Jeff Segal, MD, JD, FACS
If you’ve ever faced a malpractice suit, you know the potential pitfalls associated with an expert witness. Juries rely on expert testimony to explain complex medical issues, elucidate the standard of care and judge whether that standard was followed. Unfortunately, instead of an impartial expert, plaintiff attorneys often employ a “hired gun” – a professional expert witness with suspect motives, willing to testify to a specific point of view.
Now, in addition to problematic experts, doctors with malpractice suits in Florida could face another questionable tactic – professional actors reading statements for witnesses who cannot attend the trial. Reuters reports on Actors at Law; a company that supplies professional actors to read statements for absentee witnesses in court.
There is nothing new or illegal about reading statements for witnesses. Attorneys and clerks often read depositions to juries for witnesses. What is new, and somewhat disturbing, is the use of actors to add drama and emotion to these readings. Jan Jacobowitz, director of the Professional Responsibility and Ethics program at the University of Miami’s School of Law agrees, “If you bring in a professional actor — to read a deposition — you could tint the situation.” Tint the situation? How about manipulate the jury with overtly emotional tactics.
But attorney Marc Brumer’s, founder of Actors at Law, disagrees, “when you go to trial on a difficult case, you need every tool you can get to win.”
Every attorney wants to win. It’s their job to present the very best case for their client. But when the drive to win results in questionable tactics, justice is the real loser.