Arguing the long-lasting effects of a traumatic brain injury at trial can be difficult. Symptoms may not be immediately and obviously visible to others, and the defense may argue that the impact of the injury is less than what the accident victim claims. But at trial in June over a traumatic brain injury a Georgia taxi driver suffered, Bethany Schneider’s vivid closing countered defense arguments on the injury's severity and won a seven-figure verdict.
Max Laguerre contends he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was struck by a pipe that fell from the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta-Midtown’s fourth floor pool deck while the area underwent renovations. Laguerre sued Cajun Contractors, the contractor overseeing the project. He claims the accident left him with severe headaches and vision problems, along with a host of cognitive impairments, including memory issues, depression, and anxiety.
The defense denied liability but suggested that if Cajun was found responsible, jurors should award $500,000, arguing that headaches served as Laguerre’s primary complaint.
In rebuttal, Laguerre’s attorney, Schneider Law’s Bethany Schneider, argued the defense sought a discount on their part in the accident. And she portrayed the defense’s predictions of Laguerre’s future as a gamble they were asking jurors to make. “They want you to just accept that… he’s just going to have some headaches that can be medically managed in the future,” Schneider said. “But I’d ask you, if you have to take a gamble on anyone, let it be Cajun Contractors who has to live with the gamble, since they were the ones who gambled with the lives and safety of Atlantans when they chose not to protect anyone from the risk of falling debris.”
Schneider, who earlier had focused on medical evidence of Laguerre’s injury, including testimony from Dr. Angela Ashley, an Atlanta neurologist, leaves jurors with a comparison drawn from the real-world for them to take into deliberations. The impact of Laguerre’s injury, she said “is kind of like a leaky faucet: drip, drip, drip.”
As she describes this to jurors, she shows a photo of a leaking faucet, while the sound of a leaking faucet echoes throughout the courtroom.
“Max can’t go more than a few minutes every day being reminded of the limitations, the embarrassment, the shame, the fear, the discomfort, the pain. And you know, when you have a leaky faucet… at first it’s annoying, but nobody gets hurt.”
During all of this time, the sound of the leaking faucet continues to ring through the courtroom, the echo of each drop hitting a sink, pinging an exclamation to Schneider’s words.
Finally, the water stops.
“But days, after days, after months after years, that’s torture. And that’s what Max’s injury is to him,” Schneider said. “And that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of his life, until all of the water fills up and blocks out anything else.”
Schneider's closing resonated with the jury, which awarded Laguerre $5.5 million, including $5 million in compensatory damages, and more than $500,000 in punitives.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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