Pressing a defendant to admit or deny fault on the witness stand can be powerful, with the moment remaining vivid in jurors' minds as they deliberate. And during an in-depth interview with CVN, Bethany Schneider said that pressure on a defense witness helped key her $5.5 million traumatic brain injury verdict for a Georgia man struck by a falling pipe during a hotel renovation.
Max Laguerre contends he suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a pipe that fell from the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta-Midtown’s fourth floor pool deck during renovations. Laguerre sued Cajun Contractors, the firm overseeing the project, and owned by Troy Bossier. For its part Cajun contended the subcontractor and the hotel were to blame for the accident.
Throughout cross-exam, Schneider, of Atlanta’s Schneider Injury Law, impeached Bossier on inconsistencies in his testimony. But Schneider said it was the final few moments of cross that may have been the most important.
“I’d heard... several trial lawyers talk about the power of actually seeing the defendant up there… denying responsibility,” Schneider said, in describing how she asked Bossier to turn to the jurors and tell them whether he accepted any liability, after all the evidence they had seen.
"He had been impeached a lot," Schneider said. But rather than simply denying responsibility, Bossier said he'd actually be perjuring himself if he admitted responsibility on the stand.
"It just was ridiculous," Schneider said, laughing.
But she said Bossier continued to push back, refusing to accept even 1% responsibility.
“So, I had that, then, written on the easel for closing to remind the jurors of that moment;” Schneider said. “A very poignant, I think, part of the trial.”
Jurors found Cajun Contractors 100% responsible for the accident.
Schneider’s thoughts behind that critical cross-exam are just a small part of a wide-ranging interview with CVN earlier this year, where she discussed everything from launching her own firm after nearly a decade at King & Spalding to the techniques that secured that $5.5 million LaGuerre verdict in 2019 and a 7-figure car crash verdict in early 2020.
The full half-hour interview is the first episode of CVN Discovery, a free series that takes you beyond the courtroom, to discussions with the best attorneys across the country about the techniques that won their biggest trials.
You can watch the full interview with Bethany Schneider simply by signing up. You'll also get access to future attorney interviews breaking down their courtroom approaches. And it's all free. Sign up now.