The most persuasive evidence can often come through the properly framed testimony of an opposing party’s witnesses. In openings of a wrongful death SUV crash case against the city of Redlands, California, William Shapiro successfully cast municipal employee testimony as key proof of liability, securing a seven-figure verdict in the process.
Sandy Alechman died in 2011 when her SUV struck a cement box alongside San Timoteo Canyon Road. Her husband sued the City of Redlands, claiming the municipality knew the box, sitting just 15 inches from the roadway, was a danger to drivers, but did nothing about it.
“I don’t want to prove my case through my expert,” Shapiro told jurors as trial opened. “I want to prove my case through their experts and through their witnesses.”
Shapiro went on to detail a host of witnesses, employees of the defendant city as well as of San Bernardino county, which was no longer a party to the case. Those witnesses, Shapiro contended, would acknowledge the city’s responsibility for the crash.
Chief among them, Shapiro said, was a roadway expert who admitted the concrete box sat dangerously close to the roadway. “City expert,” Shapiro emphasized, pointing at his picture on the screen.
Beyond the danger the box posed, Shapiro contended city employees, including the director of municipal utilities and engineering, acknowledged they didn’t know the box’s purpose. “In fact he told me he’s got no clue what it is, [he] knows nothing about it,” Shapiro said. “When I asked him, ‘Why don’t you remove it?’ His answer to me was ‘I don’t know.’”
Shapiro's powerful opening paved the way for jurors to hand down a $2 million verdict and find the city 65% liable for the crash.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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