As critical as a well-prepared closing is, sometimes the moments with the biggest impact are delivered as a counterpunch to a remark by opposing counsel. That’s how James Butler framed the 60 seconds of silence during rebuttal argument in Walden v. Chrysler Group LLC.
By the time opening statements begin, the average juror has already been overwhelmed with information. Voir dire, instructions from the bench, even the courtroom environment are all new and confusing to many jurors, making it difficult for them to fully understand details delivered in an opening. Under these circumstances, too many charts, models, and graphs intended to explain key terms can, in the wrong circumstances, confuse and distract the overwhelmed juror. Particularly where complex terms and ideas are central to a case, opting for a basic, simple demonstration of a theory can often be a powerful tool. That's the route The Cochran Firm's Jane Lamberti took in explaining the deadly buildup of fluid in a sleep center patient's lungs.
When credibility questions are central to a case, objective, expert testimony supporting your client's version of events becomes even more critical. The slightest deviation between your client's story and your expert's testimony can tilt a verdict. In Valdes v. U.S. Sugar Corp., the difference between a railway worker's details of a train yard accident and the testimony of his accident reconstruction expert may have been the key to a defense verdict in his $2 million suit.
It's critical for a trial's opening statement to clearly explain the circumstances of an accident at the heart of a lawsuit. However, unlike car collisions or slip-and-falls, involving activities jurors can easily picture, detailing an accident at an event unfamiliar to the average juror is much more difficult. That was the situation Searcy Denney's Gregory Barnhart faced in Gratton v. DiPetrillo, a $2 million-plus wrongful death suit by Patricia Gratton against organizers of a powerboat race in which Gratton's husband, champion powerboat racer Joey Gratton, drowned.