While plaintiff was stopping at a red light, he was hit from behind by defendants' auto. After securing summary judgment on liability, the parties moved on to the damages trial where defendants' counsel attempted — in good faith, of course — to convince the trial court that it was perfectly okay on cross-examination to try to impeach plaintiff by asking him about his employment with plaintiff's attorney's law firm and whether he was referred to certain doctors by that firm for treatment of his injuries. The trial court had some problems with that line of questioning and precluded defendants' from inquiring along those lines.
Now, on appeal, the Second Department agrees: "Here, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in precluding the defendants from questioning the injured plaintiff concerning his employment by the law firm which represented him in the action and his referral to doctors by the law firm, in an effort to establish their unsubstantiated and prejudicial claim that he was 'working the system'." Sehgal v. www.nyairportsbus.com, 2017 NY Slip Op 05990 (2d Dep't 8/2/17).
Much to defendants' chagrin, moreover, the system worked fine. The jury's award of $150,000 for past/$50,000 for future pain and suffering was affirmed, as were the amounts for future medical expenses ($505,050) and loss of consortium ($100,000).
So, what have we learned? The real beauty of the law can only be seen when it works right, which, unfortunately, is our job alone. We are the batteries that drive the law, natural or otherwise. Without the lawyer, law is merely a philosophy, while with us, it is a wondrous tool.