Okay, "strategy" is not the right word, because far be it from me to suggest that anyone would do this deliberately. But if one were to accidentally trip on a phone cord while visiting the IRS to discuss a large unpaid tax bill, an even larger personal-injury award might just turn that frown upside down.
Such was the bad and/or good fortune of William Berroyer, Sr., who walked into an IRS office to discuss a $60,000 tax debt and walked out with an injury that led to an $862,000 judgment.
According to the court's order (the parties seem to have waived a jury), Berroyer was 61 at the time of the incident in 2008. He owed about $60,000 in back taxes, and was at the IRS office in Hauppauge, New York, to discuss that. He met with an agent in a conference room that held some file cabinets as well as the table, chairs, and a telephone with a cord that ran across the table toward Berroyer and then under the table. Although Berroyer said he was "very nervous," the meeting was amicable and they agreed on a payment plan. As Berroyer got up to leave, he tripped and fell, hitting a file cabinet. He was able to walk out, but later called from the parking lot to say that his shoulder hurt and his legs felt funny.
He was treated for a spinal injury, and later sued for $10 million.
It looks like the trial did not focus on liability, probably because the IRS had to concede that the cord wasn't taped down as it should have been, creating a tripping hazard. Or, as the complaint put it, defendant used an "excessively long telephone and/or utility cord ... underneath a conference room table so as to present a trap-like condition ... [and] so placed as to be hidden and non-apparent." (Editing tip: something that is hidden is not apparent. Both terms not required.) But there was some question about how the trap-like condition was sprung.