default judgment, including punitive damages, against the pro se litigant. The ruling reinforces the importance of being responsive to opposing counsel and the court.