One of the most common questions lawyers ask at depositions is some form of the following: “Are you under the influence of alcohol or any other substance that would prevent you from testifying truthfully and accurately?” Law schools teach us to ask this question to prevent witnesses from claiming later that their memory had been obscured by alcohol or drugs. In many settings though, this question is not asked of witnesses. What follows is a short (and true) story about what happened in one such instance.
Have you ever settled a case for a substantial sum only to see the claimant’s obituary in the newspaper a few weeks later? What steps can you take to come up to speed on the claimant’s health status before you settle?