During a particularly lengthy hardship and jury selection process recently in the New York City Asbestos Litigation (NYCAL) court, a client of ours brought in some interesting research his firm had conducted over the past four years in that venue. For asbestos cases that saw a plaintiff verdict, they documented the length of the trials and the jury damages awards, as they had the suspicion that the longer the trial, the higher the award. This was an intriguing hypothesis, since many of our dust cases (asbestos, silica, coal, talc) can exceed six weeks – which, according to most jurors, is an interminable amount of time. What Are Some Possible Factors at Play?
We often get questions about what presentation software to use for presenting documents at hearings, arbitrations, and trial. As is so often the case, using the tool best suited for the situation can really make a difference in the outcome – and the wrong choice can leave you holding a stick in a sword fight. Attorneys have a lot of options when it comes to presenting documents in the courtroom. But when it comes to your main workhorse software, the decision is usually between general presentation software like PowerPoint, and more specialized software like Trial Director and OnCue.1 Neither tool
At Litigation Insights, we’ve had decades to work with trial graphics and technology. But ours is an assisting role; we experience the world of trial graphics from one side – the consultant’s. As such, we wanted to learn more about how lawyers themselves plan for and use demonstratives. So, we reached out to one of the best trial lawyers we know, Kurt Niederluecke, who chairs Fredrikson & Byron’s Intellectual Property Litigation Group in Minneapolis. Kurt was kind enough to share with us his own experiences with trial graphics. He discussed the realities of using visuals in modern trials and how
Question: How did the jury arrive at the decision to award the plaintiff $20 million in damages? Actual Juror #1: We came up with a percentage approach, and that’s what we all discussed. We started with what she was asking for – $80 million, which seemed like a very high amount, and went down and down from there. Actual Juror #2: None of us had been on a jury before, so we had no idea where to start. What’s a life worth? It would have been nice to have some precedent to go by, but we didn’t. So, we started with
When it comes to understanding jurors, each case an attorney tries presents a whole new set of unknowns. What do these jurors think about local employers, large corporations, or pharmaceutical safety? How do jurors in, say, the Central District of California differ from those in the Northern District of California? What experiences might they have with cars or accidents that could influence their leaning in an automobile product defect case? Has media coverage affected their ability to fairly judge the case? Gaining answers to questions like these allows attorneys to develop an informed case strategy. Given the title of this
Imagine this: The jury has just sat through two weeks of endless testimony with duplicative questions and answers throughout. You put together an excellent opening statement slide deck. You used effective video deposition clips and transcript pages to cross-examine your witnesses. You had an interactive map that your expert walked the jury through and he was crossed on. You used the latest trial presentation software to do annotations and callouts on at least 15 documents – per witness. And opposing counsel did the exact same thing. In other words, both sides were great at utilizing technology and trial graphics. Congratulations. It was perfect. To jurors, it
Attorneys seem to be using the shadow jury (also called a “feedback jury” or “mirror jury”) less in recent years than they used to. And that’s too bad. Especially when the perceived risks of the technique are being given undue weight, scaring some clients away from one of the most vital sources of insight a trial team can utilize. When words like “jury tampering” and “mistrial” get tossed around, it’s natural to get skittish about shadow juries. But in our experience these fears are overstated and do not mirror reality. After all, in our 25–year history of conducting shadow juries, we’ve never even had anyone call it out. Meanwhile, we have always learned valuable information we could not have obtained otherwise. In this blog, we want to wash away the exaggerated risks surrounding shadow
Faced with the large amount of complex information being presented to them in trial, jurors will inevitably use “heuristics” – mental shortcuts – to help them keep up. Sometimes, these shortcuts lead to perfectly reasonable judgments. Other times, they create distorted perceptions and erroneous conclusions. One problematic heuristic is known as Hindsight Bias, or as it might be casually called, “Monday-morning quarterbacking.” Trial is a retrospective process; jurors know the outcome of the events being discussed because they’ve already happened. Jurors are instructed to set this knowledge aside when considering each party’s actions – but that doesn’t mean they can. With the “benefit” of hindsight, it’s all too easy to view the events as a chain leading to an obvious conclusion. Consciously or not, jurors can then place blame on one or
Humor is a funny thing. A joke that works so well out of one person’s mouth can crash and burn out of another’s. That same joke can cause hysterical laughter in one situation and groans of annoyance or gasps of affront in another. Content, person, delivery, circumstance, audience – it’s a tough set of variables to juggle in a courtroom setting. Here’s a cautionary tale we witnessed first-hand: Plaintiff counsel came in quite late to a Los Angeles court one morning at the end of a month-long trial. The full jury was already seated, and was being read the jury instructions. Counsel says, “You’d think after a month I’d be used to LA traffic!” The comment might have gotten a few chuckles (maybe) under different circumstances, but this jury just stared, very much unamused.
You know how to frame a great closing argument. You know how to deliver it to a jury. But in our experience, the real hurdle arises when you take that great argument and great delivery and try to incorporate technology. Which you certainly should! With juries these days, you need to channel a Steve Jobs product launch as much as a Perry Mason trial. Yet, in doing so, you introduce potentially unpracticed skills and tools, and place your reliance on an extra variable: the tech itself. Including slides changes the way you’ll need to prepare and rehearse your closing argument. Think about Jobs revealing a brand-new product. The cadence was so smooth, the