Two women discussing a man they have just met at a bar. He’s good looking, easy to talk to, and has told them that he has a corner office in a £400,000 facility and they are suitably impressed. They both decide that if the guy asks them out, they’ll accept as he clearly has prospects.

Unfortunately, whilst he has been completely honest with them, he’s actually a bus driver. Not that I have anything against bus drivers, but they probably assumed that his earning potential was higher! Maybe more fool them for being too concerned with material attributes.

On the other hand, there was a standup row in Tescos this morning, between one of the shelf stackers and the woman he met in a bar (possibly the same bar) the night before. She’s calling him all the names under the sun because (allegedly) he lied to her.

You told me you were a pilot, she said.

No, I didn’t, he said. I said I was part of the Ariel display team.

 I’m sure you’ve heard both those jokes before, and whether you did or not, I hope they made you smile. But they also prove a valuable point. Someone can be telling you the absolute truth, but how they phrase it (and how you hear it) could be misleading.

 In a case I gave some advice on a while ago, there was an allegation that a meeting took place on a particular day, and that at that meeting, an agreement was reached. The party I was speaking to was adamant that the meeting did not take place and could not have been on that day in any event because she was in hospital for a week, which included the day in question, which she could prove. However, instead of going back and telling them the whole story (i.e. that she was in hospital all week) my advice was simply to say that she could prove she was unavailable on that day, but nothing more. The reason being that the other side would be likely to come back and say that they just got the day wrong, and it was the day before or after, which is exactly what they did. At that point we were able to go back and say we had evidence that it couldn’t have been on that day either. The more often the other side come up with a different version of events, which you can disprove, the less credibility they will have if they do eventually come up with a day that the meeting could have been on.

 In another case I had dealings with, a lengthy trial had to be adjourned part way through because a key witness had realised that they had got an important date completely wrong. The error was rectified (at great expense) but the evidence of that person was forever tainted, and the party lost a large part of their case.

 This is why solicitors sometimes talk about things happening “on or about” a particular day, so that we don’t have to commit ourselves too closely to specific dates, as people do forget things or get confused. It’s why I also encourage clients to keep diaries of events as they happen, and make contemporaneous notes as matters progress, as you’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget key events.

 If you are the person giving out information, be careful how you phrase things, because genuine mistakes can still come back to bite you.

 If you are on the receiving end, make sure you get clarification of the details before you commit yourself to anything. Never be afraid to ask the other side for more details before you give a reply. If they are the side making the claim, the burden of proof is often on them, and you are entitled to see the strength of their case before you respond. Otherwise it could amount to a fishing expedition on their part.

 Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Words are free, but how you use them could cost you!