GERRY SPENCE DAMAGE ARGUMENT IN A BIRTH INJURY CASE

I’ve previously quoted from a jury argument Gerry Spence made in the trial of Hunter vs Lewis which took place in Utah in 1982. https://plaintifftriallawyertips.com/excerpts-from-gerry-spence-argument-in-hunter-v-lewis-malpractice-case The case involved a birth injury to a child. Here are some additional excerpts of his argument relating to money:

I haven’t made your job easy. I’ve asked for $40 million dollars. People have said, “how could you ask for $40 million?” Some people are aghast, some even outraged, some have tried to shame me, some have tried to make me feel greedy, to make me feel ludicrous for having to ask for $40 million for my client. Now, I have come in your court room and I have asked you for $40 million for one of your children. And I am not ashamed of that because the facts in this case and justice will support every penny of that, and I’m going to talk to you about that. I’ll tell you what is the problem. We have been taught that there isn’t going to be big justice for little people; that there is big justice for big people. I’ll tell you something. If we took one of the racehorses of Mr. Rockefeller which is worth $80 million and ran it down on the road, he would want $80 million for his racehorse. He is a big man and he is entitled to big justice, he would say: “that was my horse and I’m entitled to every penny of it, and give me $80 million.” Now, we have been taught that little people are entitled to big justice. You know why that is? Because we’ve been taught that we are little, that we don’t amount to much.

If your child were lost would you ask your lawyer to ask for $40 million? Would you say, I don’t know. That’s a lot of money, I don’t think anybody’s worth that much? We been taught not to speak out, I’ve been intimidated most of my life. As a child growing up, I’ve been taught to be quiet, I’ve been taught not to disturb, not to speak out, not to hold back. I have been taught I must not rock the boat.

You remember when Mr. Bushnell got up at his opening statement and he said “I’m telling you that $20 million is what a single wing on the hospital costs, a new wing on the hospital.” And I was chided for having asked for $40 million and criticized for speaking about $40 million. And the purpose of that was to make us afraid of that sum of money. To make us say I can’t touch that sum of money. I can’t even think about it. I can’t open my mind to it. The purpose about that was to say you shouldn’t consider it. It was a subliminal message to say you should be afraid, you have always been afraid, you are all little people, none of you, must think about that big a sum. I have never seen $1 million.

I’ll tell you one thing. If I went to Mr. Bushnell’s hospital and I broke down his wing that’s worth $20 million, this man would want me to pay for every brick in that hospital. I couldn’t say well I’ll give you a part of it. He’d say, no, I want everything. If I said well, I’ll give you $10 million. He’d say no, I want it all. I want it now. It was mine. You took it away. You destroyed my hospital. Give me my money. If you owed that hospital hundred dollars they would want it all. They wouldn’t accept $99 and if you don’t pay it all, every penny of it, plus interest they send you to the credit bureau.

I’m telling you however that in this case it is my judgment, and I will argue that in this case to you with all of the heart I have that is a just sum. And I will tell you why specifically before I’ve concluded my argument. All I’m saying to you now is, please make room for the possibility that one of your children is worth $40 million. Just make room for the possibility so that I’m not arguing to the wall. I have the right to argue the fair-minded people. I’m asking you to hear me. If I walked into a Museum of Art and there was a beautiful painting by Van Gogh and I slashed it or ruined it so that it was no longer any good and the painting was worth $80 million they would want every penny of it. I’m just asking you to make room in your mind before you make your decision, before I commence the argument, that one little child, one baby, one of yours is worth that money. Now, just make room for it. That’s all I ask. I’m not asked you decide that. Just make room for the possibility please.

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About Paul Luvera

Plaintiff trial lawyer for 50 years. Past President of the Inner Circle of Advocates & Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. Member American Board of Trial Advocates, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy, International Society of Barristers, member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame & speaker at Spence Trial College
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