accident, blame, causality, civil suit, countersue, court reporters, culture, deposition, English, finals week, Japanese, journalism, lawsuit, linguistic, plaintiff, postal route, psychology, recorder, secret recording, sleazebag, Spanish, sue-happy, trial date
Lawsuit time again! (Catch up on the case here.)
So I arrived home on Tuesday night to copies of both my deposition and that of the plaintiff’s. Apparently copies had also been sent to me at the address I lived at two months ago, which essentially means I’ll get them here at home after they’ve been forwarded from there to where I have been living the past two months and then make their way here. Oh what a convoluted postal route!
Anyway, here’s an update and some tips for anyone out there who is and/or may be involved in a civil suit in the future.
Copies of the depositions have been ordered, which means a trial date has been set. In my case, it’s December 6. Also known as Day One of Fall Quarter Finals Week. Perfect timing, eh? My lawyer is trying to get it moved if at all possible – I, on the other hand, am considering countersuing the old lady for wasting my time (believe me, these depositions take time – to get to, to take and to read, not to mention the trial and other related work), causing emotional and psychological stress, wasting my money on extra plane tickets, interfering and possibly messing up my academic career [= possibly hindering my life progress], among other things.
Back to the depositions. You have a choice at the end of a deposition to waive your right to review them. Please do yourself a favor and DO NOT waive your right, even if your lawyer advises so. It might take half-an-hour or so of your time to read it, but at least it’ll give you a peace of mind knowing that it was correct.
So I began by reading through the transcript of my deposition to check for any obvious mistakes. Then I went over it again while listening to a recording of the deposition. Even the first time while I was simply reading it I could hear the tone of that sleazebag lawyer. His attitude just made me want to punch him in the face. After the trial I’ll post up some of the audio so you can hear it for yourself.
Here I suppose I should note that because of my background in journalism and my instinctively distrusting nature, I recorded my deposition. I put my recorder in my bag and deliberately placed my bag on the table next to the phone (since this was a telephonic deposition). I would advise anyone who goes into one of these to do the same because court reporters are not perfect. They are, after all, humans. And indeed, I found mistakes in my deposition. Fortunately most of them were minor mistakes, but there were parts of my deposition that had been wrongly recorded in a way that could change what the original meaning was. [Legal note: In this case recording was okay because all parties present already knew they were being recorded for the telephonic deposition. I’d advise you to check out the law on call recording in your state and converse with your legal counsel first.]
But more interesting, of course, was the deposition of the plaintiff. Boy oh boy was she a mess. Every other thing was “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Or one statement would be contradictory to one she had previously made.
Remember, the premise of her claim is that my slight rear-ending of her car caused her multiple injuries and permanent disability. Her trouble spots are named as neck, back and hips. I post here the many other accidents she has had, in roughly chronological order, all of which she claims caused her no harm. May the fools begin laughing.
– She was rear-ended by a drunk driver at a stoplight.
– A fire truck was backing up and “scrunched” the back of her truck.
– A SUV backed into her car and damaged her front hood.
– She got T-boned after trying to gun it through a light.
– She rear-ended a car because she looked away to grab her purse.
– She got tangled up in her bathrobe, fell and fractured her right arm.
– Her pants got stuck in a nail and she tripped and fell on her porch and broke her left arm (this happened after the accident.)
There you go, ladies and gentlemen of the world. If any jury believes her lies, I might as well as give up hope on the world and go jump off a cliff.
I suppose if it’s any consolation for suing me, at least in her deposition she described me as “pretty, slim, dark hair.”
On a related note, here’s a linguistic reason for why people in the U.S., and to some extent our British friends, are so much more sue-happy than the rest of the world. It seems, after all, because in English we like to blame everyone else.
“In addition to space and time, languages also shape how we understand causality. For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like “John broke the vase” even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say “the vase broke itself.” Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.
In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford, speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone got a surprise memory test: For each event, can you remember who did it? She discovered a striking cross-linguistic difference in eyewitness memory. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. Mind you, they remembered the agents of intentional events (for which their language would mention the agent) just fine. But for accidental events, when one wouldn’t normally mention the agent in Spanish or Japanese, they didn’t encode or remember the agent as well. “
For those interested in linguistics, psychology, and culture, here’s the full article.