John Stossel

 Sounds simple for a court to resolve. The exam was on videotape. The jury could watch the 40-minute tape and then decide. But that never happened. Instead, the dentist's lawyers and mine spent three years sending legal papers back and forth. My lawyers (did I mention they were paid by the hour?) demanded that the dentist produce vast amounts of paperwork detailing "all persons other than your attorneys with whom you have had written or oral communication" and "each workshop or seminar in which you have participated as a speaker."

 The dentist's attorneys demanded that we "state the title and author of each book that was used as a source of information, the name and date of publication of each newspaper, magazine, pamphlet . . . documents . . . " In case we didn't know what documents were, they spelled it out: "Any abstracts, accounts, accounting records, accounting advertisements, agreements, bids, bills, bills of lading, blanks, books, books of accounts, brochures" -- that's just the A's and B's.

 Eventually, my case got to court. I assumed the jury would watch the tape, but they never did. Instead, we had war. War is what a lawsuit is. Each side played snippets of the videotape. His side played a few minutes that made it seem as if he hadn't recommended treatment; my side played a few that demonstrated he did. This happened again and again -- for days. It was ridiculous. That's what got to me most, watching my case: the extravagant waste. Even with lawyers charging hundreds of dollars an hour, the judge just let it go on and on. 

 I finally won, but the ordeal cost ABC a fortune. Why couldn't the judge say, "Shut up. This is a waste of time and money. We're just going to play the tape."  "Because most judges are afraid to offend," Joe Jamail, a Texas lawyer who's made millions, told me.

 So these lawyers are just self-indulgent? "No," said Jamail. "They were being paid."


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate