Michael S. Berger and a Phone Call That Saved the Day

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Personal injury attorney Michael S. Berger, with Andres & Berger in Haddonfield, told us a story about a ringing cell phone that came as a welcome courtroom intrusion. Berger was featured in a Q&A in our 2010 issue of New Jersey Super Lawyers & Rising Stars.

I represented a woman who had a stroke as a result of getting a catheter in an artery rather than a vein; and, as a result of the stroke, she [could] only see on one side of [her] eyes. So she couldn't see anything out of the right side of her left or right eye. So you could literally sneak up to her on her right side and she wouldn't see you. But she was a really interesting character. She was a singer-this was when she was younger-a singer and a dancer, and she'd show me pictures from when she was young, and she was romantically involved with one of the mob guys in Philadelphia. She was a real character and just a wonderful, wonderful human being. During breaks she would talk to the defense lawyer about these connections in Atlantic City and, as tough as that guy was, she just charmed the hell out of him and everybody else. This guy's trying to beat your brains in and she wouldn't stop, because she knew she had this effect-with a capital "E"-on people. They were contesting her injury. What happened was, toward the end of the trial, it was late in the day and both lawyers were at sidebar discussing an issue, and unbeknownst to me, I had left my cell phone on in my briefcase. One of my buddies was calling me about 5 o'clock or so, and it was ringing and ringing and it is really embarrassing when that happens. But it was on her right side, and she heard it but she couldn't see it, and she couldn't find it because it was on her blind side. So when the phone was ringing, she was groping around the right side, looking for where the ringing was coming from, and it proved the point so beautifully. It was almost tragic comedy the way it happened. ... [The defense] caved when the jury was out. When I spoke with the jurors on the way out after the trial concluded, they all said, "Wow, that was incredible." ... Usually the phone goes off during your summation or something!