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Legal Ethics

Defendant Denies Lawyer Was Signaling Witness by Covert Foot Tapping

Posted Sep 2, 2010 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Houston lawyer who tapped a deponent’s foot under the table thought he was in contact with a pillar, not a person, according to an insurance company fighting a disqualification motion.

Two plaintiffs in insurance coverage litigation against Insurance Company of North America contend in their motion that something nefarious was afoot in the July 12 deposition, Texas Lawyer reports. The motion, supported by a photo snapped by a paralegal, contends that Brown Sims shareholder Kenneth Engerrand was tapping the deponent’s foot in an apparent attempt to coach a witness.

“This was out and out witness tampering, followed by good ole misrepresentations of what had occurred,” the plaintiffs write in their motion, filed in Florida federal court. “For sure, the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words applies here."

The motion seeks to strike the deposition, disqualify Brown Sims from the litigation, and revoke Engerrand’s pro hac vice status, the Texas Lawyer story says.

In its response, the insurer says nothing untoward happened and the motion is “undoubtedly meant to harass.” The response asserts that, “Unless the parties remained perfectly still for the duration of the cross examination, any movement or stretch of the legs could result in this inadvertent contact.”

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