If you’re a lawyer in Texas, and probably elsewhere, you’ve almost certainly heard of Joe Jamail. Joe Jamail, the so-called King of Torts, made his fortune as a plaintiffs’ lawyer in Texas, and is now worth well over $1 billion. Jamail first rose to fame in 1984, when he represented Pennzoil in a suit against Texaco for encroaching on its contract to purchase Getty Oil. Jamail won a verdict for Pennzoil in the amount of $10.53 billion, the largest jury verdict ever at that time. Texaco later managed to settle for $3 billion, and Pennzoil paid Jamail $1 billion for his services. Jamail now claims over $12 billion in jury verdicts and over $13 billion in other verdicts and settlements.
Jamail didn’t get to where he is now by being a softy, though. In Paramount Communications Inc. v. QVC Network Inc., Jamail represented one of the Paramount directors. During the course of the case, Jamail was defending a deposition when the following exchange took place:
Q. . . . Do you have any idea why Mr. Oresman was calling that material to your attention?
MR. JAMAIL: Don’t answer that. How would he know what was going on in Mr. Oresman’s mind? Don’t answer it. Go on to your next question.
MR. JOHNSTON: No, Joe –
MR. JAMAIL: He’s not going to answer that. Certify it. I’m going to shut it down if you don’t go to your next question.
MR. JOHNSTON: No. Joe, Joe –MR. JAMAIL: Don’t “Joe” me, asshole. You can ask some questions, but get off that. You could gag a maggot off a meat wagon. . . . .
This exchange was apparently only one example of a number of similar exchanges. The Delaware Supreme Court actually added an addendum to its decision, noting “an astonishing lack of professionalism and civility that is worthy of special note.” You can read more about Jamail’s behavior in that case, and a few other examples of hard-nosed lawyers, in an article here.
Jamail’s remarks in the deposition in Paramount may seem extreme, but many depositions see similar, if not quite so egregious behavior. Depositions are conducted by attorneys, and no judge or jury is present. As a result, the deposition is supervised by the lawyers, and if the lawyers get out of hand, well, there’s nothing to stop them. Any litigator can tell you similar stories. Anyway, this post is primarily to provide some background for the following video. Jamail is conducting a deposition, questioning a witness that appears to be a former Monsanto research scientist. Hilarity ensues…
Update, April 10: Youtube appears to be down this morning, and as a result, no video appears below. I expect that the problem should clear up shortly, so check back in a bit to see the video.
Update, later April 10: Youtube is back up, so the video should be working now.