The Problem of Having Really Good Plaintiff Cases

If you handle plaintiff cases your dreams are of what I call the “Holy Trinity” cases: Great Liability, Big Damages, and a Well Insured Deep Pocket Defendant. And, even better, you would think, is one after another of those cases. But, as they say, in every silver lining there is a black cloud.

A recent three-week trial provides lessons for long-term career development for trial lawyers principally handling cases for plaintiffs. Since my practice consists of two-thirds defense and one-third plaintiffs (including one nine figure verdict for a plaintiff) I can give you a view from both sides of the “v”. In this case I happened to be defending.

The injuries were initially catastrophic with the plaintiff having “died” (a bit of exaggeration by plaintiff’s counsel in opening statement, but nonetheless she did have a very low pulse and respiration rate) in the ambulance to the hospital. She had been crushed between my client’s semi-tractor trailer and a stopped car in a sorority car wash taking place in a shopping center parking lot. “Squished” was plaintiff’s counsel favorite word in the trial.

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“The King’s Speech” and Trying Cases

The King's Speech

“The movie “The King’s Speech” is the story of . . . .”

How do I begin to tell you what it is about?

Do I:

give you the history of which King of England is the subject of the movie, or

tell you it is about a speech problem he had and the unique relationship that he and a speech therapist (who had no credentials) developed to mitigate the problem, or

tell you about the likely problems that caused his stammering or the relationship this has to his brother who abdicated the throne to marry Mrs. Simpson?

With mountains of information, visuals, and audio recordings available, how does an author or screen writer:

pick and choose what tells the story best,

order it in an understandable fashion, and

tell the core of the story (in this case, the character and relationship of a King and a commoner and a speech impediment) in a fashion that connects to the viewer?

With mountains of discovery, investigative reports, photos and video available how does a trial attorney:

pick and choose what tells the story best,

order it in an understandable fashion,

and tell the core of the story (in our cases, how the accident or event occurred, the contract breached or employment wrongfully terminated and the damages that were caused and who is responsible) in a fashion that connects to the juror?

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Winning & Losing in the Courtroom: It’s Not the Same X + Y + Z You Did in the Last Trial

Ric Gass




For trial lawyers who really try cases it’s not just how many cases you’ve tried, won, or lost. It’s not how high your IQ is or how smart or intelligent you are. It’s how much understanding you have of why you “won” or “lost” and of how you tried the case and why the jury found the way it did.

I started my trial career a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. It was a time when young lawyers could and did go to trial virtually every week and sometimes twice a week. The firm I was with at that time had as clients the municipal bus company (on a retainer so the more cases they tried the better from the client’s standpoint), three taxi cab companies and a slew of carriers with lots of subrogation work.

The firm had two “rules” relative to trials: first, win, lose or draw you shook hands with the opposing counsel after the verdict (and if you won you did not strut, crow or rub it in). Second, you called all the jurors afterwards or talked to them in the courtroom and found out what they thought about the case, you, and your presentation: again win, lose or draw. That could be exhilarating, humbling or instructive. It made some heads swell out of proportion to what they did versus what the facts did or what the investigators had done. It was instructive, but it also had the potential to be misleading.

What was never made really clear to me was that you may have won or lost not because of single thing you did or didn’t do, but rather because of the facts you were dealt or because of what the investigator did in working up the case, or some other wild card, the makeup of the jury for instance. So if you won and you did x, y, & z, and your level of understanding was that win = x + y + z, you could be sadly mistaken not only for the next trial, but more importantly, you would not have “grown” as a trial lawyer.

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