Florida trial lawyer, Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD asks if there are any virtues in telling a lie.
As children, we learned from our parents, teachers, and religious leaders that we should always tell the truth. As a lawyer, I can honestly say, No Lying, that people boast, spin, rationalize and sometimes simply do not tell the truth. Yes, they lie. I'm forever telling clients that they should not hold back and tell the truth regarding prior injuries, claims and medical conditions otherwise their Florida injury & accident or medical malpractice case can be destroyed.
Should puffing, lying or exaggerating be considered a crime? Well, the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that some lies are protected free speech under the constitution. The Supreme Court wrote close a 50 page opinion in United States v. Alvarez.
The Facts in Alvarez
Alvarez attended a public meeting of a local California governmental agency. He had a habit of lying and when he introduced himself, he told a number of lies like:
- He married a Mexican Starlet
- He was a former Marine
- He had won the Congressional Medal of Honor
- He played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings
The Supreme Court said that all of these were lies and nothing more than a pathetic attempt to gain respect. What Alvarez didn't know was that there was a federal law called the Stolen Valor Act that made it a crime to lie about receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor. Alvarez was charged and he pled guilty to the charge knowing that he was going to appeal the conviction of First Amendment Free Speech grounds.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional and this was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
What is interesting about this case is Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kozinski's concurrence wherein he discusses lying, human nature and how a lie can make life a lot easier and avoid conflict. Judge Kozinski has it right. There are times when we have to lie or “not tell the truth” to make life easier, protect people from hurt and allow the world to run. Specifically, Judge Kozinski wrote:
Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying. We lie to protect our privacy (“No, I don't live around here”); to avoid hurt feelings (“Friday is my study night”); to make others feel better (“Gee you've gotten skinny”); to avoid recriminations (“I only lost $10 at poker”); to prevent grief (“The doc says you're getting better”); to maintain domestic tranquility (“She's just a friend”); to avoid social stigma (“I just haven't met the right woman”); for career advancement (“I'm sooo lucky to have a smart boss like you”); to avoid being lonely (“I love opera”); to eliminate a rival (“He has a boyfriend”); to achieve an objective (“But I love you so much”); to defeat an objective (“I'm allergic to latex”); to make an exit (“It's not you, it's me”); to delay the inevitable (“The check is in the mail”); to communicate displeasure (“There's nothing wrong”); to get someone off your back (“I'll call you about lunch”); to escape a nudnik (“My mother's on the other line”); to namedrop (“We go way back”); to set up a surprise party (“I need help moving the piano”); to buy time (“I'm on my way”); to keep up appearances
(“We're not talking divorce”); to avoid taking out the trash (“My back hurts”); to duck an obligation (“I've got a headache”); to maintain a public image (“I go to church every Sunday”); to make a point (“Ich bin ein Berliner”); to save face (“I had too much to drink”); to humor (“Correct as usual, King Friday”); to avoid embarrassment (“That wasn't me”); to curry favor (“I've read all your books”); to get a clerkship (“You're the greatest living jurist”); to save a dollar (“I gave at the office”); or to maintain innocence (“There are eight tiny reindeer on the rooftop”).
Judge Kozinski puts it all in perspective when he wrote:
It doesn't matter whether we think lies are despicable or cause more harm than good. An important aspect of personal autonomy is the right to shape one's public and private persona by choosing when to tell the truth about oneself, when to conceal and when to deceive. Of course, lies are often disbelieved or discovered, and that too is part of the pull and tug of social intercourse. But it's critical to leave such interactions in private hands, so that we can make choices about who we are.
Because we live in society and our words and statements can impact more than ourselves sometimes we need to temper what we have to say. However, it is our personal choice whether we lie. However, if you are making a claim because you were injured in a Florida accident or medical malpractice, DO NOT LIE! If the injured person is caught lying, there case will be destroyed. Lies may be protected constitutional speech, however, that won't stop a jury from hating you or the court from dismissing your case for “fraud on the court.” Remember, there are lasting consequences to all our actions in life.
If you have any questions about a Florida personal injury or medical malpractice claim, I am available to answer your questions at (352) 267-9168 or fill out the Internet consultation form on the right hand side of the screen.