New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Trial Practice


June 26th, 2008

Trial Blog, Part 4 (The Trial Starts)

We finished jury selection Friday, and today we open…

Tuesday June 17th. The action against the host vehicle, the one the plaintiff was in, settles for the small policy limits. This is now a damages only trial against the car that hit my client from behind.

The judge gives an opening charge to the jury along with a small historical lesson about the Bronx. We open, and I tell her story, starting from the middle. Because the accident is not where her life started, but where it changed. I start with the change. Then weave back and forth between past and present.

The first witness is the driver of the car my client was in, who testifies about the plaintiff’s night before the accident, the totaling of his car on the highway and the extrication of my client from the car with the jaws of life.

The plaintiff’s daughter testifies about returning to New York to help her mother, the physical pain and emotional damage to her that she observed, and her rehabilitation.

Plaintiff testifies about her life before the accident, the accident and the problems she has faced.

The judge rules that a videotape we made that demonstrates the difficulties she had five months after the accident — some refer to these as Day-In-The-Life videos — will not be allowed into evidence. He says it is too prone to manipulation and that outweighs its probative value. I argue that these have been used for decades, and that he can’t exercise his discretion on this particular tape without actually looking at it. I lose the argument. Trying to see the glass as half-full, another lawyer tells me that the judge may simply be looking to cut down any appealable issues for the defendants. That is small consolation to me.

Leaving court, the Yankee fans are starting to arrive for tonight’s game, two blocks away.

So this is the basic summary of trial: Spend day in court. Prepare for next day at night. Obsess in free time.

The headline news is of gay marriages in California. I assume the legal blogosphere is generating a gazillion pixels on the subject. I haven’t checked my RSS feed reader in many days.

Wednesday, June 18th. My vocational economist takes the stand to discuss the loss to the plaintiff due to her difficulty/inability in doing household chores such as cleaning, shopping and cooking. He places a value on her time for these items. That which she can still do takes much longer. Her time is compensable, as is the value of finding someone to do these tasks. Defense crosses him on the fact that friends and neighbors help out. I sit there and wonder: And therefore the defendants are not responsible? She must go begging for help for the rest of her days? I drop some notes into my trial book for summation.

Since it’s a short day I drop into the courtroom next door and spend 20 minutes watching a friend trying a case with a brain injury. Much time is spent on establishing the issue of a car’s title. Not particularly exciting.

I head home and use the home office to prepare for Thursday, a pre-charge conference with the judge and my orthopedic witness.

At dinner I pick at my food and pretend to be engaged with my children while thoughts of cross-examinations, evidentiary issues, summations, jury charges and whatnot fill my brain. My wife is not fooled, having seen this routine many times before. I try to work right after dinner but a fierce thunderstorm forces me to shut down the computer and spend more time with the kids. And that is a good thing. For all of us. Storm passes, kids get tucked into bed, and I return to the home office. A better printer and a small copy machine would be nice to have.

Next up, the orthopedists take the stand.


Addendum — The full series of posts:

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