12-0 Jury Verdicts on Admitted Liability??
By Jacob Regar
When well-meaning and committed jurors adjourn to their room to deliberate they take with them the evidence admitted during trial. The evidence is what they are supposed to weigh. And when the evidence seems clear enough, you could almost predict the decision they will reach. But, jury verdicts don't always turn out as predicted. The reason is, in addition to and probably more important than the facts to be found by the jury, each partys' respective credibility is often the biggest factor at issue.
There's a saying, people don't always remember what you said and did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
Take a case of admitted liabilty for instance. What that means in personal injury talk is the defendant admits they were wrong in the accident that injured the plaintiff. Assume it was an auto accident and the accident victim was smart enough to hire an attorney because they injured a body part that required surgery. They knew they had a right to receive compensation for their damages.
The insurance company balks at making a legitimate offer to settle the case even though the defendant has no excuse for their lapse in judgment that caused them to cream the plaintiff in the car accident. So, the case goes to trial.
The defense has no defense. So, they make one up. The don't so much defend the case, but rather go on offense and attempt to prove the plaintiff is a liar. They want to show in as many ways as they can that the plaintiff's complained of injuries do not match the story they paint for the jurors that describes what a "truly" injured accident victim does after an accident...
You see, even if a negligent driver causes a car crash and injures someone, their insurance company -- that has a duty to defend them in a lawsuit -- will say anything to not pay money from the insurance policy. Makes business sense, of course. But, it's not really done in good faith.
This is where I get a lot of motivation to do what I do for a living. I believe its wrong if someone injures you and then has the audacity to tell others what you should have done after an accident. The defense attorney tells the jury, "if the plaintiff was truly injured, they would have gone right to the emergency room, they would have worn a neck brace, they would have asked to miss work... That's what real injured person does."
The problem with that logic is that accidents come out of nowhere. You have plans and a tight schedule and then BAM! Accident... The injured plaintiff could think, "okay, I can breath, I don't feel broken bones, I can walk... I'm going to finish my day, fulfill my obligation and then assess further."
In the case I've been referencing, the plaintiff did just that. And soon after the accident realized they had a body part that was killing them. So, they went and got imaging studies done and learned they had a torn ligament that required surgery.
At trial, the defense attorney called the negligent driver, the responding police officer and a hired defense expert. The negligent driver testified that the the plaintiff was walking around at the accident scene and was calling people on the cell phone. The cop doesn't remember the plaintiff saying he was injured. And the defense expert said the injury was part of the body's natural degeneration--the plaintiff wasn't even middle aged.
So, despite the big accident, extensive vehicle damage, no excuse made by the defendant, and the very real and documented ligament surgery, the jury found for the defense 12-0 (that is all 12 jurors believed the accident didn't cause the injuries, and the ligament spontaneously ripped nearly apart).
It's a sad outcome for any plaintiff and their attorney. But, the lesson is clear, in a similar trial, the plaintiff's attorney must launch their own offensive and establish the good credibility of the plaintiff to show they are not a fibber and the injury was real and it happened the way they say it did. This can be done by calling witnesses who know the plaintiff to testify that they did not see plaintiff complain about the current injuries prior to the accident. This way the jury should feel comfortable weighing the overwhelming evidence of liability surrounding the accident and find for the plaintiff.
It's lessons like these that all plaintiffs' personal injury practices should be studying so they can offer excellent legal services for their clients. Btw, I'll be the first to admit, I learned a lesson from this sad trial outcome. Constantly learning and training to be the best attorney for my clients.