Tag Archive for: moss and colella

Cornering The Witness In A Deposition | Vince Colella Delivers A Killer Cross

imageWhile 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?

A: Yes.

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.”

A: Yes.

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?

A: Correct.

V: You had conflicting medical opinions. Right?

A: 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.

Straight Answers — The Line That Helped A Great Personal Injury Lawyer Depose A Tough Doctor

“Are you going to give me straight answers?”  A rather simple question, right?   Opposing experts in civil and criminal cases often do anything but give straight answers.  Long, twisted, curvy and evasive answers are what experts typically give to lawyers cross examining them.  How to tackle the problem?  A colleague of mine, Vince Colella of Moss & Colella,  LawyersWhoWin.com and DetroitCivilRights.com, is one of the finest personal injury lawyers in Michigan.  He is so dedicated and talented, that he has been named a Super Lawyer, a prestigious honor bestowed on only the top 5% of all lawyers in Michigan.  Recently, Vince Colella approached me to discuss a trial deposition that he was preparing for involving a particularly feisty and difficult doctor.   The doctor was being called as an expert witness by the opposing side, the insurance company.  After a few minutes of discussion, I suggested starting the deposition with a simple question — one that would catch the expert off guard and unprepared:

Are you going to give me straight answers?

You see, depositions typically begin the same way:  lawyers asking background questions, questions about the expert’s experience, work, etc.  It provides the lawyer with information but it also gives the expert a chance to get in a groove, warm up and get comfortable.  Vince elected to take a different approach.  He elected, a few questions into the deposition, to pop the question:

Are you going to give me straight answers?

The goal being to confront the expert with that stark question.  We prepared for the expert’s possible responses.  If he hemmed and hawed, Vince could challenge him right then after all, why wouldn’t he agree to just give straight answers?  Vince even planned to write it out on a sheet paper, once the expert agreed.   Whenever the expert started to go sideways, he would ask the question again using the prior commitment:

I thought you were you going to give me straight answers?

He might even use the sheet of paper.  After a while, we figured, the expert would see Vince reaching for the sheet of paper and know that he was about to get whacked.  He left to put it into action.

After the deposition, Vince returned to the office and reported back how successful this simple tactic was.  Vince asked the expert the question, “Are you going to give me straight answers?” early in the deposition, earlier than expected, and the doctor responded:  “I’ll try.”   Vince told me that he smiled at hearing that — “why would one have to try to give straight answers,” he said he thought.   But he soldiered on and periodically, the expert would attempt to offer some rubbery answer to which, Vince asked:

I thought you were going to try to give me straight answers?

After only a few incidents of having to remind the expert about his commitment to try and give straight answers, Vince relayed that the expert was controllable and manageable and that the deposition not only didn’t hurt Vince’s case but actually helped.

Sometimes doing the unorthodox or unconventional makes all the difference in the world.  This time Vince delivered a killer cross examination with one question:

Are you going to give me straight answers?

About Vince Colella

Vince Colella is a personal injury, civil rights attorney and plaintiff’s attorney representing individuals who have been injured in automobile accidents, personal injury cases and/or who have been sexually harassed or discriminated against at work.  Colella has been named a Super Lawyer in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury cases and has garnered millions of dollars in awards for clients and their families over the years.   To find out more about him, visit www.LawyersWhoWin.com.

About Rockind Law

Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault. To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit http://www.rockindlaw.com/.

About Neil Rockind

Neil Rockind is a criminal defense lawyer with offices in Southfield, Michigan.  Rockind has been named a Super Lawyer, among the Top 100 Lawyers in Michigan, among the Top 50 Lawyers in Michigan, among the Top 10 Criminal Defense Lawyers in Michigan, among the Top 100 DUI Attorneys in the United States, the Best of Detroit by Hour Magazine, a Top Criminal Defense Lawyer by Dbusiness Magazine and among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association.  He has lectured and taught trial tactics and strategies to other lawyers and is frequent guest in the media discussing legal issues and current events.  Rockind is also the WDIV Legal Expert.