In closings of a wrongful death motorcycle case, James Gordon adeptly wove together multiple, simple demonstratives with evidence to undercut a defense expert’s conclusions and swing a seven-figure verdict.
Joshua Lopez was killed when an SUV driven by Marie Harrison struck Lopez’s motorcycle. Lopez’s family, represented by Beers and Gordon’s James Gordon, argued Harrison was responsible for the wreck, by pulling away from a stop sign improperly and into the path of Lopez’s motorcycle. The defense argued Lopez had been speeding. Determination of fault turned in large part on conflicting accident reconstruction testimony.
During closings of the trial, Gordon mixed a variety of demonstratives to paint a defense expert’s conclusions concerning the crash as unreasonable. At one point, for example, Harrison posted a reconstruction sketch of the vehicle’s paths leading to the collision. “Those lines, ladies and gentlemen? Those are tire marks,” Gordon said, noting lines that represented tire marks Gordon claimed would have been made if the defense’s theory of the crash was correct. “We talked about what happens when tires move across the road at that much speed that he claims it did... Common sense tells you what happens. It leaves a mark on the road. When tires go against the road, they leave a mark.”
Then he showed pictures of the accident scene. “You’re going to be able to see the skid mark of Joshua’s [motorcycle tires] left on the road,” he said, as he flipped through the photos. “But in the rest of the pictures you’re going to see no [SUV] tire marks. Four tires, skidding along the road according [to the defense expert] and not one of them left even a remote mark.”
Gordon moved to a magnet board with an overlay of the accident’s roadway, noting that the defense expert had concluded the motorcycle, under the defense version of events, must have rotated counter-clockwise on impact. Using magnets representing each vehicle, Gordon walked jurors through the defense expert’s hypothetical. “What he’s telling you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the back of this motorcycle hits, it gets slapped, [and] somehow the [SUV] goes [one] way and somehow the motorcycle goes all the way around… [and the vehicles wind up] like a “J.” As he described the expert’s conclusions, Gordon moved the magnets, reinforcing for the jury what he argued is clearly improbable.
Gordon then turned back to the crash photos. “Look at it, ladies and gentlemen: back wheel, gas tank, front of the motorcycle,” he said as he described the imprint of the motorcycle left on the SUV. “It rotated clockwise,” he added, noting the direction the vehicle would have rotated if the accident occurred as plaintiffs maintained. “That’s what the physical evidence says. That’s what the physical evidence says. But [the defense expert] doesn’t want you to look at the physical evidence.”
Gordon’s strong closing helped seal a $1.5 million verdict, with Harrison found 75% at fault.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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