Less than 100 seconds of testimony changed the course of a $100 million case last month.
The Falkner v. Murawski trial began as a dispute over culpability with $100 million at stake, and ended with jurors determining damages alone, and awarding less than $300,000 to Brittany Falkner, the woman who claims she suffered brain damage because of her ATV riding partner’s negligence following a late night crash in the woods.
The turning point of the two-week trial came in a little more than a minute of testimony from the defendant, Edward Murawski. He claimed he and his companions took an unresponsive Falkner more than 10 miles from the crash site to a hospital themselves rather than calling 911 because he did not have his cell phone with him.
Under persistent questioning from Falkner’s attorney, the Martinez-Odom Law Group’s Gene Odom, Murawksi first claimed to be "about 100 percent certain" that he didn't have his cell phone on the night of the accident, before stating unequivocally that he had left it at home.
"All I'm asking is where, to your best recollection, and if you're equivocal, let me know. If you don't know or you're not 100 percent sure, where was your cell phone at that time (of the accident)?" Odom asked.
"My cell phone was in my house," Murawski answered.
Shortly after Murawski testified, according to motions for sanctions filed with the court, Falkner's legal team received cell phone records showing numerous calls were made from Murawski's cell phone around the time of the accident, including a call to Falkner's mother.
Based on the phone records, Judge Elizabeth Krier struck the defense pleadings, instructing the jury that Murawski was to be considered negligent and that jurors were only to consider the amount of damages to be awarded. However, jurors did not hear evidence regarding the phone records and ultimately awarded $299,778, a fraction of the more than $100 million Falkner sought for what she claimed was lifelong brain damage.
The verdict prompted Falkner's legal team to file a motion for a new trial. Regardless of the court’s ruling on the motion, 84 seconds of Murawski's testimony played a critical role in the nine-figure case.
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