Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stop Whining! Win Juror Votes with Witness “Can Do” Attitude (Part I, Plaintiff)

Your key witness is usually your client, or your client’s representative. If plaintiff, the witness is likely to complain, a litany of “He/she/they done me wrong.” Perfectly understandable, why else would your client be there in the first place! However, to juror ears, an unending stream of complaints sounds like whining, and jurors don’t like whiners.

What they like are people who, despite their misfortunes, are valiant, are giving it the best shot they can. This doesn’t mean your plaintiff client stiff-upper-lips it to where through gritted teeth/wired jaw they maintain “All is well,” but rather that you make sure, during direct, that you expose the ways in which your client is doing the very best that they can to survive/heal/improve things despite horrendous odds.

Now you have a potential winner in juror eyes, not a loser-whiner.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Not “The Other Side Of The Story,” The Other Story

It doesn’t matter which side you represent, you must tell a story. For the plaintiff side, this is obvious: there’s a wrong to be righted, and it always has a story. For the defense side, this is equally true, though not always acknowledged.

You see, it’s not about “the other side of the story,” for that places the control back in the plaintiff’s hands. The plaintiff still defines the terms of the game, the boundaries of play. It’s about “the other story” where the defense presents an entirely different scenario for jurors to experience. Now the playing field is level. Jurors can choose to be convinced by one story or the other.

The truism “the best defense is a good offense” holds. Instead of defending, defense now speaks to the plaintiff’s claims by showing how they fit as legitimate, “good” pieces within the defense’s “story.” For example, with a med mal case, the defense could include as part of its story how the doctor's procedure/process is highly regarded - the best possible and safest course given the patient’s condition. Or how that doctor trusts, relies on, and has seen excellent results from the procedure/process, what diagnostics were used to validate the doctor's choice, the doctor's well-thought out decision-making process (“decision tree”), as well as how the plaintiff neglected the doctor's instructions. And of course, the alternate causes for the plaintiff’s current condition.

As laborious as the above may seem, giving the jurors a rich and many-pronged defense story, as opposed to simply defending against specific claims, will greatly increase your chances of a winning case.