Injury Trials: Worthwhile Purpose for Money
This article/blog was written for my, Eric Roy’s, own benefit. Most of these concepts come from trial consultant David Ball. His thoughts and ideas are rather ingenious. I get a lot of my information from trial lawyer Don Keenan as well, who is also terrific. Of course there are many other excellent trial lawyers who provide a wealth of information on the subject. For a thorough understanding of this information however I refer you to any of David Ball’s publications.
In closing, and throughout trial for that matter, we need to give our jurors a worthwhile purpose for allowing money in their verdict. There are a variety of methods for showing jurors what good money can do for your plaintiff. Legendary trial lawyer Don Keenan shows his jurors two different futures in which plaintiff might live. He walks the jurors through each of these two futures. In the first future the plaintiff is provided little or no money. This future is bleak and cold. Here the jurors see what type of lifestyle the injured plaintiff will endure with such limited resources. This first future consists of cold institutional care. The second future is the future that the plaintiff will enjoy assuming the jurors return with a proper verdict. In this future the plaintiff has care and has resources. The plaintiff is surrounded by loved ones and doesn’t live in shame and squalor. The better you can tell two different stories the more impactful this argument will be on your jurors. Once the jurors see the two different futures they see the true reality presented by each of the two verdicts. Point out how much longer the plaintiff has to live and how much longer he will live in one of these two futures. Don Keenan suggests describing a time in history which is equivalent in duration to the amount of time the plaintiff has left to live. So if this is 40 years, for instance, you can say tell your jurors that this is a period of time equivalent to the Vietnam War up to today. This gives jurors a real sense of how much time you are talking about.
Another very smart and similar idea can be employed when you have a punitive damage case. Here you can use a visual demonstration where you can include a list of past victims on the slide. Below the list of past victims you should have a series of blank lines. You then tell the jurors that without a proper verdict these blank spaces will be filled in with the names of future victims. Here you can write in some fictitious names for affect. Then tell the jurors that with a proper verdict these spaces will remain blank as there will be no more victims. Now you can erase the names of all the future factious plaintiffs you just included in your demonstrative. The examples of the two futures for your plaintiff or the two futures in the punitive case now give your jurors an idea of how worthwhile their verdict can be.
David Ball talks a lot about safety issues. One of the greatest harms that an injured individual can endure is the inability to protect him or herself from future dangers. An individual who is now wheelchair bound cannot run from predators. In fact, criminals often prey on these types of individuals just as predators in the wild typically try to kill the sick and old prey. The wheelchair bound individual can no longer escape the house fire with ease. There are a multitude of examples. The Defendant has effectively forced the plaintiff to live in a state of ongoing danger for the rest of his or her life. To obviate this the jury can allow money to remove some of these dangers. Bring a safety expert into trial who can show all the dangers that exist in your client’s world. The safety expert can show what type of accommodations can be had to obviate these dangers. As an example it may be that the plaintiff’s house can be fitted with new exits which are more accessible to the plaintiff so that in case of a structure fire the plaintiff will not find himself trapped and burnt alive but rather have a method of evacuating the residence.
A lot of the modern-day plaintiff’s attorneys are using what Gary Johnson calls “Judo Law”. Judo is a martial art that involves a lot of redirection of your opponent’s energy. So that if your attacker rushes at you the proper technique might be to grab your opponent and throw him in the same direction he is already moving. Thus use his momentum against him. This is contrary to other martial arts where we would attempt to stop our opponent using our own force to counter his force. The same techniques can be employed in trial. For instance, if the defense calls your client a malingerer or a liar don’t spend all your time trying to show that your client isn’t a liar. Rather, emphasize that the Defense is calling your client a liar. Make a bid deal about this. Point out to the jurors that it wasn’t enough that the defendant injured your client, now the defendant wants to deny responsibility for his actions and add insult to injury by calling your client a liar. You can make the case now about the defendant’s complete lack of integrity. Let the jury then know what they can do to remedy this situation. Let them know that they can restore your client’s good name despite the defendant’s statements on the record that your client is a liar. If they want to restore the plaintiff’s name all they need to do is return with a full and fair verdict. A full and fair verdict makes it clear that the jurors didn’t find any indulge defendant’s allegations of plaintiff being a liar or malingerer.
Another smart idea is to apply this judo law when the defense finds a video of picture of your client doing an activity which the defense intends to use to demonstrate that plaintiff is better than he or she states. Use this against the defense by showing how hard your client worked to participate in that activity. Use this same picture now to show that your client is a fighter and doing everything possible to assimilate back into society. Perhaps you can show that your client did this activity for the benefit of his or her children. That your client completed the activity despite the amount of pain and grief it brought her because she is a fighter. Present this evidence on direct examination using your character witnesses and possibly use the plaintiff as well. Jurors love fighters.
If the defense used private investigators to obtain video footage then here too use this against them. Show how demeaning it is to know that people are following you around and spying on you all the time. Have your client talk about how it feels to be stalked. Perhaps your client finds it very threatening. Have your client talk about how it feels to know that guys are following her around in vans filming her. Now you have taken the defendant’s video and used it to add onto your damages argument.
Closing argument is your opportunity to arm your jurors. You will do so in part by telling a story. By this time in the case your clients are tired and not paying nearly as much attention as they did in earlier parts of trial. In fact, they have already made up their minds by this point in trial. So when you tell a story in closing you need to make sure to make your stories as easy to follow as possible. To do this be sure to use nouns, not pro-nouns. In fact you should always adopt this habit when speaking to your jurors. Pronouns get confusing very quickly. Thus use nouns. Instead of saying “he then hit her”, say “Mr. Brown then hit Mrs. Nance”. In this way your story becomes much easier to follow. In addition you weld the defendant’s name to the wrongdoing which is a powerful little tool.