While we criminal defense lawyers seem to have reason to conduct the most cross examinations, once in a while one of our brothers and sisters in the personal injury/civil litigation field conduct a meaningful cross examination that warrants mention. I’ve seen my longtime peer Geoffrey Fieger do it. Gerry Spence too. Both have cross examined witnesses in civil cases where corporations and insurance companies were on trial. Recently, one of my closest colleagues/friends/warriors, Vince Colella in Southfield, Michigan, conducted a cross examination in a deposition that caught my eye. Vince is of counsel to our firm and we used to share space together (not to mention the multiple cases that we have worked on together) so it comes as so no surprise that Vince hit one of out of the park.
Here is the exchange that caught our eye:
Vince: [Mr. Adjuster} do you have a philosophy on adjusting claims?
Adjuster: Yes, to be fair. And, error on the side of providing coverage.
V: So, you give the benefit of the doubt to the claimant?
V: Do you like baseball?
A: Yes. In fact, I have been an umpire for 5 years.
V: So, then you are familiar with the phrase “tie goes to the runner.”
V: What does that mean to you?
A: That if the base runner touches the bag at the same time the fielder catches the ball while touching the bag, the runner is safe.
V: Great. So, in this case, you were provided with a medical opinion from my client’s treating physician. And, you obtained one from a doctor you hired and paid for, Correct?
V: You had conflicting medical opinions. Right?
V: Yet, you chose to accept the opinion of the doctor you hired, and paid for, over my client’s doctor? Am I correct? Well, that’s not consistent with your claims handling philosophy is it sir?
A: Um, well, I guess not. But, ……(blahblahblah)
In this exchange, Vince revisited a common, easily understood phrase to get the adjuster to admit that where there is a doubt, the insured, driver should win. Then when the adjuster agreed, Vince pounced to point out how the adjuster wasn’t applying the very rule he adopted a few moments earlier. A killer cross examination.