Bringing a plaintiff’s dearest relationships to life in the courtroom is a cornerstone to a strong damages argument, the Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell told CVN in describing the approach that has built his reputation as one of the country’s top trial attorneys.
“People care about relationships… and we identify ourselves by our relationships,” Bell said. “I want to the jury to see those relationships come to life, and in that way they're able to understand and value what these losses are.”
It’s an approach that’s won Bell a string of blockbuster verdicts, including a $26 million award for the brain damage a Georgia woman suffered from a post-operative hematoma and a $15 million verdict for a patient paralyzed in a fall from a medical exam table.
The impact on a plaintiff's personal relationships is central to the narrative of loss, Bell said, which resonates on a visceral level with jurors. “Juries get things being taken away. Nobody wants things taken away from them,” Bell said. “You come to my state of Georgia and start talking about taking people’s guns away from them, and you’ll see the reaction. People don’t want their stuff taken away.”
But Bell added that when it comes to putting a number on that loss, he believes attorneys need to be bold in guiding the jury. “I think it’s a big mistake just to leave it up to the jury to pick a number that they think is right,” Bell said.
“I believe a lot of lawyers... that leave it up to the jury are afraid of saying what the number is because they’re afraid it’ll hurt their credibility, they may not really believe in the number their asking for, so there’s a fear factor," Bell added.
And he said it’s important for attorneys to examine their own relationship with money in order to confidently request damages. “Before you can ask the jury for money, you, the attorney, have to do an assessment of what your relationship is with money, because people have different experiences,” Bell said. “It matters, from a lawyer’s perspective, what your relationship is with money, because if you’re too afraid to talk about money or embarrassed about it, then when it comes time to talk to the jury, that’s going to show through. But the jury won’t understand what’s behind your fear.”
Bell detailed his thoughts on arguing damages as part of a wide-ranging interview with CVN that walks through his approach in the courtroom, with examples from his biggest trials. It’s all part of CVN Discovery, a new series that takes you beyond the courtroom, to discussions with the best attorneys across the country about the techniques that won their biggest trials.