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How to Deal With Delusional or Dangerous Litigants

Sooner or later, crazy people will walk in your door.

It could be a good thing if you get them professional help. You'll know when they need a doctor, not a lawyer.

But if you have a delusional client or a crazy person on the other side of a case, you should get some help -- for yourself. It could be a matter of life and death.

"Borders on Delusional"

Omar Enrique Santa Perez was one of those -- a crazy man with a case. He walked into an office building in a suit and randomly shot and killed three people.

He didn't work there. He didn't know anyone in the building. Police had no clue what they were dealing with when they shot him dead.

Federal Magistrate Karen Litovitz knew. A few months earlier, she dismissed his lawsuit because his allegations were "rambling, difficult to decipher and borders on delusional."

Santa claimed that CNBC and TD Ameritrade had taken his identity and published private details of his life. He said they invaded his private life by tapping into "electronic devices and feeding off attachments such as audio speakers and digital cameras."

Identifying Violent Clients and Have a Plan

Santa had a history of strange behavior, but it's not always easy to know when somebody will attack. Writing for the American Bar Association, however, Todd C. Scott said attorneys can do a few things to defuse dangerous situations in their offices:

  • Use a strong voice
  • Keep your distance
  • Never turn your back
  • Maintain eye contact

"Plan what you would do if you were cornered in your office by an angry, confrontational client," he said. "It is important to prepare an escape path and plan how to contact security and notify others in the office that a dangerous situation is erupting."

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