Where multiple cars contribute to a crash, a “John Doe” driver that’s not party to a case makes an easy target for a defendant at trial to push blame to, and can be a difficult obstacle when arguing liability as a plaintiff’s attorney. In a trial over the back injuries an Atlanta-area architect claims were caused by the driver that rear-ended him, Mike Goldberg pulls from his own past to drive home the issue of defendant’s responsibility. Reboulet v. Schlosberg.
Mark Schlosberg struck Goldberg’s client, Joseph Reboulet, from behind as Reboulet sat in a line of cars waiting for a vehicle that stopped to turn left. Reboulet claims the crash damaged discs in his cervical spine, forcing him to undergo a spinal fusion and leaving him in persistent pain. However, the defense argued the fault of the crash lay with a car driven by an unknown “John Doe” who illegally stopped to turn left rather than use a designated left turn lane.
Goldberg began his closing statement recounting a childhood memory of how his mother made him not only apologize and return a piece of candy he took from a local store, but work to reimburse the store’s manager for the candy. “I learned a very important lesson, and that is, whenever a wrong is done, two things must happen: Number one, you must accept responsibility for it, unequivocally,” Goldberg said. “And then you have to make it right. Make it right. Both of those things.”
Goldberg argued that, despite defense promises in openings that Schlosberg would accept responsibility, the testimony did not back it up. “What we’ve seen, instead, is a defense of complete denial. Deny everything. ‘It’s not my fault, it’s this person’s fault. It’s your own fault. You’re lying. You caused this yourself. Not me.’ It is a win-at-all-costs, destroy people, it does not matter, whatever it takes to win [strategy],” Goldberg said. “The truth is Joe Reboulet did nothing wrong. He is an innocent victim in this. His name’s not on that verdict form,” Goldberg added, before walking jurors through the evidence they’d seen.
It was a powerful closing that led jurors to place 80% of the blame for the collision on Schlosberg and award $813,000 in the case.
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