GUARDIANS & COST OF CARE EXPERTS IN PERSONAL INJURY CASES

In major damage cases involving minors or people whose injuries require a conservator or guardian, my practice was to have the appointment made at the time the lawsuit was commenced and to call the guardian as a witness at trial to explain their role. I wanted to be able to reassure the jury that  any verdict awarded would be protected for the injured client’s benefit. Here’s a rough outline of the general points I try to cover on direct:

  1. Qualifications: education and experience and knowledge to do the job right
  2. Role: what a guardianship involves and the duties of the guardian
  3. Appointment: appointed by the court to represent the interests of the client
  4. Duties: Duties of a guardian should the jury render a verdict in favor of the client
  5. Court supervision: all of the money is supervised by the court and required reports.
  6. Money for client: any verdict is limited to be spent for the benefit of the client
  7. Security: The bond and legal restrictions to ensure the money won’t be wasted

In virtually every major damage case, the plaintiff calls an expert to discuss the future cost of care of the injured client. These projections are used by the economist to compute present worth valuation. However, it was also common to be faced with a defense cost of care expert. They would claim that a much smaller amount of money than projected by plaintiff’s expert was required for future care. My standard cross examination usually included these points, but not necessarily in this order:

  1. You have never met or talked with: (a) the client (b) the parents/spouse/children/friends/neighbors (3) the treating doctors
  2. You have never been to his home  or been present during physical therapy or any other treatment
  3. You didn’t get involved in this case until___months after the injury and then only because you were hired by the defense.
  4. You weren’t asked by the family or the treating doctors to become involved in this case or by anyone else other than the defendants
  5. You have never had any personal responsibility for this child at any time before the injury
  6. When this case ends, no matter what the result, you will have no further responsibility.
  7. When you’re through testifying and you walk out the door that’s the end of your involvement or responsibility.
  8. In fact when the case is over and the jurors, attorneys, judge, lawyers and jurors like yourself have gone back to your homes,  it will be the parents who are left with the responsibility of taking care of this child.
  9. It’s true isn’t it, that this case is never over for them because they deal with this hour by hour day by day week by week and year by year?
  10. It’s your testimony that the parents can rely upon your opinions about the future costs and needs of their injured son isn’t that true
  11. Can you understand why the parents view your opinions with a lot of apprehension and suspicion when they are faced with conflicting opinions about the future costs of care
  12. Have you considered, in arriving at your opinions, how the parents might feel about their worry there will be enough money to take care of this child for the rest of his life.
  13. If you’re wrong about the amount of money required for the future care of the child, it will be the parents who have to deal with the crisis because you have no other responsibility once you’ve collected your feet and left.

These are some general suggestions of topics that might be considered in the examination and cross-examination. I think it is a good idea to begin the examination of the defense expert by getting them to agree that there is no doubt in their mind that the client is brain injured or disabled in a way that will require supervision care and expense for treatment for the rest of their life’s.

 

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