In medical malpractice trials, lawyers must walk a fine line between giving jurors enough information to understand the terminology that’s key to the case, while not overwhelming, or worse, boring them. As part of a wide-ranging interview with CVN, Searcy Denney’s Ed Ricci and Matt Schwencke discussed their approach to med mal trials, including their multimedia-supported education of jurors that set up a $4.9 million verdict for a man that lost his leg after being treated for a blood clot.
Samuel Gray was forced to have his his left leg amputated below the knee after being hospitalized for a blood clot. Gray’s attorneys, Ricci and Schwencke, argued the defendant vascular surgeon, Dr. Panagiotis Iakovidis, did not properly treat an acute clot in time to save the leg. Iakovidis argued that a chronic arterial condition forced the amputation.
The case required jurors to quickly get up to speed on key medical terms and procedures. Ricci said he wove only the most important terms into his opening, quickly defining them in lay language without losing the momentum of the narrative. For example, "I would mention an arterial occlusion, but then I would immediately thereafter say that means there’s a blockage of blood in the artery that’s depriving the leg of the blood and oxygen that it needs."
Another key to educating the jury on the terms and medical events critical to the trial was the pair’s use of various demonstratives, ranging from a day-in-the-life video about Gray, to white boards, an overhead ELMO, and a magnetic board. The multimedia approach allowed the pair to keep the presentation of the information fresh and jurors engaged.
“I think the traditional approach of… just going with an ELMO or a couple of poster boards… is... not as effective as it used to be,” Ricci said. “It’s important to use multimedia.”
And it was the magnetic board in particular that provided an auditory and kinetic exclamation point to closings. The pair had a magnet describing each symptom of Gray’s worsening condition, which Ricci slapped onto the board in closings as he he walked jurors though the case’s timeline.
“The magnet, when it hits the board, it kind of makes a sound, so it actually has sort of an audible... reinforcement,” Ricci said.
At trial, the pop of the magnets on the board could be heard throughout the courtroom. For example, at one point in closings, Ricci remarks on a medical record showing Gray’s increasing pain. “So now it is 3:01, pain is 10 out of 10,” Ricci says as he slaps the magnet on the board, its pop punctuating what Ricci just said. “But he still has distal sensation intact and he still has pulses. We’ve got a live leg right here…. It needs to be treated, but there’s time. If only Dr. Iakovidis would have come in.”
Ricci and Schwencke’s deep dive into the trial and the techniques that set up the $4.9 million verdict are just a part of their half-hour interview on 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 Ed Ricci and Matt Schwencke. You'll also get access to future attorney interviews breaking down their courtroom approaches.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.