More about the conduct of trial counsel in civil cases
You will recall my post about a trial in which the lawyers were at each other’s throats. I made the point jurors don’t like it and discussed some ideas for handling the obnoxious lawyer. I’m told the defense continued to obstruct the plaintiff’s case with continuous objections as well as various attacks coupled with a take no prisoners approach to the defense of the case. In addition, it was a fireman who was injured and under WA law all of the collateral payments made to him were disclosed to the jury. During argument by plaintiff multiple objections were made by the defense. Well, after a seven week trial the jury is in and the verdict is $12.7 million for the plaintiff. This was a rather difficult liability case with evidence of comparative negligence, but the jury found no comparative negligence.
So what lessons can we learn here? The first is that the plaintiff’s lawyer obviously is a very skillful and great trial lawyer. He had the courage to turn down a substantial offer during trial and to not just endure defense tactics, but to overcome them.
However, there is also the lesson about what happens when lawyers conduct is offensive to a jury. I speculate that the verdict is due in part to the fact of the defense’s outrageous conduct. If there is a general jury impression that one side is totally unreasonable and trying to obstruct justice, the jury loses sight of the legal issues in the case and focuses upon the bad conduct resulting in a verdict that reflects their displeasure. Let’s remember the rule that a trial is a battle of impression and not logic. I suspect at some point the jury decided the defense team was totally out of line resulting in the jury discounting the defense in total and began focusing upon the plaintiff’s liability and damage claims with a positive mind.
The plaintiff’s lawyer reports that the jurors made it clear they did not like defense counsel or their tactics. They thought one defense lawyer was just plain mean spirited for all his objections and conduct and the other defense counsel was basically just a rude person. He reports the jurors hated the incessant objections and the defense caused delays in trial as well as the lawyer bickering.
The fact is that in civil cases the jurors are offended by bickering lawyers, frivolous objections and the failure to present a case briefly, simply and clearly. This case is a good example of this principle.