Biglaw, California, Depositions, Lunacy, Rudeness, Small Law Firms, Violence

Beverly Hills Brawl: Escape From The Deposition Room!

Have you ever been to a deposition that got physical? Maybe some fisticuffs, or a little shoving? No? Well, obviously you’ve been hanging out in the the wrong conference rooms.

A complaint filed in Santa Monica Superior Court and reported on by Courthouse News Service accuses a Drinker Biddle partner of “robust, unlawful force” that resulted in opposing counsel breaking his wrist. The alleged assault happened at the Beverly Hills office of the Excelus Law Group, a small law firm based in southern California. Attorney William W. Bloch claims that Drinker Biddle’s Henry Shields refused to leave his conference room after a deposition, and then assaulted him — with “some kind of martial art move.”

Shields and other Drinker Biddle attorneys who were there deny all of these allegations. And affidavits submitted by Drinker Biddle attorneys, as well as the actual deposition transcript, seem to paint a different — and much more hilarious — version of events…

William Bloch

William Bloch is suing Drinker Biddle and Henry Shields for negligence, assault, battery, and false imprisonment. He seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

The claims that Bloch makes in his lawsuit are salacious. Bloch alleges that after the deposition ended, Shields blocked the door to the room, and then:

“Shields prevented plaintiff from going around him, and instead shot his right hand up to plaintiff’s throat, in some kind of martial art move, and put a partial choke hold on plaintiff while shoving him against a nearby beam with his other arm. Shields applied such force to plaintiff as to cause severe bruising to plaintiff’s buttock, right shoulder, and an abrasion on the right elbow, which is a critical and vulnerable area for plaintiff. Additionally, Shields’ robust unlawful force against plaintiff caused a fracture of plaintiff’s dominant arm, the left, in the wrist area.”

Shields finally left with his clients and co-counsel, when he heard the police were on their way, Bloch says.

Henry Shields Jr.

That’s one side of the story. Above the Law obtained the other side of the story from Drinker Biddle. After the incident, Bloch filed motions to continue the deposition of Drinker Biddle’s client, NBC Universal, on an ex parte basis (i.e., without Drinker lawyers present). In opposing that motion, Drinker Biddle attorneys got a chance to tell their side of the story. They produced the deposition transcript as part of the affidavit of Henry Shields (which was submitted to the court along with affidavits from other Drinker Biddle lawyers).

You can see the Shields affidavit here. But this should whet your appetite (the questioner is William Bloch, the deponent is Tyler Patton of NBC, and Henry Shields is defending):

Wait, it gets better:

The deposition continues for a time. And then, gloriously:

My favorite part is how Bloch keeps saying “we’re off the record,” while the court reporter keeps typing on the record. It’s a great of example of how simply saying something doesn’t make it so.

But when they finally do go off the record, that’s where the fun begins. We’ve previously given you Bloch’s version of events. But Henry Shields says that this is how it went down:

And Shields’s claims are echoed by the person who was being deposed. Actually, the affidavit of deponent Tyler Patton adds even more color to the proceedings:

Dude, this sounds like a new NBC reality show: Deposition Demolition! Actually, maybe it should be more of an American Gladiator-type competition: “On Sunday, at the Staples Center, tune in to see ShieldStorm go up against The Human Bloch. Coming this week, on DEPOSITION DEMOLITION!!

Oh, and the judge upheld two of Henry Shields’s objections, while saying that William Bloch should have phrased the question differently on a third objection. But the court also suggested that any future depositions be held on “neutral” turf — so my Staples Center idea still has legs.

UPDATE (7/28/11): The ABA Journal has more on the story:

Shields said Bloch “became overly agitated” during the deposition and sought to end it “using crude, foul and profane language.” The deposition transcript has details. At one point during the deposition, Bloch told Shields, “You are a joke, sir,” and Shields replied, “OK. You can say that if you want to.” At another point, Bloch told Shields, “You don’t know a God-damned thing about the rules of evidence,” and Shields replied, “OK, then that’s fine.” Bloch also said “F— this” and “The hell with that.”

After the deposition ended, Shields says, Bloch then screamed at him to “get the f— out of my office.” As Shields moved toward the door, he says in his affidavit, “Mr. Bloch charged toward me from the other side of the conference room and started to physically push me out of the door. I put up my hands as [the NBC defendant] intervened to separate Mr. Bloch from me.” Inexplicably, Bloch then began to yell, “You put your hands on my neck you mother——,” Shields says.

Shields says he is undergoing chemotherapy and “I never had the inclination, or the physical strength, to attack Mr. Bloch.”

So it appears the reports that Shields has cancer and is undergoing chemo, which surfaced yesterday in the comments, are accurate.

Lawyer Says Opposing Counsel Broke His Arm [Courthouse News Service]
Suit Claims Lawyer Broke His Wrist in Deposition Fracas with Drinker Biddle Partner [ABA Journal]

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