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Dec 30, 2013

The Expert Witness


As promised in last week’s blog post, here are the details on one of my most memorable business travel experiences this year…

I was sitting in 2B (upgraded, thank heavens) on a flight from Seattle to Atlanta. My neighbor in 2A was an odd looking man who came onboard after me. I stood to let him get to his seat. He had an oversized suitcase, which he opened prior to sitting down, and proceeded to pull out a half dozen very large three-ring binders. As he stood in 2B – in my space – he began arranging 2A with 180 degree access of his multiple ring binders.

Being a smart arse, I said “it’s always good to have hard copies because you can never rely on digital copies.” My neighbor agreed. Finally, after several minutes, he sat down and I retook my seat.

I wasn’t in my seat 5 seconds, when my neighbor once again stood, said “excuse me, I need to get out” and then he went back to open his suitcase and reorganize it.

“Ah” I said to myself, “I am sitting next to a neurotic obsessive compulsive.” Lucky for me it was only a 4-hour flight to Atlanta.

As I stood in the aisle dodging the flight attendants, my neighbor packed and repacked his suitcase until they closed the door and he was forced to take his seat. I immediately put on my headphones and ordered a drink. I didn’t care it was a 6:00 AM flight.

Sadly, my headphones did not deter him. “Say” he said, “I have a talent for guessing what people do for a living. May I guess your occupation?” I took my headphones off, and obliged. He looked me over for a good minute and then said, “I have no idea what you do.” Saving me from having to explain what I did, he launched into this narrative: “I am a cardiologist. I am heading to Florida to be an expert witness in a liability case on a heart stent procedure. You know, 3 in 1,000 stents end with very unfavorable outcomes” he replied sadly.

“No, I didn’t know that” I said.

“Yes, yes. Sometimes the stint is too large and it ruptures the artery. Or sometimes the artery is just too brittle . . . and bam.”

“Bam?”

“Yes, bam: Unfavorable outcome. Then I am brought in as an expert to assess whether it was the physician’s fault, or if the patient’s artery was just too badly damaged. You know, if you are ever in Seattle and need a stent. I’d be happy to insert it in for you. I’ll even give you a discount.”

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