21 Lawyers Shared The Most Shocking Cases They've Ever Had To Work On, And I'm Flabbergasted
"I was defending a guy who mailed poop to his ex-girlfriend and wanted me to argue that the poop was expressive speech."
Often, people may get curious about what being a lawyer fully entails and if it's truly as dramatic and shocking as TV shows make it look. And when redditor u/brainstew__ asked, "Lawyers of Reddit, what is the most shocking case you have ever worked on?" the responses quickly filled up with jaw-dropping cases that you'd think only happened on law TV shows.
So, here are 21 appalling cases lawyers actually had to work on IRL:
1. "A guy came to me wanting to file for divorce. He said ever since his wife started her new job, he is no longer waited on hand and foot. He also said that she should know her place. I drafted the paperwork with everything he demanded to keep. Basically, he wanted all of their assets and to pay absolutely no alimony or child support. In exchange, she could keep one vehicle, full custody of their three teenage children, and their apartment. The apartment was a three bed and 1.5 bath. He would keep their huge family home, guest house, and a three-car garage. He also wanted to keep four vehicles, not to mention all the money in their savings, their vacation homes, and all electronics. I drafted this terrible contract as he was my client. I tried to convince him to at least give child support as he only had one child under 18, but he said no. The wife was served with the divorce papers and called me right away to meet with me."
2. "I was pretty new to the practice and was meeting with a lot of clients. The firm I worked for had a lot of walk-ins, and I was processing the potential clients. I called in the next person, who was a woman in her mid-30s. She walked in carrying a red and white cooler. She pops it down on my desk and spends the next five minutes trying to sit down in the chair. My first thought was, 'must've been some kind of personal injury.' The first words out of her mouth after she sits are 'I need to sue my doctor because my vagina just fell out.'"
"My eyes immediately lock onto the cooler. I asked, 'Is...that it?' She said, 'Yes. I brought it in with me just in case you needed to see it. Do you want to see it?' She begins to open the cooler. Not gonna lie, I was curious, but I stopped her and convinced her that a hospital was her best option at the moment.
It turns out she had vaginal reconstruction, and the mesh came out in one big blob. Now, this is not my area of expertise. I am a corporate attorney. So I sent her to someone with more experience."
3. "A woman called saying that she had a product liability suit involving animal crackers she gave to her daughter. I was thinking it was going to be something to do with food poisoning and kept listening. She explained that it looked like the monkey was holding its penis when she looked at the crackers. It was actually a banana."
4. "I used to work as a legal secretary for a personal injury lawyer. He told me about a case where his client had radiation burns from an X-ray machine. In the avalanche of documents he received from the defendant during discovery, he found an internal memo. The memo described a serious problem with the machines and continued, 'This is an issue we can't ignore. Unfortunately, it's not in the budget.'"
"When the case went to trial, he told the jury, 'Show them they need to put this in the budget next time.' The jury complied, handing down one of the largest verdicts California had ever seen."
5. "My wildest case was probably a veteran's benefits case where the government got out of paying benefits by arguing that the vet's hearing loss was caused by gunfire from occasional recreational hunting rather than several years of working daily in close proximity to jet engines during his service. Enraging, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it."
6. "I was dating a nice woman back in 2016, and during our first conversation, I asked her what she did for a living. She was a paralegal for a malpractice firm at the time. I asked her if any interesting cases were happening. She told me that they were defending a doctor who made a mistake. One of his patients was suffering from an eye condition that required a unique recovery. After surgery, the patient had to lie face down for the entirety of their day to prevent further eye damage. It had something to do with eye pressure and a gas buildup near the back of the eye. As it turns out, the patient wanted to fly on a plane and would intend to keep their eyes down through the whole flight. The doctor they were defending didn't tell the patient that they couldn't fly during the recovery. When the patient took off on the plane, everything was OK until descent."
"During descent, which people with ear problems can attest, the rapid change in pressure fucked up this patient's condition. They went completely blind in both eyes due to the descent of the plane. Predictably, the doctor did lose the case. It was definitely an interesting first conversation to have with someone."
7. "While working at a plaintiff's employment firm, I had several memorable consults come in. One was a guy who got fired for being late to work too often. He wants to sue for discrimination because he has a sugar addiction and needs to stop at 7-Eleven for a big gulp before his shift begins, which results in him usually missing his bus."
8. "I had a school case to interpret regarding bullying. The school decided to have a court case decision made in-house. It was 12 kids and their parents on a stage in the cafeteria. The school officials were there, and a school advocate who acted as the judge. Apparently, the seniors would trap the freshmen in a designated bathroom after lunch and jump them. Four seniors and eight freshmen were beaten up individually; there were supposed to be nine, but one was in the hospital. They showed surveillance of how the seniors picked the freshmen to beat up, and two teachers were aware of this. In one of the videos, one of the teachers helped the seniors by pointing out who the freshmen were."
"This was a hazing technique that was going on in this school for years, but this case was to make an example of those involved. The teachers involved were only mentioned when the bullies admitted receiving assistance in pointing out who to beat up; the teachers never got in trouble. Only one bully was expelled and all the freshmen were suspended. It was unjust and sad. This case went on for three days and, each case lasted three to five hours after school."
9. "I'm a Danish law student, so I haven't worked on this case, but we were assigned real cases to analyze and use for understanding the material we read. So basically, a guy baked a cake for a couple of friends without telling them that he baked some weed into it. One of the people who ate it left by car and got really sick. After finding out why, they started a trial. This went all the way to the Supreme Court where they decided that giving people narcotics without their knowing is now officially considered violence with a maximum sentence of four years."
"I think this person just got a few months but we read the weirdest cases."
10. "A year out of law school, I once had a potential client who wanted me to sue Canada. Apparently, he could not get into the country due to his felony record. I tried to reason with him that it was up to the sovereign nation to set its own rules regarding entry to the country, but he insisted that we could make a lot of money suing Canada."
11. "One neighbor, the defendant, threw dog poop over the fence and the other neighbor puts a stalking injunction out for it. In court, it showed that the 'dog shit' was actually pine cones, and the case was dismissed. It was shocking because who does that?!"
12. "My client got married to a college grad who went to school on a baseball scholarship, but the guy got injured, so he couldn't work. So the client now supports the guy for eight years while he deals with the pain and gets disability. The client calls the guy's dad for an unrelated matter. The dad said the guy had never been to college, never played baseball, and was never injured. After the client confronts the guy, he then steals the client's inheritance and leaves the state while leaving his two kids with the client."
"Don’t be like the guy."
13. "I had a case where a man refused to pay rent because his apartment smelled terrible and was making him sick. His landlord tried to evict him. A few days after taking the case and before his first hearing, the ceiling in his bathroom collapsed. It turns out some plumbing wasn't connected, and his ceiling/walls had been filling with poop for months."
14. "My sister is a criminal defense lawyer. She told me about a case she had where this guy committed murder and, after a week, couldn't take the guilt and handed himself in. When he got to the police station and confessed, they asked him where he killed this woman. He told them, and they said it was out of their jurisdiction and to go to another police station to confess because it was closer to where the crime happened. So he left and went the next day instead. No one looked for him or asked him anything. It went completely unreported. He handed himself in to the police station, and they began to start proceedings for a case against him. They wanted to include on the report the fact that he had been turned away from the police station and still handed himself in to show some sort of character, but the judge and police said they wouldn't allow it because it makes them look bad. They said they wouldn't let the jury even hear about it."
"My sister's team was frustrated and horrified. This was in Ireland."
15. "While working for a legal services corp, I had a prospective client call in regarding housing laws and civil liability. The woman claimed the neighbor hated her and was pumping snakes into her house via a pipe or some sort. She said there were snakes coming out of the walls. Well, I rolled my eyes, thanked her for the call, and told her something like it was outside of our priority funding. Three months later, a news story broke in the central part of the state, where a house had been built on top of a snake pit."
16. "A mother sold the family farm out from under the son who was supposed to inherit it. Someone shot her (nonfatally). There were so many suspects that almost every lawyer in the county was assigned to defend one of them. Forensics eventually narrowed it down to two suspects. Still, each so adamantly pointed at the other as the shooter that it was going to be hard to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of either one's guilt. They both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served two years."
17. "A woman once called wanting to file an unfair and deceptive trade practices case against a pet store. She said that the pet store didn't explain to her that the puppy she purchased would grow and she could no longer carry it in her purse after the store's return policy ended."
18. "I'm an immigration lawyer. I do mostly VAWA and asylum, but I handle other stuff on occasion. I had a prospective client come in a few weeks ago. He's interested in pursuing a relatively straightforward application. He tells me that he might have a criminal history that could affect his immigration. It's only one arrest, though, he said. It happened in 19xx, and it wasn't too serious. I said, OK, It happens.' Nobody's perfect, and a single arrest is generally not a dealbreaker. So, as I'm talking with him, I decided to Google his pretty unique name. A new article comes up, from his country, in his language. It's dated the same year, he said. I asked him what kind of crime was it, and he goes 'Oh, I think it was drug-related.' I figure, OK, marijuana arrest, nothing we can't overcome. I clicked through the article, and it turns out it wasn't weed at all. It was cocaine."
"And not a little cocaine. This guy was caught attempting to smuggle XX pallets of cocaine. I must have looked a little bug-eyed because the guy gave me a sort of sheepish look and a shrug. Hm.
I tell the prospective client, maybe we should start by filing a few FOIA requests (Freedom of Information Act Requests) to see what comes up, and we'll go from there. He agrees, and that's that.
I'll double-check my suspicions against the government record and let the client know what can, or cannot, be done.
Suffice it to say, getting caught smuggling multiple pallets of cocaine is not a small-time arrest. But, you never know what is or isn't true, and you should always do your due diligence."
19. "As a public defender, I defended a grown man who was accused of stealing magic cards from Walmart. There was an hour-long security video meticulously showing, from dozens of angles, that he was picking up sets of cards, unwrapping them, and discarding the wrappers around the store. He insisted that he was innocent, and we actually went to a jury trial instead of securing a plea deal. It took the jury eight minutes to convict him and the judge laid into my client telling him that he was the worst thief he had ever seen."
20. "I went to a preliminary hearing once for a 16-year-old getting hit with a murder charge. Basically, the 16-year-old was getting charged as an adult for attempting to buy quite a bit of pot off of some drug dealer. The dealer tried to rip him off by stuffing the package with cereal instead of actual pot. The kid opened the box at the deal, saw he was getting burned, and shot the dealer. The kid then fled to his half-brother's house until the police found him. Police interrogated the kid, and he confessed to everything."
“Real fucked up thing was that the court threw out the police interrogation as evidence because minors have to have a parent or legal guardian present when getting questioned by cops. The kid didn’t have a legal guardian. Nobody knew where his father was, and his mother lived in another state 400 miles away. The kid had been living with his half-brother in a house with like seven other people for the last few months.”