We have learned that the defense can beat us, plaintiff’s lawyers, with the tools of ambiguity and confusion. When the defense relies on murky concepts such as “reasonable standard of care” and we fail to define what “reasonable” is, we lose in trial. Thus it is incumbent upon us to define what that reasonable standard of care is. We can do this by defining rules. When these rules are broken the defendant’s actions have thus fallen below that “reasonable” standard of care.
Ultimately these “rules” are put in place to maintain safety in our community. The rules we speak of provide safety for all of us. When defendants violate these rules they put our safety in jeopardy. Thus it is fitting that we call these rules what they are, which is safety rules.
Going into trial we need to know that we aren’t going to be running into objections that are going to throw off our rhythm. Moreover, we need to know going into trial that we are going to be able to use certain terms without having to worry that we may need to change tactics in the midst of trial. To this extent we need to file motions in limine in advance of trial so at to get pre-trial rulings on these matters.
One of those motions in limine needs to address our right to use the term “safety rules”. The Nevada Pattern Jury Instructions define negligence in part as the failure to exercise that degree of care in which an ordinarily careful and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. So in Nevada, negligence is explained to the jury as the failure to exercise the care necessary to avoid injury to others. A failure to exercise this care constitutes a breach of one’s duty or a breach of the standard of care. What our duty is under a given circumstance is defined by numerous factors acting in concert including morals and justice, convenience of administration of the rule, and social concepts as to where loss should fall.
Safety Rules is simply a phrase that equates to that standard of care that our society has determined must not be breached so as to prevent injury to others. When you look at the two words “standard” and “care” we see that the two words are analogous to “rule” and “safety”. “Care” being defined as the conduct demanded of a person in a given situation, hence the word “rule”. “Standard” defined as a model accepted as correct by custom or consent. Specific safety rules help us define what standard of care must be adhered to in a given context.
We, as plaintiff’s counsel need to be able to explain the standards which the defendant is to be held so as to protect society from unnecessary harms. This is a fundamental concept behind tort law in general. Thus there is no logical reason for plaintiff’s counsel to not be able to use this term.
Your motion in limine may also want to specifically provide for the use of the term “safety rules” in opening statement. Argument is generally prohibited in opening statement and defense counsel may object on the grounds that you are “arguing” when you use the term “safety rules” in opening statement. However, counsel is allowed to outline his theory of the case and to propose the facts that he intends to prove in opening statement. The term “safety rule” is not argument, as defendant would like the court to believe, but rather it is simply terminology plaintiff’s counsel can use in demonstrating how facts of the case will show that defendant breached his or her duty of care.