Testimony concerning the impact of a catastrophic incident is often one of the most important pieces to a plaintiff’s case. During CVN’s in-depth webinar on the $150 million verdict Jim Butler and Jeb Butler won for a toddler’s death in a Jeep fuel tank explosion, the pair, as part of a group of product liability luminaries, broke down the heart-wrenching testimony from the child’s mother. And they discussed the critical balance in questioning that makes impact testimony its most effective.
Jim Butler, of Butler Wooten & Peak, and Jeb Butler, now of the Butler Law Firm, won a $150 million verdict in 2015 for the death of four-year-old Remington Walden in a Jeep Grand Cherokee fuel tank explosion. A key element of the trial was the testimony of Walden’s mother, Lindsey Walden Strickland, who detailed not only the fact that she was unaware of the potential dangers associated with the vehicle’s fuel tank placement, but the crushing impact of her son’s loss.
Christine Spagnoli, one of the webinar’s panelists, said it was a powerful example of the balance critical to impact testimony. “It’s really a delicate line when you have a client who you know is going to cry… but they need to be able to talk about their child,” Spagnoli said. “You have to really work with your clients to make sure they understand that they’re the only ones that can really convey to a jury who this person was, so they have to be able to talk about them.”
Jim Butler said he prepares clients for that difficult questioning by letting them know the final impact questions that will conclude the exam, but advises them not to tell anyone, even Butler, the answers until they’re actually asked at trial.
“If you rehearse it, the chances of an answer from a lay witness coming off rehearsed are very high,” Butler said.
The discussion was just a small part of CVN’s three-hour webinar breaking down the blockbuster trial and the courtroom techniques used by a slate of the nation’s top product liability attorneys. Joining the Butlers were Panish & Boyle’s Brian Panish, Greene Broillet & Wheeler’s, Spagnoli, and Tab Turner of Turner and Associates.
The webinar uses video from the trial to illustrate the Butlers' techniques and serve as discussion for the variety of courtroom approaches that have built the panelists' national reputations. You'll hear their opinions on issues ranging from effectively deposing defense experts to properly framing arguments of other similar incident evidence.
Now CVN subscribers can watch the webinar on demand. It's fully indexed, allowing you to skip to the specific portion you'd like to see. Or, if you'd prefer, simply watch the whole webinar from beginning to end. It's part of CVN Discovery, bringing discussions with the country's preeminent trial pros to you, at your convenience.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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