Up for Grabs-A. Fair. Электронная библиотека, книги всех жанров
“ ‘That’s right.’
“ ‘You didn’t know the nature and extent of his injuries. You didn’t know how much pain it caused him to try and be a good fellow. You deliberately prodded him into all of these athletic activities. You professed a friendship for him. You had no consideration whatever for the pain and anguish which tortured his injured body. Your only purpose was to get the photographs which you could show this jury. Isn’t that right?’ ”
Breckinridge threw out his hands. “Well, of course that sinks the plaintiff’s case as far as really big judgments against us are concerned, but the sympathies of the jurors are with the plaintiff still. They feel that we played dirty pool. The jurors give him a sort of consolation prize. We don’t like that feeling; it’s bad public relations. We want to educate jurors so they’ll feel that the malingerer is a dirty, chiseling crook.
“Now then, Lam, that’s where you come in. Helmann Bruno has already fallen for this contest business. He sent in fifty words and we advised him by wire — using the name of the dummy corporation that conducts the contest, of course — that he had won a two-week, all-expense trip to the Butte Valley Guest Ranch.”
“What about his wife?” I asked.
Breckinridge laughed. “He didn’t say anything about his wife and we didn’t — the malingerer never does. The chiseler always leaves his wife at home.
“If a guy would write in and say, ‘It’s all right, boys, I’ve won a prize for two weeks free at this dude ranch, but I’m a married man; now, can I have my wife with me and cut the time to one week?’ We’d say, ‘Sure’ and we’d make a settlement with him right then, because that guy wouldn’t be a chiseler. But the married men who decide they’re going to make some excuse to their wives about being away on business, and instead go to this expensive dude ranch without their wives, are the chiselers. They’re the malingerers. They’re the cheap, petty crooks. They’re the philanderers.
“Now then, Lam, we want you to go to the Butte Valley Guest Ranch. Dolores Ferrol will take you under her wing just as soon as you get there. She’ll see that you have every opportunity to enjoy yourself and get everything you want.
“As far as expenses are concerned, the sky’s the limit. Spend anything that you think is necessary in order to get results.
“Now, the first thing you’ll need is a feminine inspiration.”
“I can take someone with me?” I asked hopefully.
“Definitely not,” Breckinridge said. “That’s where we’ve made our mistakes before. We’ve had a couple go there, and the plaintiff’s attorneys have put them on the defensive right away.”
“How come?” Bertha asked.
“Well, if they’re married,” Breckinridge said, “the counsel takes the witnesses on cross-examination and says, in effect, ‘You deliberately used your wife as bait in order to get this guy in the position you wanted him, didn’t you?’
“And if they aren’t married, the attorney says, ‘Oh, you were there for two weeks with a woman who was not your wife. You had separate sleeping quarters, of course — or did you?’
“If the guy says, yes, they had separate sleeping quarters, then the attorney says, sneeringly, ‘You went there together, you stayed there together, you returned home together, and you slept at opposite ends of the dude ranch, did you? Just how far were your rooms separated? As much as a hundred yards? As much as fifty yards?’ And then he’ll make some sneering remark like ‘A sprinter can cover fifty yards in five seconds. How long did it take you?’
“No, we want the detective to keep in the background just as much as possible. You’ll get acquainted with some unattached girl who’s there, and then see that the malingerer is included in the group and he’s given just enough of an element of rivalry so the malingerer wants to start showing off. He shows how strong he is, how masculine he is, how athletic he is.”
“And that’s all recorded in motion pictures?” I asked.
“That’s recorded in motion pictures,” Breckinridge said.
“When we shoot those pictures, we keep the detective in the background as much as possible. We emphasize that the young woman was one who was there spending her vacation and that this, malingerer was trying to show off in front of her. The jurors won’t mind that. They’ll get a kick out of it. They won’t feel that it’s such a frame-up.
“Of course, it may come out on cross-examination that you were in our employ, but only as an observer. You didn’t bait any traps. You were only watching. Moreover, if we’re at all lucky we won’t use you at all. We’ll keep you off the stand and rely on the testimony of others, the ones whose names you’ll furnish.”
“How about the girl?” I asked.
“Well,” Breckinridge said, “we’ll keep her in the background as much as possible. We use a long focal-length lens and we narrow the field so the jurors just get a glimpse of the girl and then we have this fellow showing off. If we can get a girl somewhere in her twenties and have a man ten to fifteen years older, trying to make the grade — well, the jurors just say to themselves, ‘Why that old fuddy-duddy, who does he think he’s fooling?’ ”
“You’ve had success with that technique?”
“We’re just starting with it, Lam, but we know juror psychology. This variation will work like a charm. If we’re lucky we can keep you in the background. You’ll never have to take the witness stand.
“This approach will break the hearts of the plaintiff’s attorneys Who handle these cases on a contingency basis and figure that they can spellbind a jury into bringing in a verdict for ten or fifteen thousand dollars as consolation prizes even in cases where the proof goes against them.”
“You’d better tell me the facts about this Helmann Bruno case,” I said.
“I’ve told you, Lam, we’ve got to admit liability, although of course the plaintiff doesn’t know it, and his attorney doesn’t know it as yet. In fact he may not even have a lawyer yet.
“Foley Chester, our insured, has an importing business here. He travels rather extensively, part of the time by air, part of the time by automobile. He had a trip to make to Texas and drove to El Paso and transacted some business that he had there and he then drove on to Dallas. While he was in Dallas, he was driving along in a string of traffic, things seemed to be going along all right, he took his eyes off the road ahead momentarily, because an article in a shop window interested him, and when he glanced back he saw that the car ahead of him had stopped and he was right on top of it. He slammed on his brakes but hit the automobile.
“Now the point is, the cars were hardly damaged at all. The bumpers absorbed the shock, but this Helmann Bruno claims that his head snapped back, that he had a peculiar dizzy feeling but didn’t think too much of it.
“Chester and Bruno exchanged addresses, and Bruno said he didn’t think he was hurt but he thought he should see a doctor, and Chester told him, by all means, to see a doctor.
“Then Chester went on, the damned fool, to tell him that he was very sorry, that he’d taken his eyes off the road for just a second.
“Well, of course, we’ve claimed that Bruno brought his car to a stop without giving an adequate stop signal, that he stopped suddenly and without good cause, and all that. But the fact remains that we don’t know whether he gave a stop signal or not. His brake lights were working and, for all Chester can tell us, the guy had been stopped as much as a hundred feet ahead of him. Chester was looking to one side and just kept driving along. He plowed right into Bruno — one of those things that sometimes happens.”
“And what about the injuries?”
“Well, for a couple of days nothing happened, then Bruno changed doctors. The first doctor said he didn’t think there was anything wrong, but the second doctor was a different breed of cat. He found everything wrong. He diagnosed a whiplash injury and put the guy to bed, hired private nurses around the clock, administered sedatives, and all of that stuff.