An attorney’s own body can often be the most powerful demonstrative at trial. And during a recent CVN webinar on demonstratives, Lloyd Bell and Michael Geoffroy broke down how Bell's courtroom fall in openings of a trial against Emory Healthcare helped set up a $15 million verdict.
Cris Nelson was paralyzed in a 2012 fall from an Emory medical clinic exam table while he underwent a routine blood draw. During openings of the damages-only trial, Bell, of the Bell Law Firm in Atlanta, played the part of Nelson as he walked jurors through the draw, hopping up onto the ledge of the witness stand to serve as the exam table.
At the fateful moment, Bell reenacted the fall by tumbling from the ledge to the floor, with a crash that reverberated through the courtroom.
That kind of reenactment, Bell said, brings jurors into the moment of an accident. "When you put things in motion and you’re physically moving — the neuroscience supports this — people are experiencing the event just by watching,” Bell said. “That’s why our blood pressure goes up and we get excited just by watching a football game, because we can feel the hit when a player gets hit hard.”
Geoffroy, of MG Law, noted that reenactments can help a jury powerfully connect with a case. “That exhilaration of the jury seeing you act it out, but also that feeling of kinship and tribalism that they have,” is important, Geoffroy said.
Bell's post-fall reenactment of the exam-room scramble brought an objection from defense counsel during openings, which the judge sustained while directing Bell to put his jacket back on.
But Bell said fear of such objections shouldn't necessarily dissuade an attorney from reenacting an accident. “You know, nobody wants to be attacked as not being a real lawyer in court and have the judge jump in [with] you know, ‘This is too dramatic,'" Bell said.
"Well, the fall was pretty dramatic too, when my client fell and broke his neck, and became a quadriplegic.”
And Bell said the reenactment was a critical to setting up the $15 million verdict.
“I talked to the jury afterwards... and they told me that this helped them appreciate how dangerous it is for an adult male to fall from a height."
Bell added that the fact that the incidents underlying so many personal injury cases are inherently dramatic means powerful demonstratives like reenactments are crucial to help a jury understand the case.
“The courtroom is the place for drama,” Bell said. “And it’s the place for taking chances and giving the jury a memory, an impact — physical or otherwise — of the incident.”
The discussion on using the body as a demonstrative was only a small part of Bell and Geoffroy’s webinar breaking down how to use demonstratives to build a stronger, more compelling case at trial.
During the one-and-a-half-hour webinar, the attorneys discussed topics ranging from selecting the right demonstratives for your case to how to make the most compelling timeline.
It’s a deep dive into demonstratives that is important for any trial attorney looking to build a more stronger case in the courtroom.
And now the full webinar is available on demand, fully indexed by subject, as part of CVN Discovery, our ever-expanding library of in-depth interviews and webinars aimed at helping attorneys succeed in and out of the courtroom.
And it's included free with CVN's unrivaled trial video library.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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