This case was in the ceremonial court room of the old Harris County Court House on the second floor. It was a cavernous place by Houston standards and the judge's bench was a little farther away than most court rooms, but still, it was not really that big of a space. There were a lot more benches for the audience. Nevertheless, I doubt this story would have unfolded as it did in a smaller courtroom or with a less senior judge. This judge, Jack O'Neil had great difficulty hearing unless you spoke directly to him and he was looking straight at you. So this event was bound to happen with him on the bench...
So around 2001, a middle aged woman sued my client, a pest control company, claiming she had slipped and fallen in a commercial building on pesticide residue that had puddled in the hallway. Having represented pest control companies for years, I instantly knew this could not have been the case because no pest control company in the history of pesticide treatment had ever used TOO MUCH chemical. Too little, absolutely. But too much? Impossible. I did not use that as my defense but it is true.
So her attorney finished voir diring the jury (asking his questions) when I stand up and begin my voir dire. About five minutes into it, a cell phone rings. I keep talking. It rings again. This time I realize it is not actually in the jury pool, but is coming from behind the bar - where the attorneys and clients sit. It rings again. And then I hear, "Hello?" in a normal voice. No attempt at even being quiet. I turn around and see it is the Plaintiff. I naturally assume she is going to end it soon and keep asking questions.
Since Judge O'Neil can not hear, he doesn't know it is even happening. By now, she is having a complete conversation and is making no attempt to get off of the phone. I thought for sure her attorney would rip the phone out of her hand it stomp on it to prevent any more embarassment. At this point, the jury and I are completely focused on her and her call. She is still at it. It is so obvious that Judge O'Neil even realized something is happening and I turn to him and ask, "Judge should I wait for her to finish?" Now, her attorney reaches over and she ends the call.
Must have been important.
ADDENDUM: She was poured out meaning the jury found no liability against my client and she received nothing.