I spent about six hours across the table from an “expert witness” hired by a defendant-automaker, taking his deposition in a wrongful death case. This “expert” bills several hundred dollars per hour and now works on product liability cases exclusively on behalf of defendant-automakers. In my case, Chrysler is paying him huge dollar figures to try to convince a jury that even though (1) Chrysler placed the fuel tank on my client’s Jeep Grand Cherokee right next to the rear bumper, (2) the fuel tank predictably ruptured when the Jeep was rear-ended, and (3) the resulting fire killed a healthy four-year-old boy who was riding in the back seat, Chrysler shouldn’t be held responsible.
My father and I are working on the case together, and we’d both flown out west for the deposition. Afterward, we walked to a restaurant for dinner and talked about the deposition, the case, and the practice of law. Professional witnesses like the guy I had just deposed make tons of money helping automakers escape responsibility for defective designs like this. They’re skilled at what they do–despite what they’re saying, these professional witnesses almost always appear likable, reasonable, and smart. They’re smooth. But they’re enabling automakers to place innocent customers at risk without accepting responsibility. And that means that automakers will put future customers at risk.
I wouldn’t want the job. I wish no one did.