Morgan & Morgan's Keith Mitnik tells jurors repositioning was not a "do-it-yourself job" for Carol Reed during her stay at a Florida rehabilitation center. Watch more of the closings below.
Distilling a case into its key elements using vivid, relatable terms can be critical to persuading a jury. Morgan & Morgan’s Keith Mitnik calls these terms “stickies,” because they stick in jurors’ minds as they deliberate. And at trial against a rehabilitation center over the bone-deep pressure sore one of its patients developed, Mitnik used those stickies to win an 8-figure verdict.
After a month-long stay at Life Care Center of Orlando following surgery for a broken leg, doctors diagnosed Carol Reed with a severe pressure sore on her back side that went down to the bone. Reed, who has spina bifida, contends the facility knew her mobility problems placed her at higher risk for pressure sores, but failed to reposition her frequently enough during her stay and failed to properly treat the wound once it occurred.
The defense argued that Reed was encouraged to reposition herself as much as possible during her stay, in line with her goal to be more mobile and independent upon leaving the facility.
In closings, Mitnik summed up a key theme of his case with a powerful turn-of-phrase that jurors would likely remember as they deliberated.
“They said ‘Come on in, we’ve got your back. Even though we know you can’t feel it, you can’t see it, we’ve got it,’” Mitnik said. “And they didn’t.”
The play on the phrase ‘We’ve got your back,’ where the rehabilitation center was accused of failing to care for a mobility-challenged patient who literally ended up with a pressure wound on her backside likely resonated with jurors as they considered the evidence.
Mitnik also countered the defense’s argument with a relatable appeal to jurors’ common-sense reasoning.
“Their answer is ‘You should have been taking care of yourself.’ [But] this was not a do-it-yourself job. It just wasn’t. She couldn’t do it,” Mitnik said. “Why was she there if she could do it herself?
Mitnik’s reference to a “do-it-yourself job” crystallized the back-and-forth arguments over duties and expectations into one memorable phrase every juror likely knew and clearly understood. And his follow-up question aimed to make the answer to the case obvious.
Keith Mitnik details the "bookends" of a defense argument surrounding Carol Reed's pressure wound.
After the trial, Mitnik told CVN he believes distilling an argument down to those relatable concepts helps jurors better remember the arguments supporting your case during deliberations. “It sticks in your mind, it stays with you, so when they deliberate, someone can bring up, ‘Hey, this wasn’t a do-it-yourself job. They did promise they had her back, didn’t they?’” Mitnik said.
“It’s almost like a prerecorded message that you send back to the jury room that favorable jurors can play when speaking on your behalf. You’ve helped give them the right words to speak, to help them persuade others that may not be there yet,” Mitnik added. “You’ve taught them how to speak in a way to bring about a just result."
In the Reed trial, jurors took those stickies back to the jury room with the other evidence and emerged with a $12.35 million verdict, finding Life Care Centers of America 87% responsible.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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