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Law Blog by Wiseman Bray - Memphis Probate & Injury Attorneys

Perspectives — Should You Call a Witness a ‘Liar’?

Should You Call a Witness a ‘Liar’?

I follow the Winning Trial Advocacy Tips blog, and recently there was a gem of a post titled Should You Call a Witness a ‘Liar’?  It was particularly interesting because it combined two of my favorite topics: trial practice and Star Wars.

You’ll have to click the link to see the Star Wars connection (I can’t give it all away, now can I?), but here’s the takeaway idea for lawyers, and for those clients who are waiting for the ever-elusive “Perry Mason moment” during trial:

Just because the witness says something that you can prove is false, does that mean the witness is lying? Maybe, maybe not. But even if he is, before you bring out the heavy ammunition, ask yourself if you really want to drop the “L” word on your jury.

You don’t necessarily need the jurors to think the witness is lying, do you? All you really need is for them to disregard his testimony, right? It doesn’t matter why they disregard it, just so long as they do. So why take on an extra burden for yourself? And that’s why Obi Wan’s statement is so valuable. If you can come up with a comfortable way for them to disbelieve his testimony, that’s all you need to do.

What Obi Wan is saying is that you don’t need to prove that the witness lied to the jurors, all you need to do is show that the witness was mistaken. If you can show the jurors that this witness’s “truth” is based on his own point of view, and his point of view differs from what really happened, the jurors can disregard the witness’s testimony, without being put in the uncomfortable position of having to call him a “liar.”

You probably already know that most jurors don’t like to think that witnesses are lying to them. Most jurors have a difficult time believing that a witness can take the stand, raise his right hand, promise to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” but then look the jurors square in the eye and lie to them.

Because we’re lawyers, we don’t have any problems believing that someone will take the stand and lie to us. But jurors don’t think like that. Maybe they’re more optimistic than we are, or maybe they don’t get lied to as often as we do, but most jurors I’ve met prefer to think that any witness who takes the stand is going to be honest with them. (Yes, they even expect 10x convicted felons to tell the truth.) If you attack a witness’s testimony by calling him a liar, you’re going to need to prove that he lied. If you can’t prove that he lied, you face an uphill battle trying to get the jury to disbelieve his testimony.

What’s a Public Adjuster? Ask the Insurance Lawyer

What’s a Public Adjuster? Ask the Insurance Lawyer

memphis insurance lawyerHave you ever heard of a public adjuster? Most people have not. When you file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance carrier, the company assigns an employee–called an “adjuster”– to investigate and handle the claim.   The adjuster’s duties might include, among other things, to visit the damage site, to take photos, to hire and analyze data from cause and origin investigators, to parse what part of your damage is covered vs. what is not covered, and to coordinate with damage estimators and/or potential contractors.

At some point, the adjuster will arrive at some plan of action to ultimately resolve your claim. This could range from supervising re-construction or repair, to simply giving you a check and letting you oversee your own repairs.

What if you disagree with the insurance company adjuster?

But what happens when you disagree with the adjuster?  What if you believe the amount you’re being offered is a low-ball offer, is based on estimates from contractors who you think aren’t “up to snuff” so to speak, or  is based on a scope of repair that you don’t believe fully remedies your problem?

What do you do?

Well, you can always call a lawyer.  That’s a given.  However, you might be better served to first consider a less “nuclear option” than going legal.   Indeed, you might first consider utilizing the services of a public adjuster.

What is a Public Adjuster?

A public adjuster is a licensed professional who works exclusively for the public as a counterweight to the in-house adjuster who is employed by your insurance company.

Need an Insurance Lawyer?

If you have an insurance claim that you’ve been unable to resolve, call us at (901) 372-5003 or email us here.  Do not delay. There are deadlines in insurance policies that you don’t want to miss. Visit out website to learn more about us.


Conversation with a Doctor Who Wanted to file Malpractice Suit

Conversation with a Doctor Who Wanted to file Malpractice Suit

John Day is one of the most well-known medical malpractice attorneys in Tennessee.  He is also one of the leaders in our profession when it comes to exploding the myths and misimpressions that underlie much of society’s false assumptions about medical malpractice lawsuits.

In his blog post today over at Day on Torts, John details a conversation he had with a doctor who came in wanting to file a medical malpractice action in connection with the wrongful death of his father.  The conversation (and John’s commentary) is quite enlightening, and it details quite nicely the challenges, risks, and assumptions that must be overcome by lawyers and/or litigants in this arena.  I highly recommend taking a few moments to read it.

The Worst Question for Direct Examination at Trial

The Worst Question for Direct Examination at Trial

In law school, you’re told over and over again in trial advocacy class — “Don’t lead the witness. Let him/her tell the story. The lawyer isn’t supposed to be the one testifying.”

Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, it’s actually harder than it sounds to guide a witness through a story and get a coherent point across, and so most lawyers rely on a old crutch: when all else fails, simply ask your witness “So what happened next?”

The problem is that our crutch may not really be all that “tried and true” according to Elliot Wilcox at the Winning Trial Advocacy Tips Blog. In fact, Mr. Wilcox contends that “What happened next?” might actually be the worst question you can ask.  Specifically, he writes:

It doesn’t give the witness any guidance at all. When you ask the witness to tell you what happened next, you’re not doing anything to narrow his range of responses. Technically, there may have been a million different things that happened “next.” Which one do you want the witness to talk about?


“What happened next?” is simply too broad a question. It allows for a whole world of possible responses. If you want to help your witness tell his story more effectively, give him some idea of what he’s supposed to say by focusing his attention toward a narrower range of responses. Instead of asking, “What happened next,” ask something like this:

  • “Where did you drive to next?”
  • “Who did you speak to after that?”
  • “What was the next test you performed on the substance?”
  • “How does the man in the white jacket react?”
  • “Let’s focus your attention on the operating nurse. What does she do next?”

See how the questions direct the witness towards a limited area?

Read more here.

Chris Patterson quoted in Memphis Daily News

Quoted in Memphis Daily News

Chris serves on the Memphis/Shelby County Charter Commission.  In the most recent Commission meeting, the members were discussing how to handle hiring/firing issues (i.e. civil service protection) in the to-be-proposed consolidated government.

Apparently, the unions were there protesting in an attempt to secure greater protection for employees than what is available in the private sector.  Specifically, a top union official observed that many of his friends ask him for help in getting a government job because they know they can’t fired like they were from their job at a private company.

At which point Chris responded:  “What is it about a government job that deserves more protection than an equal job in the private sector?”

Good question.  I think the union official may have inadverently stumbled upon the problem.

Wiseman Quoted on Front Page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Quoted on Front Page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal

Lang was quoted extensively in the lead article on the front page of the Memphis Commercial Appeal regarding partisan primaries in Shelby County.  Here are some excerpts:

When it comes to Shelby County’s partisan primaries, Sidney Chism (the Democrat) and Lang Wiseman (the Republican) agree — they’d just as soon to get rid of them.

“When I was Democratic Party chairman, I said you don’t need to have any partisan primaries. Republicans fought against me and Democrats fought against me, they wore me out,” said Chism, from a Democrat-dominated swath of Whitehaven in the southwest part of the county.

Wiseman, from Republican-dominated northeast Shelby County, says: “If I were king of the world and had my druthers, I would have nonpartisan (county) elections.”

Chism and Wiseman are not alone. Those who argue against the primaries point to the abysmal turnouts that in many cases allow commissioners to be elected by less than 1 percent of the county’s registered voters.

“You see how few people actually decide who is going to be a commissioner, and in a lot of ways I think it favors the good ol’ boy system and people who have just been there the longest,” Wiseman said.

Wiseman Quoted in Memphis Daily News re: Upcoming County Elections

Upcoming County Elections

Reporter Bill Dries has an article up over at the Memphis Daily News today discussing the current state of the candidate field in the upcoming countywide elections, particularly in the Mayor’s race:

Local Republican Party chairman Lang Wiseman declared Luttrell is the “strongest candidate,” Democrat or Republican, and will be the “frontrunner.”

“Sometimes time and circumstance kind of open the way for certain people to do certain things,” Wiseman said. “I think Mark is the right guy. It’s just the right time for him.”

Dries went on to cite Lang’s comments about the Herenton/Cohen “race” (quite literally) that’s shaping up:

Wiseman doesn’t share Turner’s excitement. He points to Herenton’s campaign kickoff last weekend in which Herenton said race will be an issue in the August primary on the same ballot with the county general elections. Wiseman predicts the race will turn off voters.

“I’m disappointed that anybody would be excited by the attention that’s been generated by the Herenton-Cohen race,” Wiseman said. “It’s been generated for one reason and one reason only – to stir up and foment the racial divide. That’s just unfortunate. It shouldn’t be like that. I guess we all knew it was going to be like that.”


Wiseman said the Cohen-Herenton primary bout could just as easily have offered a different tone.

“The sad part is that a race that will materialize in the 9th District could be a good thing for the community,” he said. “There are lots of substantive things that Herenton could talk about that he believes in that could provide a contrast with Cohen. I think that, by and large, Herenton is probably more conservative than Cohen is on some of the issues.”

Wiseman quoted in Memphis Commercial Appeal

Wiseman quoted in Memphis Commercial Appeal

Lang was quoted in a column written by the Editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal detailing Mark Luttrell’s entry into the County Mayor’s race.

“Mark Luttrell is truly one of the good guys,” said a giddy Lang Wiseman, chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party.

“We face so many issues and problems in the county, and there are only a handful of people who have the credibility and the ability to bring people together.”

Wiseman Noted in Local Paper and Magazine

Wiseman Noted in Local Paper and Magazine

Sheriff Mark Luttrell announced that he would be a candidate for Mayor yesterday prompting Lang to send out the following Tweet on his Twitter account:

THE candidate has emerged for county mayor – record of no-nonsense reform, admin skill and respected by the community: Mark Luttrell

The Tweet was picked up and quoted in the Memphis Daily News.

Lang was also noted in an online article in the Main Street Journal magazine.

FYI: If you are a Twitter user, you can follow Lang’s periodic Tweets by going here and clicking “Follow.”

Wiseman Quoted in Commercial Appeal Article (2/1/10)

Wiseman Quoted in Commercial Appeal Article (2/1/10)

Lang was quoted in the Commercial Appeal again today concerning the upcoming appearance of RNC Chairman, Michael Steele, at the March 6th Lincoln Day Gala hosted annually by the Shelby County Republican Party.  The article focused on the so-called controversial aspects of Steele’s tenure as Chairman.

From the CA:

Shelby County Republican Party chairman Lang Wiseman said he’s excited that Steele will be here.

“Irrespective of what people may think about Steele specifically, I think it’s a real coup to have him come to our party,” Wiseman said.

The local Republican Party isn’t paying Steele a speaker’s fee, Wiseman said. He added that he hasn’t followed the controversy over Steele’s leadership very closely.

“My sense is he’s ruffled some feathers from some Republican leaders,” he said. “But my sense is also that there are some Republican leaders who need their feathers ruffled.”