Without an effective strategy to address it, post-injury video surveillance of a plaintiff can decimate even an otherwise strong personal injury case. In Lennig v. CRST, however, Brian Panish used his opening statement to blunt video surveillance of his client and ultimately turn the video back on the trucking company defendant, helping secure an eight-figure verdict in the process.
Matthew and Michael Lennig were injured in a head-on collision with a semi-truck helmed by a CRST driver. The firm admitted the driver’s negligence but disputed the severity of the brothers’ claimed brain, arm, and back injuries.
Leading up to the trial, the defense surreptitiously recorded the brothers. In his opening statement, Panish, Shea & Boyle’s Brian Panish, who represented Matthew Lennig, met the videos head-on, arguing that they would tell jurors nothing Lennig and doctors wouldn’t otherwise say about his injuries.
Lennig contended he suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as severe back injuries that ended his career as a motorcycle police office and left him with post traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. In his opening, Panish showed clips of the defense surveillance video, which included Lennig trying to help his mother when her garage flooded. Panish followed up the clip by noting Lennig called his doctor the next day, complaining of severe back pain because he had over-exerted himself in helping his mother.
“OK, he can bend over [as seen in the video]. We’re not disputing that,” Panish said. “But, it caused problems, he went to the doctor, not knowing that they were following him around.”
Panish noted that even the defense’s neurosurgery expert would admit that Lennig’s claim of severe back problems were not inconsistent with what the video recordings showed, especially in light of his pain subsequent to helping his mother.
“I guess they’re going to try to say he’s exaggerating because he could bend over,” Panish said, emphasizing that Lennig was not performing heavy lifting in the video. “But, the doctor knew that, and everyone knows that.”
Panish, who criticized the defense for heavily editing the video, also showed surveillance footage of Lennig watching his son take batting practice. The footage, Panish noted, showed only that Lennig could stand for brief amounts of time and was consistent with what Lennig claimed regarding his injuries.
Further, Panish highlighted the fact that neither father nor son knew they were being watched. “That’s his son, they videoed him,” Panish said, adding later when showing video of Lennig attending a swap meet, “By the way, he doesn’t know anyone’s videotaping him.”
Introducing jurors to the surveillance video from the trial’s first moments helped blunt its effect and allowed the plaintiffs’ legal team to control the narrative around the video: that it was secretly recorded and showed nothing inconsistent with what the Lennigs claimed. And it helped secure a $52.84 million total verdict for the brothers, including more than $33.6 million to Matthew Lennig.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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