Lawyers Share The Best 'Gotcha Moments' They've Ever Experienced

Practicing law certainly isn't easy. Many years of law school, often followed by further study, and more studying required for each individual case makes it an extremely time consuming career.

Every once in a while, the other party in the case does something that makes a lawyer's job much easier, though.

It could be accidentally admitting fault, or messing up when relaying a story that shows it was a lie, or just generally being a jerk in court.

Reddit user u/MagMains asked:

"Lawyers of Reddit, what was the best 'gotcha moment' you ever experienced?"


I acted for a plumber who ripped up a tile floor to replace a pipe. He installed new tile on top but warned the owners not to walk on it for 48 hours. He emphasized not to let their kids or their dogs walk on it either. They walked on it but alleged the defects were caused by improper install. We had an expert do a report which confirmed that it was consistent with proper installation but people walking on it too soon. Crazy homeowners still went to trial on it.

In their evidence disclosure they included a series of pictures. One of the pictures had in the foreground a tile that was tilted upwards. The background very clearly showed a dog's paw pressing down on the other end of the tile. That wasn't so much an I got them situation as they got themselves.



My client was a woman working at a meat packing plant. Her glove (they would only give her the loose kind because they were cheaper) got caught in the machine and she lost her arm. We sued the owners of the plant for the glove issue. We also sued the machine manufacturer for failing to include the required guard. Then we sued the distributor for being in the chain of the sale but didn't really think they played much of a role. The manufacturer swore they included a hand guard and said the plant owner must have used a grinder to take it off. During a deposition of the guy that owned the distraction company he shows up with the sale documents he was supposed to have turned over weeks before.

Turns out there was a note in small print at the bottom he didn't know about that said the sale was without the hand guard. Which is against the law. I pointed it out and we ended up settling that afternoon with the distributor. The woman got all her medical bills paid, got money for a prosthetic and got a bunch of pain and suffering damages.



Not a lawyer but a legal videographer. This gentleman was claiming injuries/seeking damages against his employer after a fall at work. He claimed he couldn't raise his right arm above his shoulder because of the fall. First deposition comes along and I am hired by defendant's attorney to videotape deposition of the plaintiff. Anyone know THE FIRST THING a court reporter asks you to do in a deposition?

"Please raise your right hand and repeat after me..."

Plaintiff raises his right arm above his shoulder with ease and no sign of discomfort, does not occur to him what he has just done. Both attorneys were looking down at their notes when this happened and neither of them caught it. The plaintiff himself didn't catch it.

The court reporter looked at him and then looked at me and her eyes went wide with realization at what just happened. 4 hours of deposition proceed where in the plaintiff is instructed (multiple times) to show his range of motion and precedes to pretend like he can't raise his arm above shoulder level which he did at the very beginning of his deposition.

Deposition ends, plaintiff's counsel leaves, I call defense (hiring party) counsel over and show him the first 2 mins of tape, counsel excitedly whispers to me, "case closed, you just saved us tens of thousands of dollars". I got a $5,000 bonus and plaintiff's case was dismissed with prejudice.



This is so petty - I've had much bigger moments, but because of the character of the other side this will always be my favourite. Doing a boundary dispute, a squabble over what was essentially a few inches of land. OS was a lawyer, and an absolute arsehole. He was acting for himself - the whole 'a lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client' thing was bang on for him. But he was a deeply unpleasant guy, a bully who thought that he was the smartest guy in the room.

Part of his case hinged on wheelie bins and how prior to the boundary having been moved there wasn't space to store a full size bin beside the house. The fact you now could meant clearly the boundary must have moved. That was the extent of his evidence, it really was thin stuff.

During the actual trial he pulled a fast one by suddenly producing an old aerial photo ostensibly to show the boundary at the front of the property had also moved (a fast one because you have to disclose stuff like that in advance, you can't just sit on something relevant and then suddenly whip it out at trial with a flourish).

Whilst he was making his submissions that it should be admissable, I looked more closely at it, away from the bit of the boundary he said it was relevant to and realised that it very clearly showed a wheelie bin in exactly the spot his case said there couldn't be one. Told the judge we were happy for the photo be admitted after all, got the other side to confirm the date it was taken, then pointed out he'd just completely screwed his case.

That photo did him for nearly 50k in adverse costs. Couldn't happen to a more deserving chap.



I had client whose 60k car was ruined by a shop that put in the wrong oil. We couldn't prove it at first, the engine blew up, oil leaked out and evidence was lost. I subpoenaed their bank records, figured out they bought their oil from Costco. Called Costco and got the their prices for the last two years. I then worked out the amounts they were spending, did some backhand math, and showed based on the values it was impossible they had ever bought the right oil. They settled in full immediately.



Worked as Paralegal/investigator. Working a trade secrets case involving the manufacture of dental wheels used to grind teeth. Long story, but go with it...

Company A was a small family owned manufacturer but made the best product on the market from a small factory in the middle of nowhere. Sold massive amounts of product because of quality. It's location was remote enough and the owner paid employees so well, the employees stayed there FOREVER. All of them had worked there for 30+ years. When the founder of Company A died, it was sold to International Company B because the kids and grandkids had no interest in the company. Company B then closed the old factory and tried to use company A's formula at their facilities. Company B couldn't make the formula work...

Now enter Company C... Another international company who lost the bid on buying company A.

When company C heard about the problems Company B was having, they bought the old factory facilities and then rehired the old staff to restart production. All the employees of old company A were delighted to have their good paying jobs back and went straight to work. Producing the better quality items once again and Company C's product worked.
Company B... Sues company C, for trade secrets violation. When you buy a company, you buy their trade secrets. And this company had a bunch. This product was just one part.

But the most profitable part of their operation. Thus, company C, because of their action, was accused of violating the laws governing trade secrets.... Company B even managed to get a temporary restraining order against company C in Federal Court and Company C had to stop manufacturering at the old plant now owned.

This is when I enter the picture...

Our firm represented Company C an I was assigned to interview all the employees. I was in the living room of this delightful older lady in her late 50's that offered me snacks, asked me if I was married and wanted to set me up with her granddaughter, you name it...BEST AND FUNNIEST INTERVIEW EVER...

Then she drops the bomb. I asked her how she knew how to make the product. All my previous interviews said so and so taught them. She said.... "From the directions on the wall." Total moment of silence.

"Directions on the WALL?"

"Yes" she said, "no one ever looks at'm. But there is a board on the wall with the directions."

I call the janitor of the facility from her phone (yeah, this is before cell phones) and had him meet me there. He unlocks the place and yep, covered in probably 40 years of dust making it just part of the background, is a board with the entire process on it..

Thus, when company B sold the factory, which was eventually purchased by company C, company B accidentally sold the trade secret to company C because they abandoned it on the wall.

I did serious evidence sourcing on this. My best pictures were of this 65+ year old former janitor knocking the dust off the pages, taking the entire board off the wall, putting it in paper bag, and sealing it so I never touched it. Every picture he smiled for the camera... His FU expression was priceless in every picture. They were so freaking funny.

The judge in Federal Court was laughing his ass off when he heard the details of what I found to reverse the restraining order. When he opened the bag, he laughed even more.

The factory reopened immediately. Company B and C settled by agreeing that they both got to use the trade secret but couldn't sell it to anyone else.

What they really figured out was... Those little old ladies had slightly changed the formula over the years and slightly made them better over time. Even the formula on the wall didn't work as well as these little ladies did.



My brother is an attorney. He had a case where the guy said he was permanently disabled from a work accident. At a deposition my brother overheard the guy talking about getting his house remodeled. He was already spending the money he thought he was getting. My brother drove by the house to see how much work was being done and saw the guy carrying bundles of roofing shingles up a ladder to the roof. This was before smart phones so he drove to a Best Buy and bought a video camera, went back and recorded the guy. He had copies made and sent to the other attorney. The guy dropped the suit and was back at work the following Monday. My brother's client didn't want to pay for the video camera. He saved them thousands of dollars. They eventually paid but he still gets a little peeved when he talks about it.



Not so much a gotcha as it is the defendant giving themselves up. When I worked for insurance defense I handled a fraud case where a man reported his Rolex as being stolen. He was adamant that he was at a hotel and it was stolen. He has shown no proof of being in a hotel so it's flagged. We go through the whole proces and finally reached depositions. He gets sworn in and eventually let out that he wasn't at a hotel but rather with his mistress and he had left it at her house. His wife noticed he didn't have it on so he immediately claims it must've been stolen etc etc. This man decided to hire an attorney and go through this whole circus just so his wife wouldnt find out about his affair. Needless to say the claim was denied.



The first case I ever did, opposing counsel misplaced the copy of my client's drivers license. Rather than admitting his mistake and asking me to resend it, he filed a motion to compel, claiming we never sent it. Well I was able to provide proof that we'd sent it to him like 8 months ago, so the judge was rather displeased with his antics


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Plaintiff alleged he was so injured in an auto accident that he couldn't work, do any regular activities, or pick up his young kids. He then posted on his public FB profile him doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you're not familiar, he basically lifted a huge cooler filled with ice water over his head. His attorney had no idea he had posted it.



Lady got into a minor fender bender with a truck in a casino parking lot (she backed out of a spot into him). My guy said she parked and went inside the casino for a few hours. At her deposition, she testified that she was so hurt she went right home and to a hospital. I asked if she was a frequent visitor of casino, and if she had a rewards card. She was happy to tell me she did and she had gold status, and showed me the card.

I subpoenaed her rewards cards records, and it showed she was playing slots for hours after the accident.




Plaintiff had an x-ray of an allegedly broken arm. It seemed off to me and the dates didn't make sense (I was in-house at an academic medical center). I looked at the case more closely and discovered the Plaintiff was a x-ray tech at another hospital. After that, it was all over.



My client's house burned down from an explosion in the fuel oil tank used to heat the house. It was clearly the oil maintenance company's fault, but his homeowners insurance (from a very reputable company) still refused to pay out, citing a ridiculous technicality in his policy.

Essentially, the policy covered damage caused by the oil heater but they claimed that it was the storage tank that exploded and wasn't part of what was covered.

So they deny his claim, which was about 1.2 million, and then I get involved. During a deposition with the claims adjuster I ask how she came to the conclusion that the storage tank was not a part, or at least connected to, the heater. She states that she relied on her "expert witness" who was an engineer. Little did she know I had already checked this person's background. He had zero engineering experience or education.

As most of you might know, you don't get attorney's fees in most cases. However, when an insurance company denies your claim in "bad faith", now you do. Her little admission cost the company about 500k in fees, on top of the original claim for 1.2 million.



Cross examining a custom home builder who had a lump sum contract (set price as opposed to "cost plus" which means cost of the materials plus x% as builder fee) with the home owner. Claimed he put 20% more labor/materials in building the home than the contracted provided for and he was suing for these excess costs.

Was asking him about an email with my client negotiating the price of the construction and he volunteers that he knew he couldnt build it for that price.

My head snaps up, supervising partner's head snaps up, and opposing counsel goes pale. Dialogue was something like:

Me: you quoted 'x' price?

Builder: yes

Me: you knew you couldn't build it for that price?

Builder: yes

Me: you knew the home owner was relying on that quote?

Builder: yes

Me: you knew home owner wouldn't have signed contract without that representation?

Builder: yes

Me: and you told home owner's lender you could do it for 'x'?

Builder: yes

Me: and bank relied on that price and wouldn't have given loan if knew it was wrong?

Builder: yes

This is textbook fraudulent inducement and he had no idea. Builder got poured out in the arbitration award and slapped builder with sizable punitive damages on top of it.

Five minutes of testimony sunk his case because he volunteered information without being prompted.



Not a lawyer, but when I was in the military I was accused of something I didn't do. And I had to go to court over it. And during court the prosecutor started to detail this investigation and how they had staked my apartment out for months. They entered into evidence a picture of "my apartment". And when they put it up I looked shocked at my lawyer bc it wasn't a picture of my place. It was my ex wifes apartment. A place I had NEVER lived (never even spent a single night there). I lived in a house, she lived in an apartment.

And when my lawyer was asked if she objected to the picture being entered into evidence she replied "I don't mind them entering it into evidence as long as they change the listing of it". And when one of the members of the panel (no judge, 3 member board) asked what was wrong with the listing, she looked at him and said "That's not his apartment". On top of this the witness they used against me described going to my house on the night in question and she named the subdivision where she had visited me, except that wasn't where I lived either (also wasn't where the picture they had was either).

Case was dismissed and I was told they requested the witness to return to answer questions about perjury.




Had a client accused of leading the cops on a high speed chase. The cop on the stand estimated he was going 90 mph, but never actually clocked him. Then the cop identified where the chase started with me, and where it ended. It lasted about 2 miles. Then we went through his log of when it started and when it ended. About three and a half minutes. Once you walk through the math on that, the average speed of this chase was 35 mph. Client got acquitted really quickly after that.



I was suing a landlord who failed to make serious repairs in order to force the tenant out. The hard part is proving bad intent instead of mere idiocy so you get higher damages. Code Enforcement was involved, so I request those records. The landlord left a voicemail to the enforcement department saying to hold off on the fines, they will make the repairs as soon as the tenant is forced out. That was an easy case.



Represented a DUI client who swore up and down to me he hadn't been drinking or doing any drugs. Newbie officer who had his field training officer with him in the car. Rookie pulls client over for a tag violation, walks back to the car with body camera still on, training officer says "get him out for a DUI" and the rookie says "but he's not intoxicated" to which the reply was "do it anyway." Body cam clicks off, turns on 7 minutes later and they're doing field sobriety exercises on my client. Client sat in custody for 3 weeks until I finally got the tape from the prosecutor and presented it to the judge.

The "oh sh*t" looks from the prosecutor and FTO when the judge saw the tape.....I'll treasure that one. Judge wrote the police chief a letter saying the FTO was dead to him and he'd deny every search warrant he tried to bring thereafter for being a liar.

Client is hopefully still on track with his civil attorney in a lawsuit.



While doing SSA disability hearings a few years ago I represented a guy in a case that was back on remand from Federal Court.

Long story short, the original Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) didn't follow the correct procedure and denied the guy because he "could return to his last work (Step 4).

Basically, he was granted a partially favorable decision that gave him $700 a month, rather than the $2,100 he should have received.

The ALJs are notoriously aholes, and try to scare people out of pursuing claims. This judge apparently thought he could intimidate me and my client into withdrawing the appeal by threatening to take away all the guys benefits. Little did he know, I'm not a moron, and I hate bullies.

He started the hearing by asking my client if he was aware that he could take all his benefits away. Asking if "your counsel has informed you that by continuing this hearing, you may lose all benefits and owe all amounts back to the agency as an overpayment."

This was completely impossible, because 6 years had gone by since the original decision, and the judge could only reopen the decision within 2 years. The guy was bullet proof on this issue.

Also, the job he previously did (computer system installer) was completely obsolete and physically impossible since his physical problems prevented him from lifting more than 20lbs, and the computer he was installing during the 1980s were 50-150lbs. The judge didn't think about that, and clearly didn't read the federal court remand notice.

So, long story short, the judge says to me, "Counsel, have you done your ethical duty and advised your client that he could lose all his benefits today?"

To which I responded by looking at my client, and in a full voice saying, "He can't do that." Then, without missing a beat looked back at the judge and said, "Your honor, I have advised my client that you cannot take his benefits away."

I told the judge we would waive all other procedural portions of the hearings and proceed directly to vocational expert testimony.

I asked the vocational expert two questions, "would the prior job require lifting more than 20lbs?" And "has the prior job existed as performed since 1999?"

She quickly answered "No." to both questions and then on her own elaborated all the reasons why.

Total hearing was 6 minutes long. The judge had no choice but the grant the original application, and the guy got $158,000 in unpaid benefits. And $1,400 a month more than he had been receiving.

He broke down into tears and said he could finally keep the promise to his wife to return her ashes to the beach they got married on in Hawaii. A dream he had years ago decided would be impossible.

Best day of my career, so far.


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