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Elizabeth Button v. Michael Gerleman – $750,000 Verdict – Chris Finney & Alex Ledbetter
January 26 @ 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM PST
Facts: A regular night in October 2018, the plaintiff was coming home from the grocery store. She was about a ½ mile or less from her house when the defendant crossed the center line and struck our client head on. Because of that, our client’s right radius and ulna were busted. Because of that, she had surgery 3 days later to place 2 plates and 12 screws in her right forearm, her dominant hand. She had a total of 12 PT visits and 4 Surgeon visits. She cancelled her final surgeon visit and never returned. Her discharge from PT said she had 0 out of 10 pain and was able to do everything. Some records said she was able to paint an entire room with her arm and return to normal function. She totaled 2.5 months of treatment.
The defense conceded liability at trial but wanted to qualify their concession by saying the defendant’s son was vomiting in the back seat so that was why the defendant took his eyes off the road. We had eyewitness testimony that attributed a different statement to the defendant.
Original offer was $50,000. Defense suggested $20,000 at trial. Unanimous Verdict was $750,000 after 15-20 minutes. The policy was $100,000. We made 3 attempts to settle for the limits. The highest the defense would go was $70,000.
Six Points of Lessons Learned:
1. Shorter is Better: our trial lasted 1.5 days. We had 6 witnesses and did 1 hr 45 min of jury selection—bulk of our time was talking to the jurors.
2. Healthy Body in Trial equals a Healthy Mind: We spent time leading up and during trial taking care of ourselves and getting the sleep we needed. No late nights. Being fresh was important. So was trusting ourselves. We didn’t need to be perfect but we needed to be prepared.
3. Connection above all else: We wanted to connect with jurors and our client, no matter the time and effort. We didn’t want powerpoints or too much flowery testimony. We also didn’t want to engage in any unnecessary bickering or fights with the defense. If it wasn’t a big deal, we let it go.
4. Honesty with Jurors: We wanted the jurors to know why we did something or why were asking things. If we had a chance to explain even the smallest thing we did so and why we were doing it. We let them know what to expect from us and what we would expect from them. Talked about staying inside The Box when it came to damages. Designed the alliance as Sari De La Motte says. Also addressed the power they had.
5. Burden of Proof is still important in Non economic cases: We spent a good chunk of time with the jurors on the burden of proof and millions of dollars for non-economic damages. We explained to them the different cases—some for medical and lost wages and some for non-economic. This is a non-economic and more likely true than not. We told the jurors the med specials were paid by health insurance.
6. The best story wins: We tried to find interesting and captivating starting points for the story of our case. How could we make a run of the mill auto case rise to the level of such importance as to justify a large dollar amount? How could we make it interesting? We left the best parts out of our opening—let the story arc progress upward as the case went on.