Recently I was asked to meet and discuss a case that was going to be tried in a few weeks by a plaintiff’s lawyer. I thought about the information I’d like from the plaintiff’s attorney to prepare for the discussion and created this outline. It won’t fit all cases and it is overly simplistic, but it is an outline that might stimulate your creating a better format for your cases. Here it is.
- What venue, judge assigned & trial date – time limits?
- Identify associate lawyer trying case with you
- Identify the defense lawyers
- General type of case
- Fact summary – 100 words or less
- Summary of settlement negotiations with last positions
- Focus study results
- Significant pre trial orders or court policies including time limits
- If this were a movie or book, what would the title be?
Liability & Damages
- Three most significant helpful liability issues
- Three most significant harmful liability issues
- Three most significant helpful damage issues
- Three most significant harmful damage issues
Reasons or Motives
- Three primary reasons for negligence relating to bad motive or wrongful intent.
- What are the most significant causation issues?
- Planned primary exhibits with discription
- List of plaintiff liability experts with specialty you intend to call
- List of plaintiff damage experts with specialty you intend to call
- Experts with specialty you could, but do not intend to call
- List of lay witnesses – impressions & purpose you intend to call
- Impression client and spouse make overall
- Voir dire: Juror profile? (1) key issues – good & bad you plan to discuss (2) plan for profile inquiry and (3) plan for values & past experience inquiry
- Opening: general outline & issues. Plan for damage discussion?
- Direct: Planned witness schedule & key direct points
- Cross: What consistent theme & what key points to repeat
- Argument: general outline & plan for damage argument
We returned from our family cruise and and I am working to prepare for a trial starting Monday in Seattle involving a Florida corporation’s operation of delivery trucks transporting goods purchased from Sears and Best Buy on our public roads. Their breach of trust to the traveling public for providing safe drivers resulted in a rear end collision with our client’s pick up truck. The resulting fire burned him to death leaving a young pregnant wife. Due to the trial I haven’t had time to prepare something so I’m printing a basic trial checklist which I may have shared before. You can revise to fit your own approach to trials.
FAULT -RULES BROKEN
CASE DESCRIPTION: (briefly stated starting with defendant’s betrayal of trust)
A. PREPARE KEY DOCUMENTS
__1. DECIDE WHAT LARGE POSTERS vs SLIDES OR ELMO
__2. MEDICAL BILLS
__3. DAMAGE & LIABILITY PHOTOS
__4. DAMAGE ELEMENTS OUTLINE
__5. BACKGROUND OUTLINE (Family, dates etc)
__6. FAULT & RULES OUTLINE
__7. AERIAL PHOTOS
__8. BODY – INJURY AREA DRAWING
__9. ANNIMATION OR VIDEOS
__10. MEDICAL RECORDS
__11. MEDICAL ILLUSTRATIONS
__12. “STORY BOARD” DRAWING
__13. POSITIVE PRINTS X RAYS
__14. CT, MRI etc PREPARED
__15. HOSPITAL RECORDS
__16. DAY IN LIFE/VIDEO/STILL
__17 WAGE LOSS
__18. ARTICLES OR BOOKS (CX)
__19. KEYNOTE OR POWERPOINT SLIDES
__2. PROJECTOR & SCREEN
__3. LAP TOP & IPADS
__4. PORTABLE PRINTER
__5. PORTABLE PAPER
__6. CORDS & POWER STRIPS
C. TRIAL NOTEBOOKS-IPADS
__1. TRIAL NOTEBOOK COMPLETED – IPAD DOWNLOADED
__2. TESTIMONY NOTEBOOKS HARDSCOPY ALPHABETICAL
__3. RESOURCE NOTEBOOK HARDCOPY NUMERICAL TABS WITH INDEX
__4. JURY NOTEBOOK COMPLETE
__5. SOFTWARE FOR JURY, TRIAL ETC
D. TRIAL PREPARATION
__1. MOTION IN LIMINE FILED/ORDERS (see standard set)
__2. TRIAL BRIEF
__3. JURY INSTRUCTIONS INCLUDING PRELIMINARY
__4. VOIR DIRE PREPARED
__5. OPENING STATEMENT PREPARED WITH EXHIBITS/SLIDES
__6. DIRECT EXAM OUTLINES PLUS EXHIBITS TO BE USED
__7. CROSS EXAM OUTLINES SAME
__8. SUMMATION OUTLINE WITH PLANNED EXHIBITS
E. WITNESS PREPARATION
__1. WITNESS SCHEDULE DETERMINED
a. Advised re dress
b. Seen video about trial
c. Read depostion & interrogatory answers
__3. FACT WITNESSES
a. See above
c. read depos/statements
__4. MEDICAL EXPERTS
a. Seen medical exhibits
b. Seen bills – “reasonable & necessary”
c. Prepared – exhibits & articles
__5. NON MEDICAL EXPERTS
a. Read depositions, reports & interrogatories
b. Reviwed exhibits, illustrations & video
c. Reviewed testimony
__6. NOTICE OF ATTENDANCE?
__7. LAY DAMAGE WITNESSES – selected & prepared
__8. INVESTIGATION OFFICERS – seen reports & exhibits
The way to avoid mistakes is to have a standard operating procedure for what you do in your law practice. The checklist for doing things can be very simple. Once it is put into use it can be added to or revised as experience dictates. Here is a very basic and simple checklist for a plaintiff expert witness. Obviously a lot more detail should be added, but it’s a start.
Every expert we contact must receive a letter from us. If they have declined to help us, write and confirm that fact as well as the expressed reasons for not participating. If they agree to help we must confirm that fact in a letter as well. Have a 30 day reminder to check on the status with the expert
Once expert has agreed to participate we will send them athree ring notebook with dividers and index of relevant materials.The attorney will specify what materials to send, but remember that as a generalrule, any and all materials provided are discoverable by the defennse.Get the expert’s CV
Be sure to notify the expert in writing as soon as the trial date is assigned.
When the defense experts have been disclosed send it to our experts and ask for assistance or information. Have a reminder on hearing back
Note: You must arrange contact between the attorney and expert by phone at least ten days before the deposition to make sure expert has what is needed for deposition and to answer any questions
If our expert is staying overnight: check with lawyer where to put them up.
Send expert information about deposition.
Always arrange an advance conference before the deposition with attorney and expert. Check with attorney as to how long the conference should be scheduled to last.
Find out from lawyer if deposition should be video taped or perpetuation deposition should be taken at same time.
If any subpoena from the defense is received or served on expert give a red flag message to attorney for possible response.
Prepare a list of all materials provided expert
Make sure attorney travel folder contains: (1) deposition result memo form (2) copy of any disclosure we made or interrogatory answer regarding the expert (3) copy of notices of deposition or subpoenas (4) any reports of expert and (5) directions to location for deposition